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No Hot Water in the House: What to Do if It Runs Out and Does Not Work


No Hot Water in the House

Did you recently discover you have no hot water in the house? If that’s the case, stop and take a breath. Everything’s going to be fine.

The first step is to put things in perspective.

Approximately 780 million people across the globe don’t even have access to clean water. That includes both waters for drinking and sanitation. Yet, those same people manage to make it through life month after month, year after year.

For those people, running hot water is the pentacle of luxury. You’re only suffering without hot water for a day or two. So take a moment to relax.

Now, the second step involves finding a solution to your water troubles. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. That’s what this article is all about.

When you’re ready to stop shivering in that cold shower and finally run the dishwasher, read on.

When You First Discover There’s No Hot Water in the House

Check to make certain there’s no hot water anywhere in your house. Some houses are equipped with multiple hot water heaters, so you want to track down the origin of the problem. If your home has more than one hot water heater, figure out which is responsible for the section of your home without hot water.

During your hunt, you may discover one or both types of the following:

  1. Traditional Hot Water Heater
  2. Tankless Hot Water Heater

The traditional hot water heater looks like a large cylinder standing 4 or 5 feet tall. You’ll see small pipes that lead to the bottom of the cylinder and larger pipes that lead away from the cylinder. The cylinder is where your water is stored after it is heated, and the pipes are for natural gas and water, respectively.

The tankless water heaters, on the other hand, look like a small metal box attached to the wall. It’s usually no longer than a foot and a half in length. It also has gas and water pipes leading in and out of it.

The big difference is the tankless hot water heater doesn’t store the water after it heats it. The water travels immediately through the pipes to its destination before it has the chance to cool. These devices are also known as demand-type or instantaneous water heaters.

1. Wait for Your Water to Re-Heat

With a traditional water heater, you may run out of hot water even though your hot water heater is working just fine. This happens when the demand for heated water is higher than your hot water heater can provide. This is the first item you need to troubleshoot.

All you have to do is shut off all the hot water in the house for at least an hour. That gives your hot water heater a chance to resupply the heated water in its storage tank. If, after waiting an hour, you turn on the faucet and the water is hot, move on to Section 2.

If, on the other hand, you still have no hot water, move on to section 3.

2. Consider Your Tank Size

Traditional household hot water heaters come in a variety of sizes. The size refers to the tank which holds the heated water. When architects design a house, they use the number of intended residents to determine the size of the water tank.

Unfortunately, they’re not always right. Sometimes, six people may be living in a 2-bedroom house. Others times, residents act like hot water hogs.

If you fall into one of these categories, you may find that your hot water runs out in the middle of doing the dishes. Or, you may find you have not hot water in the shower.

If your hot water comes back after an hour, the problem is with the size of your tank. You need to upgrade to a larger tank that holds more water. Contact a licensed plumber to replace your tank.

3. Check the Gas Supply

If you’re still not getting hot water, you’ll want to try the gas next. Your gas supply may have been inadvertently turned off or otherwise interrupted. Let’s check.

Follow the small pipe that leads to the bottom of your water heater. You should spot a small, round knob. This is your gas control knob.

Once you find it, turn it to pilot mode. Now, look for a removable cover at the bottom of your water heater. When you find it, take it off or open it up.

You should find a small flame inside. Usually, it’s no bigger than the flame of the lit match. This is called your “pilot light.”

If you have a flame, then there’s no problem with your gas. If you don’t, check your owner’s manual to make sure you should have a pilot light. Some new water heaters use a spark igniter or a glow plug instead of a pilot light.

If you discover that you have one of these newer hot water heaters, contact a professional plumber for help. If you know you have an older water heater with a pilot but it’s unlit, move on to Section 4.

4. Relighting Your Pilot Light

First, look on the tank for instructions for relighting the pilot. If you don’t find any, then you can use the following instructions:

Turn the knob you found earlier to the “off” position and wait at least five minutes. It’ll allow any linger natural gas to dissipate.

Then turn the knob to the “pilot” position.

Your hot water heater may have a self-ignite feature. If it does, you’ll find a button nearby that will ignite the gas. If you find a button, hold it down for about 1 minute.

Afterward, turn the knob to the “on” position.

If you don’t find a button, use a lighter with a long neck, like those designed for BBQs. Simply insert the nose of the lighter into the pilot area and ignite the flame.

If the pilot doesn’t ignite, or won’t stay lit, your gas inlet valve may be closed. You’ll find the handle to the valve on your gas line. If that’s the case, turn the handle parallel to the gas pipe and attempt to ignite the pilot.

If you’re still having trouble, you may have a defective thermocouple. Call the gas utility company for assistance.

Check for Leaks

The last two common problems for water heaters stem from two things:

  1. A leak in your hot water heater
  2. A tripped breaker

If your hot water heater is leaking, it’ll be apparent. You’ll find all the water that should be in the tank has made its way to the floor. Yes, it will be sopping wet.

If that’s the case, you need to replace your hot water heater.

If you tripped a breaker, you’ll find one of the circuit breakers in your breaker box will be in the “off” position. Turn the breaker back on. Then, check to see whether the pilot light on your hot water heater reignited.

If it didn’t, follow the steps in Section 4 above.

What’s Next?

If you discover that you have no hot water in the house, and the steps above didn’t help, what do you do? You may have a more complex problem on your hands.

If that’s the case, contact a professional for general plumbing repair.

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