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Troubleshooting Guide: Water Heater Keeps Turning Off

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  • Post last modified:August 26, 2023

Dealing with a water heater that keeps turning off can be frustrating and inconvenient. However, before you call a professional, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to diagnose and fix the problem on your own.

In this section, I will provide an overview of the troubleshooting process for a water heater that keeps turning off, including common causes and steps you can take to identify and resolve the issue.

Key Takeaways:

  • A water heater that keeps turning off can be caused by a variety of issues, including a faulty thermostat, sediment buildup, gas supply issues, and more.
  • Before calling a professional, there are several troubleshooting steps you can take to diagnose and fix the problem on your own.
  • These troubleshooting steps include checking the thermostat, clearing sediment buildup, inspecting the gas supply, checking the pressure relief valve, and more.

Common Causes for Water Heater Shutdowns

If your water heater keeps turning off, there could be several reasons for this frustrating problem. Here are some of the most common causes:

Cause Description
Faulty thermostat A thermostat that is not functioning properly can cause the water heater to shut down. If the thermostat is not able to accurately control the temperature of the water, the safety mechanisms of the heater may turn it off to prevent overheating or other issues.
Sediment buildup Over time, sediment and minerals can collect on the bottom of the water heater tank. This buildup can cause the tank to overheat and shut off as a safety measure.
Gas supply issues Gas water heaters rely on a consistent supply of gas to function properly. If there is a problem with the gas line, valve, or pilot light, the heater may not be able to maintain a consistent flame and will shut off.

It’s important to identify the specific cause of your water heater shutdowns in order to address the issue effectively. In the following sections, we will explore each of these common causes in more detail and provide troubleshooting steps to help you get your water heater back up and running.

Reasons for water heater turning off

How to Check the Thermostat

When troubleshooting a water heater that keeps turning off, one of the first things to check is the thermostat. The thermostat is responsible for regulating the temperature of the water in the tank and can cause the water heater to shut off if it is not functioning properly.

To check the thermostat, start by turning off the power supply to the water heater. For an electric water heater, turn off the circuit breaker to the unit. For a gas water heater, turn the control knob to the “pilot” setting.

Next, locate the thermostat. On an electric water heater, the thermostat is usually behind a panel on the side of the tank. On a gas water heater, the thermostat is located near the bottom of the tank, on the gas valve.

Using a multimeter, test the thermostat to make sure it is functioning properly. Set the multimeter to the ohms setting and touch the probes to the thermostat terminals. The reading should be zero or close to zero. If the reading is significantly different, the thermostat may be faulty and need to be replaced.

If the thermostat is functioning properly, check the temperature settings. The temperature should be set to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent scalding and save energy. Adjust the temperature if necessary and turn the power supply back on.

water heater keeps turning off

Remember, working with a water heater can be dangerous, and it is important to take proper safety precautions. If you are not comfortable working with your water heater, or if you are unsure about any of the troubleshooting steps, contact a professional for assistance.

Clearing Sediment Buildup

If your water heater keeps turning off, sediment buildup may be the culprit. Over time, minerals and other impurities can accumulate at the bottom of the tank, causing the heating element to become less effective and triggering the high-limit switch to shut off the heater. To clear sediment buildup, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the power supply to the water heater.
  2. Attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank.
  3. Place the other end of the hose in a suitable drain or outside.
  4. Open the drain valve and allow several gallons of water to drain. Be careful as the water may be hot.
  5. Close the drain valve and remove the hose.
  6. Turn on the cold water supply and allow the tank to refill.
  7. Turn on the power supply and wait for the water to heat up.

It’s recommended to flush the tank at least once a year to prevent sediment buildup and extend the life of your water heater.

Another option to consider is installing a water softener if hard water is a common issue in your area. A water softener can reduce the amount of minerals and impurities in your water, resulting in less sediment buildup in your water heater.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Check the Gas Supply

If you have a gas-powered water heater, the gas supply may be the culprit behind the frequent shutdowns. Start by checking the pilot light to see if it has gone out. If this is the case, simply relight the pilot light following the manufacturer’s instructions. If the pilot light won’t stay lit or if you notice a gas smell, turn off the gas supply immediately and contact a professional to inspect the unit.

Next, check the gas valve to ensure it is fully open. If the valve is only partially open, it can cause the water heater to turn off unexpectedly. If the valve is fully open, move on to checking the gas line for any leaks or damage that may be affecting the gas supply.

Tip: Always make sure the area around the water heater is well-ventilated when inspecting gas components to avoid the risk of gas leaks and potential fire hazards.

If you are still experiencing issues with your gas-powered water heater, it may be time to consult a professional who can diagnose and repair any gas-related problems.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Inspect the Heating Element

If you have an electric water heater, the heating element may be the culprit behind the frequent shutdowns. Over time, the element can become damaged or corroded, making it less efficient and causing the water heater to turn off frequently. Here’s how to check the heating element:

  1. Before inspecting the heating element, turn off the power supply to the water heater to avoid electrical shock.
  2. Locate the heating element access panel on the side of the tank. It will be near the bottom of the tank and will have two wires connected to it.
  3. Remove the access panel and use a multimeter to test the element for continuity. This will indicate whether the element is functioning properly or if it needs to be replaced.
  4. If the element is faulty, turn off the water supply to the tank and drain the tank before replacing the heating element. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the new element.
  5. Once the new element is installed, fill the tank with water and turn on the power supply. Wait for the water to heat up and check if the water heater is still turning off frequently.

If you are not comfortable inspecting or replacing the heating element on your own, it’s best to consult a professional plumber or electrician to avoid any potential safety hazards.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Check the Pressure Relief Valve

If you have ruled out other potential causes for your water heater shutting off, it may be time to check the pressure relief valve. This valve is designed to release pressure from the tank if it becomes too high, preventing the tank from exploding.

To test the valve, first, turn off the power or gas supply to the water heater. Then, locate the pressure relief valve near the top of the tank. Place a bucket underneath the valve to catch any water that may be released.

Next, lift the valve’s lever to let some water out of the tank. The water should flow freely and then stop once you release the lever. If the valve does not release water, is leaking, or the water doesn’t stop flowing, it may need to be cleaned or replaced.

To clean the valve, turn off the power supply to the water heater and close the water supply valve leading to the tank. Remove the valve by unscrewing it and soak it in vinegar overnight to dissolve any mineral buildup. Rinse the valve and reinstall it. If cleaning the valve doesn’t solve the problem, it may need to be replaced.

Remember to check the pressure relief valve regularly to ensure it is functioning correctly and preventing any potential hazards.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Check for Ignition Issues

If you have a gas water heater that keeps turning off, ignition issues may be to blame. The thermocouple, which generates an electrical current to ignite the gas burner, can become faulty over time and cause the water heater to shut down as a safety measure. Additionally, a faulty igniter may prevent the burner from lighting properly, causing the water heater to turn off.

To troubleshoot ignition issues, start by checking the pilot light. If the pilot light is out, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to relight it. If the pilot light won’t stay lit, the thermocouple or gas valve may need replacing. You can test the thermocouple with a multimeter to confirm if it’s functioning correctly.

If the pilot light is lit but the burner won’t fire up, check the igniter. The igniter can be tested for continuity with a multimeter. If it’s not functioning correctly, it will need to be replaced.

It’s important to remember that gas water heaters can be dangerous if not handled properly. If you’re uncomfortable troubleshooting ignition issues, it’s best to contact a licensed professional.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Inspect the Flue and Venting System

If the flue or venting system is blocked, damaged, or improperly installed, it can cause the water heater to turn off frequently. The flue is responsible for venting combustion gases out of the house, and any issues with the flue or venting system can lead to a buildup of toxic gases, such as carbon monoxide.

To inspect the flue and venting system, start by turning off the gas or power supply to the water heater. Next, locate the flue pipe that runs from the water heater to the outside of the house. Check for any signs of damage, such as holes, cracks, or dents. Make sure that the flue pipe is properly connected to the water heater and the outside vent.

If the flue looks damaged or is improperly installed, do not attempt to repair it yourself. Contact a licensed professional to inspect and repair the flue. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the vent cap on the outside of the house is clear of debris, such as leaves or bird nests. This can restrict the flow of air and cause the water heater to shut down.

Regularly inspecting the flue and venting system can prevent issues with the water heater and ensure the safe operation of the appliance.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Check for Electrical Issues

If you have an electric water heater that keeps turning off, there may be an electrical issue causing the problem. The first thing to check is the circuit breaker. If it has tripped, flip it back on and see if the water heater starts working again. If the breaker continues to trip, you may have a faulty breaker or wiring issue that requires professional attention.

Another potential electrical issue is a faulty heating element. You can use a multimeter to test the heating element’s resistance and determine if it needs to be replaced. If you are not comfortable working with electricity, it is best to call a professional.

Finally, check the wiring connections on the water heater. Over time, wires can loosen or corrode, causing the water heater to malfunction. If you notice any loose or damaged wires, it is essential to have them repaired by a qualified electrician.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Remember, working with electricity can be dangerous. If you are not comfortable or confident in your ability to diagnose and fix an electrical issue, it is best to seek professional help.

Additional Troubleshooting Tips

When it comes to troubleshooting a water heater that keeps turning off, there are a few additional tips and tricks that may be helpful. Here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Check for leaks: Sometimes, a leak in the water heater or surrounding pipes can cause the unit to shut off. Check for any signs of water damage or pooling around the base of the heater.
  • Inspect the dip tube: The dip tube is a pipe inside the water heater that brings cold water to the bottom of the tank. If the tube is broken or worn, it can cause the water heater to turn off frequently. Check for any signs of damage or wear on the tube.
  • Verify the water pressure: Low water pressure can cause a water heater to shut off. Check the water pressure gauge on the heater and ensure it is within the proper range specified in the manufacturer’s instructions.

By following these additional troubleshooting tips, you may be able to identify the underlying issue causing your water heater to turn off frequently and address it accordingly.

troubleshooting water heater turning off

Conclusion

In conclusion, troubleshooting a water heater that keeps turning off requires a methodical approach to identify and resolve underlying issues. Checking the thermostat, clearing sediment buildup, inspecting the heating element, checking the gas supply, and examining the pressure relief valve are all important troubleshooting steps to follow. Additionally, it is important to inspect the flue and venting system, check for ignition issues, verify the electrical system, and consider other potential causes such as leaks or dip tube problems.

By following these steps, you can often fix a water heater that keeps turning off and restore hot water to your home. If you are uncomfortable performing any of these troubleshooting steps, or if you are unable to identify and resolve the underlying issue, it may be necessary to consult a professional for water heater repairs.

Remember, taking care of your water heater with regular maintenance and troubleshooting can extend its lifespan and improve its efficiency, ultimately saving you money in the long run. So if your water heater is turning off frequently, don’t wait to take action – follow the steps outlined in this article and get your hot water flowing again!

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