Water Heater Troubleshooting FAQ


Most people don’t know something is wrong with their water heater until it is too late. Water can create a lot of damage, so it’s good to know what signs to look for. Avoid the shock of a cold shower and follow these water heater troubleshooting tips from A.B. May in KC.


Common Water Heater Problems and Red Flags

  • An Old Unit We all want our systems to last as long as possible, but your water heater may just be too old to keep up. If you have recently moved into a new home and don’t know the age of your waters, a professional technician can let you know its age and how to care for it.
  • Rusty Water If you see brown or bronzed water puddling around the water heater, it is time to call A.B. May. This indicates a leak which can be dangerous around open wires.
  • Cold Water No hot water is aggravating, especially if it catches you by surprise. If you can’t get the water to get warm, this indicates that the energy source is not producing heat.
  • Unusual Noises Strange noises are something to pay attention to. If you hear banging or gurgling coming from the water heater or the pipes, your unit needs to be serviced.
Gas or electric?

Typically, water heaters are either powered by gas or electric energy sources. While they look similar, the way they turn energy into heat varies. If you are not sure whether yours is gas or electric, look at the top of the system. If you spot a flue (a round chimney pipe), this indicates your system is powered by gas. An electric system doesn’t burn fuel like the gas option, so it does not need a flue to vent out gasses. It does, however, need an electrical hookup. This is often connected to an electrical circuit breaker that leads to the panel. Knowing the difference between gas and electric will help you troubleshoot more efficiently.


Tip #1: Check the temperature

One of the most common problems is that there isn’t enough hot water. First, adjust the temperature dial on the front of the water heater a few degrees. Wait two to four hours, then try again.

Tip #2: Restart the pilot light

Sometimes we think something is really wrong, when it’s just something simple like the pilot light. Check to see if the flame is lit. It may just need to be relit.

Tip #3: Examine the size of your water heater

If you’re consistently not getting enough hot water, your system may be undersized. It may also be due to increased needs for hot water, like a growing family or a new Jacuzzi tub. If this is the case, it’s probably time for a new, larger water heater. If your need for hot water has increased, we recommend a tankless water heater. Tankless water heaters never run out of water, creating an endless supply of custom tempered water.

Tip #4: Check the Dip Tube

A dip tube is the hose that supplies water to the water heater from the main source. If you have tried all of the above tips to no avail, there may be a crack or break in the dip tube. You can check this yourself, first by identifying where the dip tube is. The dip tube is a plastic tube that connects the main water line to the top of the unit. If you spot a crack or break, a professional A.B. May technician can repair or replace the dip tube.


I’m in the market for a new water heater. What kind should I get?

There are two basic types of water heaters: tankless and conventional.

  • Tankless: The newest water heater technology, a tankless system provides on-demand hot water only when you need it. It provides an endless stream of hot water, so you never have to worry about running out.
  • Conventional: a large tank (usually kept in the basement) is kept hot every minute of every day. Conventional tank water heaters maintain a temperature of about 120 minutes so it’s ready when you need it. While it may have lower upfront costs, energy bills will be higher than with a tankless.

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