Are you noticing that your showers are getting shorter, and the water runs out before you are ready to go? This is a common problem with household hot water systems and it may be easy enough to fix so you can get back to the luxury of a long hot shower once again.
The Plumbing Detectives, a busy plumber located in Lane Cove, have a few suggestions that you can use to diagnose the problem before you call the professionals.
Check For Leaks
Though it’s not that likely you are suddenly leaking hot water without noticing, this is a quick way to eliminate the possibility before getting into the more involved possibilities. Take a walk along the path of the pipes while the water is running, and use a flashlight to look for leaks, particularly in hard-to-see areas that nobody would notice.
Check for Obstructions
This is another quick check that you can do while you’re looking for leaks. There are most likely several points along your hot water system that have shut-off valves. Take a look to ensure that nobody has knocked against one and restricted the water flow. If all the valves are wide open, you can move on to checking the hot water tank itself.
Check the Tank
Now that you’ve given the hot water plumbing a quick inspection, it’s time to focus your attention on the source. Since you do have some hot water to begin with, it’s obviously working to some degree. There are mainly 2 problems that will cause this.
The first is a burned out heating element, specifically the lower one. The top one keeps heating just fine, giving you hot water to start with but when the tank starts to draw water farther down, it gets cold because the second heater isn’t working. A somewhat handy individual can remove and replace a heating element, so you can try to fix this one on your own.
The other possible problem is that your dip tube has gotten broken or otherwise damaged. This is a pipe that draws the cold water from the top part of the tank down to the lower portion where it can be heated. It helps keep the water moving through the tank, basically. Mineral deposits can corrode a plastic dip tube, disrupting the flow. The hot water tends to settle at the bottom, and isn’t being drawn up through the plumbing properly. If you see small bits of plastic in your hot water, this is the cause. You’ll want a plumber to help you out with the repairs.
Flush the Tank
Lastly, if the tank seems to be operating fine, there is a good chance it needs a cleaning or flush-out. Hard water minerals can build up inside and all of that crust can interfere with the heating elements and the proper flow of water out of the tank.
There should be a drain plug at the bottom of the tank, that can be opened up for this procedure. Turn off the in-flow pipes, and run the hot water through the taps in the rest of the house to lower the volume in the tank. Then open up the drain and ideally a lot of the sandy debris that is clogging your heating elements will run out along with the water.