Running Out of Hot Water Too Quickly? Here’s How to Fix It

If your home’s water goes from steaming hot to room temperature in the blink of an eye, this guide is for you. Here’s what you can do to fix hot water problems and ensure you have enough to go around for all the plumbing fixtures in your home.

Turn up the thermostat

If your hot water supply isn’t up to par, you can turn up the heat (within reason). Every water heater is equipped with a thermostat that’s set between 120 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit. For most households, setting the temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit produces enough hot water. But, if your hot water demands aren’t met, you can turn the thermostat up—just be careful not to increase it past 140 degrees to reduce the risk of scalding a family member. If your thermostat is lower than 120 degrees, it’s best to increase it to the ideal range, as low temperatures in a hot water tank create the perfect environment for bacterial growth.

Check the circuit breaker

If your water heater isn’t producing any hot water, check to make sure its circuit breaker hasn’t tripped. If it has, all you have to do is switch it back on from your home’s main circuit panel. If not, then the problem may be with the heater itself instead of with the power supply.

Repair a broken dip tube

The dip tube is a long plastic tube that pushes incoming water down to the bottom of the tank. Once the water is heated, it rises to the top of the tank, and then travels to wherever you need hot water throughout the home. If the dip tube breaks, the cold water won’t get pushed to the bottom of the tank. Instead, it will stay at the top of the tank and lower the temperature of the water that was already heated, resulting in cooler water being delivered to your sinks and showers.

Some dip tubes are made out of plastic, making them especially prone to wear and tear. You’ll want to work with a plumber to repair or replace your dip tube, as it’s a job best left to the professionals.

Add Insulation

Adding insulation to your water heater can help it keep your water warmer. Also, insulating your water heater increases its efficiency and longevity. In fact, the US Department of Energy estimates that insulating a water heater can cut standby heat losses by 25–45%, and save you anywhere from 7–16% annually on your water bills.

If you have a newer water heater, it may already be insulated. However, if your water heater lacks insulation, or has insulation with an R-value of 16 or lower, it’s best to invest in new exterior insulation to wrap around the body of the unit. Insulation can also be installed around the hot and cold water pipes for increased benefits. Many hardware stores sell pre-packaged insulation that can easily be cut and installed around your water heater.

Flush the tank

Over time, sediment and minerals build up at the bottom of your water heater’s tank, impacting the heating element and other important components. If you don’t flush your water heater at least once a year, this accumulated buildup of calcium, lime, and bacteria can wreak havoc on your unit by clogging the water lines and reducing energy efficiency.

Handy homeowners can flush their water heaters on their own by following a series of simple steps and using certain tools. However, caution should be exercised as there is a danger of coming in contact with excessively hot water and surfaces during the process. If you have any doubts about flushing your water heater on your own, it’s best to contact a plumber and have them do it for you.

Step 1: Turn off gas or electricity

The first step is to turn off the power. If your water heater is electric, you can do this through the circuit breaker box. If your heater is gas-powered, you can shut off the power by turning the valve on the tank’s gas supply line.

Step 2: Turn off water supply

At the top of your water heater, you’ll find a pipe and a water shutoff valve. Use this valve to stop the flow of water into the tank.

Step 3: Wait for the water to cool off

At this point, the water in your heater is likely extremely hot. To avoid dangerous burns or accidental scalding, it’s best to give your heater time to cool down before draining it—anywhere from a couple of hours to overnight.

Step 4: Hook up the hose

Attach one end of a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of your water heater. Place the other end into a floor drain or directly outside so the water can drain safely.

Step 5: Turn on hot water

Turn on the hot water on the nearest sink to your water heater. This will help alleviate pressure and allow the water-heater tank to drain more effectively.

Step 6: Open the drain valve

After all the above steps are completed, it’s time to open the drain valve. Once you do so, water will begin to flow out of the tank and through the connected hose. It can take up to 30 minutes to fully drain the tank, depending on how full it is.

Step 7: Turn the water back on and flush the tank

Once the water heater has drained fully, turn the water back on while leaving the drain valve open. This final flow of water will eliminate any remaining sediment buildup in the tank. Once the water appears to be running clear, turn the water back off.

Step 8: Refill the tank

Once you remove the hose and close the drain valve, you can begin refilling the tank with water. First, turn the water supply back on to refill the tank. Once the tank is full, turn the power to the water heater back on and enjoy the clean, hot water.

When all else fails: Replace your water heater

Generally, a water heater lasts around 8–12 years. If your heater is starting to show its age, it’s time to start considering a replacement. Upgrading to a new traditional or tankless water heater is a great way to save water, money, and energy. Today’s water heaters are exceptionally energy efficient, and strike the perfect balance between supplying enough hot water and not raising your utility bills in the process.

Trust Chas Roberts for water heating expertise

Whether you’re frustrated by lukewarm showers or looking to upgrade to a new water heater, our experts are here to help every step of the way. Contact us for all your water heating and plumbing