Water Heater Repair Basics

Water Heater Repair Denver is often a less expensive option than unit replacement. However, a Carter professional plumber will need to inspect the unit first.

Water Heater Repair

If a leak is detected, the first step is to turn off the gas and water. It may also be time to consider upgrading to a larger tank size, as this issue is common as heaters age.

The heating element in your water heater is one of the most important parts of this appliance, as it provides heat to the water. However, it will eventually burn out and need to be replaced. If you notice that your water is not getting as hot as it used to or is running out too quickly, this could indicate that the element has burned out. In these instances, it is often necessary to drain and flush the water heater, as well as replace the heating element to restore its function.

Heating elements are typically made out of an alloy, such as copper or incoloy, and come in a variety of sizes depending on the size of your water heater. They have a coil that is threaded onto a metal shaft and are then surrounded by a protective sheath, which prevents damage to the element during handling or transporting. The shaft also has a flange or a terminal block where the circuit wires attach. Many commercial units have multiple elements, while residential ones usually have just one.

Heater elements work in a similar way to oven heating elements, in that they generate heat when electrical current passes through them. The current runs through the terminal blocks, which connect the element to other components inside your water heater. The element then generates heat in your water, which flows out through the taps and shower heads.

In order to replace a heating element, you must first drain the tank by opening the drain valve on the top of the water heater. This can take up to an hour. Once the tank is drained, you can remove the access panel and insulation covering the heating element terminal block. Then, you must locate and loosen the screws that connect the element to the terminal block, then open a vent to allow air to circulate. Next, you will need to carefully remove the element and test it.

To test the element, touch one of the probes from your multimeter to a screw on the front of the element and the other to the metal base attached to the element where it enters the water heater. If the multimeter needle moves, it means that the element is burning out and must be replaced.


The thermostat regulates the temperature of your water heater. If the thermostat is set too low, your water will cool before it reaches your faucets. If your thermostat is set too high, your water will be too hot and may cause burns or scalding. A broken or faulty thermostat can make your electric water heater unusable, but a simple troubleshooting and calibration procedure can resolve many problems.

To check the thermostat, turn off the power to your water heater at the circuit breaker in your service panel. You should also shut off the GFCI on your gas line if you have one. Next, remove the access panel, insulation and plastic safety guard from each heating element and disconnect the wires that connect to them. You will want to label the wires before you touch them to ensure that you don’t accidentally reconnect the power supply. You can then use a digital multimeter to test for voltage at the top two screws on the upper thermostat.

If you have a single-element unit, a problem with the thermostat means you won’t get any hot water at all. A double-element unit has an upper and lower thermostat that work together. If the upper thermostat fails, the system won’t function, but the lower thermostat should be able to compensate.

The lower thermostat is a little easier to diagnose since it only has two terminals. With the upper thermostat still turned off (clicked off) and the wiring disconnected, place a meter probe on each screw. The reading should be 0 volts, which means the thermostat is functioning correctly. You can then reconnect the wiring, reinstall the insulation and plastic safety guard, and turn the power back on to your water heater. You should now have a functional electric water heater that can provide your home with consistent, high-quality hot water. You can save yourself money and frustration by regularly performing this simple evaluation of your water heater’s thermostats. If you have any concerns, call a professional right away. They will be able to fix your water heater quickly and safely so that you can enjoy a continuous supply of hot showers.

Dip Tube

When a hot water heater’s dip tube fails it allows cold water to discharge into the top of the tank and rapidly cools off the hot water supply. This causes the amount of usable hot water to be reduced and often leaves the hot water faucets in your home clogged with small pieces of plastic that were disintegrated from the failed dip tube.

The dip tube is a short piece of pipe that sticks up through the top of the hot water heater tank and has two threaded ends that attach to the line that supplies the cold water. It is important to find a replacement tube that is made of a durable material like cross-link polyethylene (PEX) that won’t break down inside the hot water heater tank.

To replace the dip tube turn off your hot water heater and the circuit breaker that delivers power to it. Drain the hot water heater using the drain valve at the bottom of the unit. Open the hot water faucets in your house to remove as much of the sediment that may have fallen into them as possible while you are draining. This step will also flush out any dissolved plastic particles that were part of the broken dip tube.

Once you’ve drained the tank, disconnect the cold water pipe connector and pull out the dip tube from its inlet on the top of the tank. You’ll need to use a wrench to loosen the nipple and the connector at the end of the tube. Once the old tube is removed and the new tube installed, reconnect the cold water pipe, restore the power to your hot water heater and turn on the gas.

To verify that the dip tube is working correctly, have someone feel the top of the hot water outlet pipe for heat. If it’s hot, then the dip tube is doing its job. A dip tube that isn’t functioning properly can leave you with only warm water for showering and washing dishes. This is not a good thing. If your dip tube is failing, it’s important to repair it as soon as you can.

Pressure Valve

The water heater’s pressure valve (also called a T&P or P-valve) is designed to offer an escape route for excess temperature and pressure in the tank. It is supposed to open if the pressure inside the tank exceeds a preset limit, usually 150 psi, or when the temperature gets above 210 degrees Fahrenheit. This relieves the pressure by allowing hot water to flow out of the discharge tube, reducing the internal temperature and pressure.

The design of this safety valve is pretty simple on the surface. It has a variable flow area that is regulated by a pintle or other device attached to a spring and diaphragm. Incoming fluid pressure acts on the diaphragm, and the resulting hydraulic force causes the pintle to move in and close off the flow area. This allows only enough pressure through to lower the temperature and pressure inside the tank.

Because of its important job, it is a good idea to test your pressure valve at least once a year. Luckily, it’s easy to do. Start by positioning a bucket underneath the discharge pipe and carefully pulling the valve open. If water comes out of the discharge tube and into your bucket, this is a good sign that your valve is working properly.

If, however, the lever on the valve seems stuck or it won’t open, this may indicate corrosion, rust, or mineral deposits that are interfering with the ability of the valve to open and discharge additional pressure. If this is the case, call a plumber for professional help.

You can also check the condition of your pressure valve when you flush and drain your water heater. It’s a good idea to do this twice per year to keep your water heater operating at peak performance. For information about how to perform this maintenance task yourself, check out this helpful guide from Family Handyman magazine.