Running out of hot water when you need it, like during a shower or a load of laundry, can be a serious inconvenience. Before you go shopping for a new hot water tank, take some advice from a popular plumber in Lane Cove and do a little investigating of your own.
Burned out Heating Element
This possibility tends to be overlooked because you are getting some hot water, so you assume that it tank heating element must be working. If it were broken, there would be no hot water at all. Except that’s not actually how the hot water tank works. Most of them have 2 elements, and when you run of of hot water sooner than expected, it could be that one of them is broken.
Depending on the specific model of hot water tank, it’s probably the bottom heater that is faulty. The top heater works fine, heating up just the top half of your tank. That’s why the water starts off hot, but runs out too fast.
Broken Dip Tube
The dip tube is a pipe that brings in cold water from the top of the tank, to release it closer to the bottom where one of the heating elements are. The inflow of cold water forces the hot water upward to be released to the rest of the house.
But if the tub has gotten broken, or worn away (due to hard water mineral deposits), it will be too short to work properly. The cold water only flows part of the way down the tank, which means it’s drawn up too soon with the hot water. It’s a little hard to visualize if you are not familiar with the mechanics of a hot water tank, but the result is that cold water doesn’t reach the lower burner and is drawn up through the house while still cold.
A clear sign of a damaged dip tube is that you are finding small particles of plastic in your hot water. Replacing the tube is something best left to a professional though.
Hard water slowly but surely leaves a deposit of minerals behind, as you often see as a crust on the ends of faucet spouts. These deposits can also form and accumulate inside your hot water tank, preventing the heating elements from working efficiently.
To try and clear this up, you have to flush out your tank to remove the sandy loose residue. It can be a little messy, but this is a task you can probably handle on your own. There is a drain at the bottom that makes it fairly simple.
You should take note of your hot water usage and see what other people in the house are doing when you notice the hot water disappearing. It might be something as simple as someone taking a shower unexpectedly in another part of the house when you are running hot water for the dishes.
If you pursue all of these potential problems and can’t resolve your hot water issue, it might be time to call in the plumber.