Wooden letters 'D', 'I', 'Y' arranged on a wood table top.

The wooden letters ‘D’, ‘I’, ‘Y’ conveying the Do-It-Yourself concept.

Troubleshoot and Repair Your Electric Tank Water Heater: A DIY Guide and When to Call a Pro

Do you find yourself often searching for “plumber near me” or “water heater repair” online? You’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will help you understand, troubleshoot, and repair your electric tank water heater. While a handy DIY water heater repair solution can help you solve minor issues, sometimes it’s essential to know when it’s time to call a professional plumber. In the cities of Pensacola, Pace, Milton, Navarre, and Gulf Breeze within Santa Rosa, Escambia, and Okaloosa counties, Honey Bee Plumbing is your trusted service provider.

Understanding Your Electric Tank Water Heater

Before diving into troubleshooting, it’s vital to understand how your electric tank water heater works. Here’s a useful link explaining the working of an electric water heater.

Basic Components

Your electric tank water heater comprises several key components.

  1. Tank: This is the most visible part of the water heater. It holds anywhere from 20 to 80 gallons of water. The tank is insulated to keep the water hot between heating cycles.
  2. Heating Elements: These are the workhorses of an electric water heater. An average unit will have two elements, one at the top and one at the bottom of the tank. They heat the water in the tank to the desired temperature.
  3. Thermostats: There are usually two thermostats in an electric water heater, each associated with a heating element. These devices control the heating elements, turning them on and off as needed to maintain the water temperature.
  4. Dip Tube: Cold water enters the tank through the dip tube and is delivered near the bottom of the tank to be heated.
  5. Drain Valve: Located near the bottom of the tank, the drain valve is used to empty the tank for maintenance and repairs.
  6. Pressure Relief Valve: This safety device releases water (and thus pressure) if the pressure inside the tank exceeds safe limits.
  7. Anode Rod: This metal rod protects the tank from corrosion. It does this by sacrificing itself to corrosion, thus preserving the tank.

How It Works

Cold water enters the tank through the dip tube and is heated by the electric heating elements. The water is kept hot by the insulated tank until it’s needed. When a hot water tap is turned on in the house, hot water from the top of the tank is drawn off to the appliance or fixture. The drop in the tank’s water temperature triggers the thermostat to activate the heating elements and heat the incoming cold water. This process continues until the demand for hot water ceases.

Common Problems and DIY Troubleshooting

No Hot Water

If you’re not getting any hot water, it could be due to a malfunctioning thermostat or a faulty heating element. To check the heating elements, you will need a multimeter to test for continuity. If an element is bad, replace it. If the elements are good, test the thermostat. If it’s faulty, you’ll need to replace it.

Insufficient Hot Water

If your heater provides some hot water but not enough, your thermostat might be set too low, or you might have a tank that’s too small for your home’s needs. Other potential issues could be a broken dip tube or buildup of sediment in the tank. Check and raise the thermostat setting as necessary. If sediment buildup is the issue, you may need to flush the tank.

Water is Too Hot

If the water coming out of your fixtures is scalding, it’s likely because your water heater’s thermostat is set too high. This is not only a waste of energy but can be dangerous, especially in homes with children. Check your thermostat settings and adjust them to a safer temperature—120°F is typically recommended.

Leaking Water Tank

A leaking water tank can cause substantial damage if not addressed promptly. If you notice water pooling around the base of your water heater, it might be due to a number of issues. First, check the pressure relief valve, drain valve, and heating element gaskets for leaks. If these parts are intact, the issue might be more severe – like a corroded tank, in which case, it’s time to call a professional.

Noisy Water Heater

A noisy water heater typically results from sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank. This sediment hardens and can cause your heater to rumble, pop, or crackle as it heats the water. A simple solution is to flush the tank to remove the sediment. However, if the noise persists after flushing, it could indicate a more serious issue, such as a failing heating element, and you might need professional help.

DIY Repairs for Your Electric Tank Water Heater

Before you start with any repair work, remember that safety should always be your priority. Ensure that the power supply to the water heater is turned off, and use tools that are in good condition. If you’re not comfortable doing these repairs, it’s best to call a professional.

Replacing the Thermostat

If your water heater’s thermostat is faulty, you may need to replace it. Ensure that you buy a new thermostat that matches your heater’s specifications. Start by removing the access panel and safety cover to access the thermostat. Carefully disconnect the wires, replace the old thermostat with the new one, reattach the wires, and then replace the safety cover and access panel.

Replacing the Heating Element

Similar to replacing a thermostat, first, ensure the power supply to the heater is off. Drain the water heater before removing the old element using an element wrench. Once removed, replace it with a new one that meets the heater’s specifications. Refill the tank and restore power to the heater.

Fixing a Leaky Drain Valve

A leaky drain valve can often be fixed by tightening it gently with a wrench. Be careful not to over-tighten the valve, as it could cause further damage. If the leak continues, you may need to replace the valve.

Flushing the Tank

To remove sediment buildup, you’ll need to flush your water heater. Connect a garden hose to the drain valve and extend it to a place where you can safely discard hot water. Ensure the power is off, then open the drain valve. Allow the water to flow until it runs clear, indicating that the sediment has been flushed out.

Replacing the Anode Rod

The anode rod in your water heater is a crucial component that helps to prevent the tank from rusting. Over time, the anode rod corrodes in place of your tank, thereby extending its life. When the anode rod is completely corroded, it’s time to replace it. To do this, you will need to drain the tank, remove the old anode rod and then install a new one. Remember, anode rods are specific to the model and make of your water heater, so be sure to buy a replacement that matches your unit’s specifications.

When to Call a Professional Plumber

While DIY solutions can solve many common issues, there are times when it’s best to call in the professionals. If you’re experiencing any of the following scenarios with your electric tank water heater, it’s time to consider getting help from an experienced plumber.

Safety Concerns

Safety should always be your priority. If at any point you feel uncomfortable or unsure about the repair process, it’s best to stop and call a professional plumber. Remember, you’re dealing with electricity and water— a combination that can be hazardous if not handled correctly.

Persistent Issues Despite Troubleshooting

Have you tried troubleshooting your water heater issues but the problem still persists? Or maybe the hot water is back, but it’s not as hot as it should be? These issues might indicate a more complicated underlying problem that needs an expert’s attention.

Frequent or Recurring Problems

A water heater that frequently breaks down or has recurring issues is a sign that there’s a deeper, more systemic problem. This could be due to a serious component failure or an incorrectly installed unit. Either way, it’s best to get a professional plumber to diagnose and resolve the issue.

Old or Severely Damaged Water Heater

Water heaters, like any other appliance, have a certain lifespan— typically around 8-12 years. If your unit is nearing or has surpassed this age, or if it has suffered significant damage, it’s often more cost-effective to replace it rather than continue with repairs. A professional plumber can assess your current unit, provide advice, and assist with the installation of a new water heater.

DIY repairs can be a rewarding way to keep your electric tank water heater running smoothly. But, it’s important to know when to call in the pros. If you’re in Santa Rosa, Escambia, or Okaloosa county, Honey Bee Plumbing is your trusted local plumber. We serve Pensacola, Pace, Milton, Navarre, and Gulfbreeze, offering professional and efficient services for all your plumbing needs. Whether it’s a simple repair or a complicated issue, we’re here to help. Remember, knowing when to call a professional plumber is crucial to maintain the functionality and safety of your water heater. Call us at (850) 427-1222 for all your plumbing needs!