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Why Do We Need Hot Water Systems?
A hot water system is an essential appliance for most homes. There are multiple types of hot water systems depending on heat sources, including gas, electric, and solar-powered or a combination of these. The two most common ones are electric and gas hot water systems.
There are many similarities between electric water heaters and their gas-fuelled counterparts. For one, they both have an insulated steel storage tank jacket; they also have insulation between their storage tank and the tank jacket designed to reduce heat loss from heated water.
The fundamental difference between an electric and gas water heater is the source of heat. Electric water heaters are powered by electric heating elements, while a gas burner powers gas water heaters. The hot water system accounts for over 20% of the total energy consumption of average homes.
Most of the hot water is used for bathing, while about 30% is used in the kitchen and laundry area. This shows how vital this appliance is to every home. No one wants to wake up on a cold winter day only to discover that the hot water system is faulty. This article will assist you on how to troubleshoot common problems with your electric hot water systems, how to fix some, and when you need to call a professional to assist you.
Common Problems With Electric Hot Water Systems
Your electric water heater does the work of providing hot water for your tap and other appliances. Like every other appliance, it can overwork, leading to problems that will require repairs, which we will discuss below. Before you troubleshoot any problem with your electric water heater, make sure you have turned off the power at the circuit breaker.
No hot water
This occurs when the heater no longer warms up your water. This may be due to copious reasons, including tripped limit switch, not getting power or failure of one or more heating elements.
The first thing you will have to do when any one of these symptoms manifests is to check the water heater's circuit breaker. This is usually found in the service panel. Ensure that it is not tripped. If it is tripped, switch it off and then switch it on again.
If the heater's breaker switch did not trip and is still on, you should reset the high-temperature limit of the water heater by doing the following:
• Switch off the breaker to the water heater’s circuit at the service panel.
• Bring out the access panel for the upper heating element.
• You will see the insulation and the plastic safety guard, remove them carefully, and do not touch any wire or electrical component.
• Press the high-temperature cut-off reset button (usually a red button) that is found above the upper thermostat.
• Reinstall the safety guard, insulation, and access panel.
• Switch on the breaker to the water heater’s circuit.
• If the problem persists, test each heating element and replace it if faulty.
Insufficient hot water
The heater might be producing hot water, but the quantity is not enough to meet the demand of your household. In such a case, check if the hot water demand is not more than the capacity of the electric water heater. Electric water heaters are specifically designed in such a way that the heater should hold only ¾ of its capacity as hot water.
So, if the hot water demand for your house is 60 litres, you need an 80-litre water heater. Again, if the demand for hot water is more than the heater's capacity, you should limit the length of showers. You can do so by installing a low-flow showerhead. Another way to manage this scenario is by spreading out the times for dishwashing and laundry. Rather perform these activities at separate times of the day or on different days instead of doing them simultaneously.
However, if your demand is not more than the heater's capacity and you are still experiencing an inadequate supply of hot water in your home, it means that one or both heating elements are faulty.
A consistent supply of lukewarm water in the shower indicates that the upper heating element is bad. In contrast, a hot water system that runs out quickly shows a defective lower heating element.
Water is too hot
Unusually hot water can also be as frustrating as having an inadequate supply of water. Excessively hot water needs to be diluted in a bucket before bathing, and this can be very annoying. If you have this issue, it means that one or both of your thermostats is set too high. To correct this, do the following:
• Switching off the power supply to the water heater at the service panel.
• Bring out the access panel, plastic safety guard, and insulation from each heating element on the water heater. Make sure you don’t touch any wire or electronic components.
• Use a non-contact voltage tester to verify that the power is off.
• The heat setting on both thermostats should have the same temperature. The recommended temperature is between 115 to 125 degrees Celsius.
• Use a flathead screwdriver to adjust the temperature to the desired setting. Also, adjust the other thermostat to the same setting.
• Reinstall the safety guard, insulation, and access panel for each element.
• Switch on the water heater’s circuit breaker.
If your water heater is showing signs of leaking, it is likely caused by faulty valves and plumbing connections. Sometimes, it is the tank that has a problem. Water leakage should be taken very seriously because it can cause damage to the house.
Leaks from the heater’s tanks can be due to a loose heating element. Other times it can be due to corrosion. You have to inspect the element and tighten it with a wrench if it is loose.
You cannot repair a corroded tank; you have to replace it. Switch off the power and water supply to the water heater, drain the tank totally to stop leaking, and then call a plumber to change the tank for you.
Brown coloured water
If the water coming out of the hot water tap is brown, yellow, or red, it indicates corrosion happening inside of the water heater’s tank or the pipes connecting to the water heater.
Foul smelling water
If the water also has a smell like that of a rotten egg, you should check for the presence of bacteria in the heater tank. Change the anode rod in the tank with the help of a professional plumber.
Water heater making noise
If you hear noises coming from the water heater that sound like low rumbling or maybe a high-pitched whine, that is not the sound of boiling water. It is caused by excessive build-up of sediment at the bottom of the tank, leading to overheating. Remove the sediment from the tank and if the problem persists, get a new tank for your water heater.
Maintenance Tips For Electric Hot Water Systems
Never leave on for too long
Many people put on the water heater for a long time, especially in the morning when many need it. Most water heaters heat up very fast (about 10 minutes), so you don’t need to keep them on for a long time. Again, keeping them on for a long time will reduce the appliance’s lifespan. Put yours on just a few minutes before you are ready to use it.
Lower the temperature
Lowering the temperature of your heater means the appliance will do less work and consume less energy, thereby saving you some money. Also, with the heater doing less work, it will last a long time. Having warm water instead of hot water in your tap will reduce the chances of hot water burns. This is very important for homes with children.
Examine the anode rod
Large hot water systems have an anti-corrosion anode rod inside the tank. This rod attracts impurities and rust, protecting the tank from rust. However, the rod itself gets easily corroded after a few years. Check this rod every three years, and if it has rust, get a new one.
Inspect the pressure release valve
The pressure release valve should be examined at least once a year to see if the temperature and pressure valves are working optimally. You can verify this by releasing the pressure several times. If the release valve is leaking, it is a major issue. You need to drain water out of the heater and remove the discharge tube before replacing the valve.
Check the plug regularly
Factors such as power fluctuation, which are beyond your control, can make your switch spark regularly, especially if low-capacity wiring was used for your power socket. You will see signs of burns on the pins of your plugs as the plug and the pin heat up.
To protect your device from short-circuiting, use plugs and sockets that are new and have been adequately wired and plugged in. You should also use an MCB switch in place of the standard switch. Finally, form the habit of turning off the water heater immediately after use.
Regular Maintenance Improves Hot Water System Performance
An electric heater is an essential appliance for every home. You will undoubtedly always need hot water in your home, especially during winter, for a bath. The best way to care for this appliance and improve its lifespan is through regular maintenance by a professional plumber.
These professionals are equipped with the requisite skills to fix hot water systems. Most water heater manufacturers advise that the appliance be serviced by a qualified technician once a year. Book a hot water maintenance session with a professional plumber, and you will be one step ahead of constant repairs.