3 Common Water Heater Problems & Solutions

Imagine this scenario: you’re in the middle of the shower when the water heater suddenly stops producing water.  Because it’s winter, trying to finish your shower with cold water is out of the equation. You can’t even step out of the shower room because of the cold.  Indeed, this is a nightmarish scene you don’t want to happen anytime.


But the truth is that any water heater will succumb to malfunctions at any given time.   Thus it helps to have some basic knowledge on common water heater problems and more importantly, how to solve them. Here are some of the more common problems involving water heaters and how you can address them:

Water Becomes Too Hot

If the water heater suddenly produces water that is too hot for you, then it is likely that the thermostat is not working properly.  To address this problem, turn down the temperature on the thermostat dial of the water heater. You should note the present setting before turning it to a cooler or lower setting. You will then have to reset it just to check if it is working properly.

Another possible reason why the water heater produces hot water is that the heating element is shorted out. In this case, you will have to replace the heating element. This is a chore best left to the pros.

Water Heater Becomes Noisy

Another common problem is when the water heater makes a rumbling sound. This is caused by sediment building up at the bottom of the tank. The heat coming from the gas burner below causes moisture in the gunk to flash into steam that spouts into the water.

This is fairly easy to solve. First, bring the gas control of the heater to low setting. Shut off the cold water supply to the heater before attaching a hose to the drain valve of the tank.  Open a faucet on a nearby sink and then open the drain valve of the heater.  You’ll see water coming out of the hose to be murky. When the water starts to run clear, shut off the valve.

You will likely see the drain valve of the water heater not completely shut since it is blocked by corrosion and sediment. Get a hose cap and then tighten it onto the drain valve.  You may also get Teflon plumbing tape, apply it to the valve threads, and then tighten the cap.

Start refilling the heater by opening the cold water supply and leaving the hot water faucet open.  Bring back the gas control to “on” setting after the water flows freely from the faucet.

Bad Odor

Aside from the water heater producing water that isn’t too hot for you, another common problem is when the unit produces water with bad odor. This is likely due to the water reacting with the magnesium rod of the water heater.

One way to solve this is to shut off the cold water inlet valve of the water heater. Do a full flush by draining some of the water from the water heater. Then disconnect the metal hose connecting the cold water side of the heater.

You’ll need a 3 percent hydrogen peroxide solution that you can readily buy from any drug store. Pour in a cup of the solution for every 10 gallons of the water heater’s size. So if you have a 40 gallon tank, you’ll need to pour in four cups to the tank.

Turn the cold water back on to refill the tank after reconnecting the hose. Let it sit for a few hours. The hydrogen peroxide solution would kill the bacteria and the bad odor that goes along with it.

If that doesn’t work, you can remove the magnesium anode from the water heater and replace it with one made of zinc and aluminum.


As you can see, fixing some water heater problems is relatively easy. If you own the correct instruments, you will be capable to troubleshoot some common water heater problems.  Knowing the solutions to these common water heater troubles should save you some dollars as you don’t have to call a professional, and let you stay in the shower far longer.

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