Why Do I Run Out of Hot Water?

Does it seem like you always run out of hot water at your house lately? You may have thought that certain family members are over-extending their time in the shower or you’re doing too many warm water loads of laundry in a day. While either of these could be contributing causes, there is likely another reason for your lack of hot water.

The dirty truth

If you’ve noticed you gradually seem to have less and less hot water, the most likely culprit is sediment buildup in your water heater.

During the water heating process, naturally-occurring minerals like calcium and magnesium form sediment particles that settle on the bottom of the tank. This sludge builds up over time, reducing your water heater’s efficiency by displacing water in the tank, clogging the drain valve, and/or blocking the water lines.

In addition to less hot water, other signs of sediment buildup include popping or rumbling sounds coming from the tank when the water is heating, uneven water temperatures, and rising energy bills.

The fix for sediment buildup is relatively simple: flush the tank. If you are confident in your DIY skills, you can accomplish this by following these steps:

  1. Shut off the power to an electric tank or put the gas burner of a gas tank on a pilot and closing the cold water supply valve
  2. Wait several hours to let the stored water cool down
  3. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve and place the other end of the hose in the bathtub or a floor drain
  4. Open the water heater’s hot water faucet and drain the tank
  5. Close the valve, turn the cold water supply back on, fill the tank part-way and drain again
  6. Repeat this process of partially filling the tank with cold water and draining it until the water coming out of the tank runs clear
  7. Close the drain valve and refill the tank with cold water.
  8. Turn the power back on or turn up the gas burner to begin heating water again.

Size matters

Another reason you may not have enough hot water for your house is your water heater is too small for the job. It really all depends on how many people live there.

  • A 30-gallon unit serves 1-2 people
  • A 40-gallon unit serves 2-3 people
  • A 40-50 gallon unit serves 3-4 people
  • A 50-80 gallon unit serves 5 or more people

What’s the temperature?

A faulty thermostat can also interfere with your water heater’s ability to do its job. Resetting the thermostat can sometimes restore its function. Also, you should check to see if your thermostat is turned to the wrong setting; sometimes all it takes is raising the temperature on the thermostat to create a tank full of nice hot water.

Old age

How old is your water heater? Perhaps it’s time to replace it.

Today’s water heaters typically last 8-12 years (if the UL label is still attached to the unit, you can probably see the installation date).  If your unit is at least 10 years old, it probably needs to be replaced. Also, check for leaks around the base — they are indicative that the water heater is wearing out and it’s a matter of time before small leaks turn into something major.

If your water heater has gone cold, a local professional plumber can help.

Providing quality, trusted plumbing services to the Fort Bend area, Howell Services is family-owned and our plumbers are fully licensed, insured, and bonded. Let us help restore a comfortable supply of hot water to your home by repairing your water heater or recommending and installing a replacement. Call us today for a repair or comprehensive plumbing inspection.

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