Over the past few months, I have been receiving a lot of phone calls about water heater issues. Fortunately, few of them have been the catastrophe call, when I go out and find a completely flooded basement! Most of the calls have been somewhere between, No Hot Water & Not Enough Hot Water. In almost all cases, these issues probably could have been prevented.
Most water heaters are fairly simple, especially electric water heaters. Electricity is fed through a set of wires, usually called Romex, down on the top of the heater. It is distributed to two thermostats and heating elements, one on the top and one on the bottom. When the water starts getting colder, the thermostat allows the elements to kick on and heat it back up. When the temperature is warm enough, the thermostat shuts off. Simple. Some of the problems that I find are shorted elements, malfunctioning thermostats and leaking relief valves.
Gas water heaters are also fairly simple, though I'm not convinced that this is a good thing. There are very few safety switches! Check out this video of a water heater I found just recently! https://youtu.be/oxMh75Z0C3o This particular water heater had a blocked heat exchanger and was not allowing any of the flue gasses to enter the chimney. This resulted in flames pushing out of the bottom and elevated carbon monoxide levels in the home. Not having a safety switch to shut down this water heater left this customer with a potentially serious situation. Regular maintenance and a combustion analysis would have caught this.
Water heater maintenance does not take long and is rather inexpensive. A doctor once told me, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." I find this to be the case with a lot of things, including water heaters. I have been asked in the past if I considered a "No Hot Water Service Call" to be an "Emergency." Well, If you have ever been the victim of a cold shower, it's amazing just how quick we realize the love we have for our water heaters! If you're like me, and not having hot water would constitute an emergency, then make sure to get your water heater checked out yearly...or at least once in a while.