No one likes having a cold shower, least of all when it comes as an unexpected early morning surprise. Sure, you might choose to put up with it while you’re on a camping trip – but you shouldn’t have to tolerate a cold shower from the comfort of home.
If you’re from a large family or share your home with a lot of housemates, trying to juggle morning bathroom schedules and ensure there’s enough warm water for everyone can be difficult and problematic. The reality is that some electric hot water systems simply aren’t large or powerful enough to facilitate heating enough water for a whole family or flat of people to use. If replacing the tank isn’t an option, you might simply need to stagger shower times out more and give the system time to reheat. Other times, however, there might be an underlying issue with your hot water tank that needs addressing.
If your electric hot water system isn’t working as well as it usually does, your first instinct might be to accuse the other residents in the household of stealing all the hot water. But, before you act in anger, check to see if it could be one of the following 5 reasons…
1. The Heating Elements Are Broken or Worn
A typical electric hot water system is an insulated, cylindrical tank which stores hot water and heats it with one or more electronic elements. They essentially work like a big kettle, only the insulation enables the water to stay hot for a longer period of time. When the water is used (i.e. someone has a shower) the tank will refill with cold water which the electric elements will then reheat.
Therefore, if the elements or heating coils in your electric hot water system are broken or worn, your system won’t be able to efficiently or effectively heat the water inside of the tank.
2. You Have a Defective Thermostat
An electric hot water system’s thermostat tells the heating elements when to heat up, and monitors the temperature of the water.
A typical electric hot water system will have two elements and two thermostats. The elements do not heat up simultaneously; the upper element heats the water first, followed by the bottom one. The top thermostat acts as a coordinator between the two elements. When the water at the top reaches the right temperature (as per the gauge settings), it triggers the lower thermostat. When the lower thermostat senses the water isn’t warm enough it turns on the lower element. Therefore, if the thermostat in your electric hot water system is malfunctioning, it could cause the water to be too hot or too cold. (And a shower that’s too hot is no better than one that’s cold!)
Thermostats are attached to the valve on your electric hot water system. You can check to see if it’s working by comparing the actual temperature of the water to what is shown on the gauge.
3. There’s a Leak
It stands to reason that a leak in your hot water tank, or the pipes connected to it, could cause a hot water shortage. In this instance, a plumber will need to take a look so that they can determine what is needed in order to fix the leak.
When the water inside of your tank is really hot, the pressure valve will release the pressure that has built up inside (a bit like the steam that comes out of the kettle once it is at boiling temperature). This may cause moisture and water to build up around the tank. Therefore small amounts of water could be considered normal, or could just indicate that your thermostat is set a little too high. If, however, you notice a lot of water around your electric hot water system, you should switch it off at the switchboard immediately (because water + electricity = hazardous) and contact a local plumber.
4. Electrical faults
A common cause of hot water shortage is a blown fuse. It’s always worth checking to see if a switch has tripped or if someone has turned it off. You can determine if this is the cause by looking at the switchboard in your home. The hot water switch should be identified by a label reading “hot water”. If the switch is off, you might want to get a licensed electrician to test the circuit board, as faulty wiring can be dangerous. If the switch is still in the on position, a fuse may have blown. In this case, you will definitely need to call in an electrician.
5. Your Hot Water System Has Died of Old Age
Sometimes the reason that a household appliance suddenly stops working is old age. When a device gets too old and worn it will cease to work properly, and no individual malfunction is to blame. It’s therefore important to bear in mind that most electric hot water systems have an expected lifespan of about 10 years. Sometimes they can live to see 15, but they will generally start to show signs of decreased performance before then.
While you might be eager to try and detect a particular issue and fix it, sometimes the best option is to just entirely replace your hot water system. Repairs can be expensive, and the older the unit – the more often it will require them. While the upfront cost of an entirely new hot water tank might seem like the more expensive option at the time, continuing to use an old tank will mean constant repairs, and potentially increased energy consumption costs as a result of its decreased performance.
If your electric hot water system is experiencing electrical issues, you might need to seek advice from a local electrician. If, however, you suspect that you might be facing a plumbing problem, then contact the team of experienced experts at Yarrow Plumbing Services for advice.