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Water Heater-No Heat

Reasons Why a Water Heater Doesn’t Make Enough Hot Water

Written by Elizabeth McGrath

Updated 11/03/19

A hand turning the temperature of a tankless water heater
BanksPhotos / Getty Images

Your water heater is a workhorse appliance that works nearly constantly. Not only does every faucet in your house depend on the water heater, but so do appliances such as the clothes washer and dishwasher. Like any hardworking appliance, the water heater is subject to a variety of maintenance issues and common problems, but one of the most common complaints is that it doesn’t produce enough hot water.

Fun Fact

The first residential hot water heater was made in England in 1868. It worked by flowing cold water through pipes exposed to a hot gas burner; the heated water would then flow into a sink or tub.

Here are some things to look for when your water heater doesn’t provide enough hot water, with suggestions on how to address the problem.

Demand Is Too High

Perhaps the most common reason for an inadequate supply of hot water is that there are too many fixtures and appliances drawing hot water for the water heater to keep up with the demand. If the problem has just appeared, some reasons why your hot water supply might be inadequate include the following:

  • Recent upgrading to a larger bathtub or spa-type tub may be requiring more hot water than your previous tub. Your water heater might not be up to the demand.
  • A new shower head that features a higher flow or that has multiple sprayer heads may be calling for more hot water. Deluxe “luxury” showers may use considerably more water than simple single-head showers.
  • A remodeling project that adds a new bathroom or larger kitchen can put a greater demand on the hot water heater.
  • Additional household members can cause hot water demand to exceed capacity. Some families find, for example, that college students returning home for summer suddenly cause a hot water shortage.
  • New large-capacity or additional appliances can also put excessive demand on a hot water heater. If you have just added a dishwasher in a rec-room bar or a new large-capacity washing machine, it should be no surprise if the water heater finds itself overtaxed.

Solutions to a Demand Problem

  • Replacing your water heater with a larger capacity model. Water heaters are available in tank sizes ranging from 28 gallons to 100 gallons. Most experts suggest a 30-gallon tank as a minimum for one or two people, a 40-gallon tank for three or four people, and a 50-gallon or larger tank for five or more people. Be aware that gas water heaters recover faster than electric water heaters.
  • Install a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters heat water as it is needed, so you virtually never run out of hot water unless all appliances are drawing hot water at the same time. Tankless water heaters are available in both whole-house models as well as small point-of-use heaters that can be tucked beneath a sink cabinet.
  • Create a usage schedule that spreads out the hot water demand. In large families, for example, staggering shower times and running clothes washers and dishwashers late at night can improve the availability of hot water.

Incoming Water Is Too Cold


In cold-climate areas, the incoming water supply can be very, very cold in the wintertime, which means your water heater will require considerably more time to heat the water. As a result, you may feel that you’re not getting the same volume of hot water as before.


Increase the thermostat temperature setting on your water heater during the winter months. This will partially compensate for the colder water entering the tank at this time of year.

Reduced Incoming Water Pressure


It is the incoming cold water flow that pushes the hot water out to fixtures and appliances. If the water supply experiences a reduction in water pressure, this will also reduce the pressure at which hot water is forced out of the tank, making it seem like you don’t have as much hot water.


Fixing water pressure problems can be difficult because there can be several causes. In some instances, old, corroded pipes may need to be replaced with new plumbing pipes. If your home has a water pressure regulator valve, this device may need adjustment or replacement.

Water Heater Thermostat Set Too Low


In the interest of energy savings and home safety, many people set the thermostat on the water heater at a fairly modest 120 F. This is good practice, but it also means that you may be running a shower or sink faucet at the full hot position in order to get the hot water you need. This can quickly empty a water heater during peak-use times.


Set the thermostat higher—at 140 F or higher. At this setting, getting comfortably warm water at a shower or faucet will involve mixing the hot and cold water flow, which means it will take longer to use up the hot water in the tank.

Faulty Thermostat


If you notice no increase in water temperature when you increase the setting on your water heater, it’s possible that the thermostat is faulty. This is fairly common with electric water heaters, which have thermostats attached to both the upper and lower heating elements on the tank.


You should have the faulty thermostat replaced.

Faulty Electrical Heating Element


Electric water heaters have two heating elements mounted in the tank, and it is fairly common for them to wear out. Diagnosing a heating element is fairly easy. A constant supply of lukewarm water usually means a defective upper heating element, while a short-lived supply of fully hot water means that the lower heating element is probably defective.


Test and replace a faulty element. This is a fairly easy DIY project.

Sediment Buildup in Tank


If rust, corrosion, and sediment build-up in the bottom of a water heater tank, the burner or heating elements will not heat the water as efficiently, making it harder to maintain a good supply of sufficiently hot water.


Prevention—in the form of yearly flushing of the water heater tank to remove any buildup of sediment and rust that collects in the bottom of the tank.

Distance to Water Heater Is Too Far


In homes where a bathroom is quite some distance away from the water heater, it can not only take quite a while for hot water to reach the shower and sink faucet, but the hot water supply may run out rather quickly. The reason for this is that a considerable amount of hot water is being used to heat up long runs of pipes running from the water heater to the faucets.


There are several solutions to consider:

  • Install a supplemental point-of-use water heat near the faucet. These appliances are essentially small electric tank water heaters installed in the vanity cabinet.
  • Install an instant hot water recirculating pump to keep water in the hot water lines constantly warm.
  • Insulate the hot water pipes running from the water heater to the distant faucet. This will prevent heat from being lost as it radiates off the pipes.

Faulty Dip Tube


Hot water heaters are designed so that cold water enters the tank through a dip tube that runs from top cold water inlet down through the inside of the tank, delivering the cold water to the bottom. This ensures that the hottest water is at the top of the tank, near the hot water outlet pipe.

If the dip tube becomes disconnected or broken, the cold water may enter the tank at the top, where it immediately dilutes the hot water. This results in lukewarm water and an apparent reduction in the volume of hot water.


Disconnect the cold water inlet on the water heater, remove the old dip tube, and install a new dip tube. The part is inexpensive, and replacement is an easy DIY project.

Gas Burner Is Dirty or Faulty


A gas water heater cannot heat effectively if the burner is dirty or not functioning properly. The gas flame at the burner should burn steadily with a bright blue flame. If the flame is irregular or yellow in color, it will not be as hot and won’t heat up the water in the tank as effectively.


Service the gas burner, which usually means cleaning the jets so the gas can flow freely. If the burner is cracked or badly corroded, it should be replaced.

Water Heater Is Worn Out


The average lifespan of a water heater is 8 to 12 years, and no matter how well you maintain it, eventually sediment will build up, affecting the efficiency of the appliance and reducing the available volume for hot water. If your water heater is at least 10 years old, efforts to correct a diminishing supply of hot water may be futile.


An old water heater needs to be replaced. When choosing a new water heater, make sure to choose a model with a tank size large enough for your needs. And now might be a time to consider a state-of-the-art tankless water heater.

Article From

Mr. Landlord Tips

(Shared by landlords nationwide) THE BEST LANDLORDING ADVICE I’VE RECEIVED  10 rental property owners share what they believe is the single best piece of landlording advice that they have ever received. Here are their school of hard knocks words of wisdom:    1) Like Reagan said, “Trust but verify”.      2) Treat residents well!
3) Hang out with like-minded people. Ask to shadow a successful landlord in your area.    4) Don’t underestimate the actual cost of owning real estate! Many studies indicate total expenses including vacancy, etc. will average around 45% to 50% of gross income.    5) Compared to a bad resident, a vacancy is a delight. 
6) Put your rental criteria in writing. 
7) Figure out who you want to rent to and only buy/fix properties they will rent.    8) The landlord is in charge. The resident is not!    9) Make sure you have a fantastic lease that covers everything – Everything!

10) Five years from now YOU WILL BE the books you read, the audios you listen to, and the people you associate with. Wealth creation is between the ears. 

12 STEPS FOR ONE DAY TURNOVER      Many of you veterans out there may already know all of this, but just in case I wanted to share “the system” that has one landlord 3 for 3 of his last vacancies at a one day turn over.
Step 1: Communication with current residents. Make sure you touch base with resident 90 days out from their anniversary date about which anniversary gift they want. If I hear nothing by 60 days out, then we ask again or confirm their intent to move. Repeat this step 30 days out. Get their desire in writing, signed, and dated!   Step 2: Start advertising. I start putting my Craigslist & Zillow ad 30 days out, around the first of the month. Renew the post every 2 days or as often as allowed.   Step 3: Communicate my bonus program to the current residents. $100 if they bring me a qualified prospect who signs a lease (and pays!). Or $100 if I get someone with their assistance prior to their move out to pre-lease. This moving bonus is a thank you for them keeping the place nice enough to show and being accommodating to repeat showings, plus saying a positive word about the home or neighborhood. Yeah, my lease says they have to do it anyway for free BUT this encourages cooperation and they say nice things about me to the prospect too!   Step 4: Get a “anytime is fine” showing agreement with residents. Basically, anytime between X and Y times it’s okay for me to show the rental with 30 minutes notice ahead of time. Or get them to agree to show it for you when they’re home. Saves gas, saves time, and it’s less stress.   Step 5: While doing showings, make the handyman provide a fix-it list for repairs as soon as the old residents are in their last weeks before  moving out.
Step 6: One week out, line up your cleaning / maintenance / carpet-scrubbing crew(s). Coordinate so they aren’t stepping on each other to get it done the day resident moves out, if possible. If all else fails and its a fairly clean turnover, you can probably leave the maintenance for last unless there’s a major issue that affects habitability. The cleaning gal shows up in the morning, carpet scrubbers finish up in the evening.  The next day everything is dry and ready for new resident.   Step 7: Email the lease as an attachment to resident 3 days prior to signing to ensure they have ample time to review and ask questions. Remind them that you need the rent and deposit in certified funds (no personal checks, thank you) when you meet to sign the lease. No money, no keys, no signing anything.   Step 8: Day prior to lease begins. Make sure utilities are switched over effective the day prior to the first day of the lease. Call the power company or ask the resident to show you a receipt as proof of service.

Step 9: Day lease begins. Do walk through with residents. Note deficiencies and write down everything you agree to fix / repair / upgrade on a list that says: “Only these items will be fixed / repaired / upgraded. RESIDENT agrees landlord has not promised, verbally or in writing, to any other repairs, fixes or upgrades that are not listed. Premises are accepted in “as is” condition, unless otherwise noted on this sheet.”   Step 10a: Get money, sign lease. Give resident a run down of rules and procedures for maintenance requests and emergency contact information. Show them where the circuit breaker box is, water shut off, etc. Give each resident a copy of your business card (with you as property manager) with phone number, office hours and email address.   Step 10b: Hand over keys. (this is last for a reason, folks!) Step 11: Deposit money in your bank. Step 12: Go enjoy a cold beverage of your choice in celebration. Ah, another turn over complete!   Of course there will be some turn-overs that are more complex: eviction, slobs, damages, etc. This is meant as a basic blue print for an otherwise successful tenancy that is coming to a close. Add or subtract steps that you feel make the process smoother.

The tips in this column are shared by regular contributors to the popular Q&A forum, by real estate authors and by Jeffrey Taylor, To receive a free sample of Mr. Landlord newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit their informative Q&A Forum at, where you can ask landlording questions and seek advice of other landlords 24 hours a day.

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To receive a free Rental Owner newsletter, call 1-800-950-2250 or visit our
nationwide Q&A Forum,, where you can ask landlording questions and seek the advice of other rental owners 24 hours a day.”, All the Keys to Landlording Success, Box 64442, Virginia Beach, VA 23467