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Fixing A Faulty Electrical Hot Water System

The hot water system is now one of the necessities in Australian households. A hot water system can be fuelled by gas, electricity, or solar energy. It could also be a combination of all three.

These systems are designed to heat water for use in the home, especially during the cold season. With regular maintenance, they work really well and are known to heat water to your liking. However, sometimes, they break down and stop working. They fail to work for a number of reasons that we will discuss later on.

This article will discuss reasons why your hot water system might fail to work and how you can get them to work again.

Similarities Between Gas And Electric Water Heating Systems

The most common hot water heating systems are gas and electrical heaters. These two generally function the same way but differ in their mode of operation and structure. Electric water heaters look similar to gas hot water heaters in that both have insulated storage tank jackets. They also have exceptional insulation between the storage tank and tank jacket to minimise heat loss to the environment.

Differences Between Electric And Gas Water Heaters

The difference between an electric and a gas water heater is in the heat source. In the case of an electric water heater, there is an upper and lower heating element that extends into the tank to heat water. With regard to gas heaters, there is a gas burner below the tank that heats the water.

If you are unfortunate enough to get cold water in the shower when you are the last one to enter the bathroom, then it’s no big deal. However, if you are the first one to go into the shower, and you get chilled water, then it is high time to check whether your electric water heaters are working properly.

When your electric water heater has a problem, it will produce little or no heat to warm your water. Various reasons generally cause your heater not to work. For example, it can be due to a failed heating element, an expensive part of the heater being replaced with a local and inexpensive copy, and many other issues such as high water pressure or lack of tank maintenance.

Possible Reasons For Electrical Water Heating System Failure

There are several reasons why an electric hot water system might not work correctly. Below are the five key reasons, and any of them can be the cause of your electrical hot water system malfunctioning. They are as follows:

Worn or broken heating elements

The heating elements are the backbone of the system. A typical water heating system works when the insulated cylindrical tank is heated with one or two heating elements. The system essentially works like a giant kettle.

The insulation around the tank helps keep the water hot for a more extended period. When you use this stored water once, the cylindrical tank automatically fills with more cold water. The electrical elements reactivate and begin to heat the water.

If these elements are broken or worn out, the efficiency of the system will be low, and your water will not heat up properly.

Defective thermostat

The regulating element of a hot water system is the thermostat. The thermostat orders the heating elements to perform their function correctly. It tells the heating system when they should heat up after the hot water finishes, and new cold water simultaneously enters the tank. The thermostat generally monitors the temperature of the water in the storage tank. In an electrical hot water system, there are two heating elements and two thermostats. Both the upper and lower elements do not work simultaneously. The upper component of the system starts working first. It heats water that it has contact with. This water then moves to the lower element.

The function of the thermostat is to maintain balance and coordination between the two elements. When water at the top reaches a high temperature, it triggers the lower thermostat to start. If the water is not warm enough, then the thermostat activates the lower element. Therefore, the thermostat is the brain of the system.

If the thermostat stops working due to a malfunction or misinterpretation, it will not keep the water temperature the same. It can cause the water to become either too hot or not heat water at all. Thermostats are connected to the valve on your electric hot water system. You can check the normal functioning of the thermostat by comparing the actual temperature of the water in the tank and the temperature that the gauge shows.

Leaking heating system

Leakages in a water heating system can cause its functioning to decline or even cease completely. Leakage in the hot water tank or pipe connected to the heating tank can cause a shortage of hot water. If this is the issue, seek help from a trusted plumber so that they can have a look and determine what the problem is and how you can fix it.

When your electric hot water system is on, the water inside the tank heats up. There is a pressure valve that can be used to release steam build-up inside the tank. The heat in the water might cause moisture and water droplets to build up around the tank. If you see a small number of water droplets on the outside of the tank, don’t worry.

These water droplets could indicate that the thermostat might not be optimum, or it could also be that it is set to too high or too low. However, if you see a lot of water gathering around your electrical hot water system, you should switch it off immediately and call a local plumber to come and check for leakage.

Electrical faults

One of the most frequent reasons why electrical appliances stop working is if there is a fault in their wiring. This is the case with electrical water heaters as well. One of the major causes of the shortage of hot water in the tank is a blown fuse.

You should always check if the switch is on or someone has turned it off intentionally. If you see that the button is off, you should get help from a professional electrician. The expert will test the circuit board and give you all the essential information.

If there is a fault with the wiring, but the switch is still on, and the heating system is still not working, it will be dangerous to interact with the heater. It means that its fuse is blown. Don’t try to fix it yourself; rather, seek help from a professional electrician.

Old hot water system

One of the primary reasons some household appliances stop working suddenly or over time is their old age. When a standard device becomes too old and worn out, it will stop functioning correctly. In such a case, you cannot blame any individual malfunction for reducing the efficiency of the appliance.

Electrical water heaters have a lifespan of ten years. Some water heaters from reputed companies can offer up to 15 years of good service. However, after about ten years, some start showing signs of reduced efficiency and eventually break down.

You might think that you can detect a problem in the heater and fix it yourself, but sometimes the only possible option is to replace the hot water system. Hot water repairs are usually costly; additionally, the older the unit, the more often it will require maintenance fixes.

The upfront cost of an entirely new hot water system can seem very expensive, but you should keep in mind that if you continue to use an old tank, it will keep on getting more and more problems. It will require constant repairs and potentially increased energy consumption.

Check The Warranty On Your Water Heater

Electric water heaters, whether residential or commercial, have a limited Warranty. Each tank has a model and a serial number written on it. These numbers are the details about the year in which the tank was made. They can help you determine if your tank still has a warranty.

If the tank is leaking or the heating element stops working within the time of warranty, call the manufacturer and arrange to have it fixed or replaced. But, note that field labour is not covered by the warranty. Confirm whether the warranty is in operation before you start troubleshooting the problem.

Troubleshooting Hot Water System Not Working

There are easy steps you can follow to find out why your hot water system is not working. Once you identify the issue, you can solve it yourself by following the steps below or calling a professional to help.

No hot water

  • First, check if the main power supply to the heater has tripped.
  • Cut off electrical supply to the circuit at the service panel.
  • Remove the access panel from the upper heating element of the water heater.
  • Ensure that you do not touch any electrical wires or terminals.
  • Remove the insulation and the plastic safety guard.
  • Above the upper thermostat, there is a red button that resets the high-temperature cut-off.
  • Replace the access panel and safety guard insulation.
  • Turn on the heater’s circuit breaker.

Too hot water

Excessive hot water is also not a comfortable option, just like not having enough hot water. You can reset this problem as follows:

  • Turn off power from the primary source.
  • Without touching any wire, remove the access panel and insulation. Remove the plastic safety guard as well.
  • Check the heat setting of thermostats. They should be at the same temperature. They should both be set to work at 115 to 125 degrees.
  • Adjust the second thermostat to the same parameters as the first one.
  • Put the plates back in their place and enjoy the normal working of a water heater.

Should You Seek Professional Help?

Maintaining a water heater all year long can be a costly and tiresome endeavour. This is explicitly true if you lack a lot of free time. More so because it can be a challenging and confusing task if you are not equipped with the tools or knowledge to undertake it.

In this regard, it is best to contact someone who has the prerequisite skills and experience to get the job done safely and professionally. Such professionals are skilled in their craft and provide the necessary tools to solve both simple and complex problems with a faulty hot water system.

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I called Hero Plumbing to unblock a shower drain and was unable to get a quote over the phone, but Sam the owner was here same day. After his first try, he made quick work of the blockage. I opted to also get the acid cleaner stuff poured down. Sam had run out, but made a trip to go pick some up to finish the job. If you opt for this treatment make sure you can easily air the bathroom as it’s extremely strong and produces a lot of fumes. Great Service and Honest Pricing.

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Hero Plumbing has been excellent since there first phone call.
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We've used Hero Plumbing previously. Both times reliable and flexible with changing times (helpful during covid ISO periods!)
Hayden was on time and explained the issue clearly, fixed it,then also did some extra checks on water pressure and taps to ensure there were no underlying issues.
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They replaced our hot water system with excellent workmanship, professionalism and in a timely manner - as always!

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