“Ouch! Suddenly, my hot water is way too hot!” Here’s a plumbing problem that is not just annoying and inconvenient but also dangerous, in two crucial ways.
First, unexpectedly hot water coming out of your faucet or showerhead can cause serious scald burns. This is especially hazardous to family members who may be insensitive to pain and to young children, whose skin will scald four times as fast as adults’ will.
Second, a water temperature that is suddenly much higher than usual is a warning sign. It means that your water heater is overheating and could start leaking or even burst… if you don’t get it taken care of ASAP!
What causes this strange phenomenon in the first place? Here are three reasons why your hot water is too hot all of a sudden.
1. Broken Thermostat
When your water temperature seems exceptionally high, check the thermostat right away, before you pick up the phone to call a plumber. Although most water heater thermostats are set at 60 degrees Celsius (140 Fahrenheit) when first installed, the recommended setting is 49 degrees C (120 F).
Try lowering the setting on your water heater thermostat — even if it is already set at 120 degrees. If lowering it still further doesn’t cause your hot water heater to shut down within minutes – or your tap water to cool off within a couple of hours – a malfunctioning thermostat is most likely the culprit. Most likely, you’ll need a new one.
Also, ensure that your thermostat is sitting flush against the hot water storage tank. If not, the temperature reading probably won’t be accurate and the heater will just keep on doing its thing, heating your water unbearably high. Here’s a simple DIY fix: Loosen the mounting screws and adjust the thermostat’s position. Once you’ve got it positioned correctly, re-tighten the screws to hold it securely.
Thermostat replacement is quite tricky, and should not be attempted by do-it-yourselfers. This is especially true in the case of gas water heaters, where the thermostat is an integral part of the gas valve. Contact an experienced professional plumber to do the repair.
2. Mineral Build-Up
The Problem With Hard Water
Hard water, such as the water supplied by Ottawa’s municipal well systems, contains a high proportion of dissolved minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium. In terms of your hot water heater, hard water in your home plumbing will lead to calcium build-up on the inside of the tank. This, in turn, will interfere with your appliance’s ability to effectively heat the water and control the temperature, resulting in H2O that is suddenly too hot or too cold.
So what’s the solution? Flush your water heater – turn it off, cool it down, and drain out all the water to get rid of the mineral build-up and sediment. Once that’s done, the appliance must be refilled with water and turned on. Your water heater will function more efficiently and you’ll be less likely to get scalded in the shower.
How Often Should I Flush My Water Heater?
The prescription is the same whether you happen to own a gas or an electric water heater: have the tank flushed at least once a year. Even tankless water heaters should be flushed annually; the hot water that passes through them does still tend to cause mineral build-up, even though it is heated on demand and not actually stored inside the unit.
Home Water Treatment
If you are on a municipal well system in the Ottawa area, consider installing one of our home water treatment solutions to minimize mineral deposits in the future. Bonus: You’ll also get better-tasting drinking water and cleaner, brighter laundry.
3. Faulty Heater Element
A problem specific to electrically powered water heaters is a faulty heater element. Electric water heaters may be equipped with either one or two heating elements. If a heating element begins to ground out, it will stay on all the time and overheat drastically. Not surprisingly, the result will be painfully hot water – and that’s just for starters. With time, the heater element will burn itself out completely. Then you’ll have no hot water at all until the element is replaced.
Once again, the replacement of this part should never be left to amateurs. The combination of water plus a faulty electrical component must be handled with extreme caution, by an experienced professional plumber only.
When To Replace Your Water Heater?
All good things eventually must come to an end. The expected service life of a conventional water heater averages 8-10 years (20 years for a tankless version). If your water heater is getting on in years and requires frequent expensive repairs, it might be time to shop for a water heater replacement. Look for a new water heater that will be energy efficient and optimally sized for your family.
Professional Friendly Water Heater Repair Or Replacement
Whether you want water heater repair or replacement, turn to the expert team at Out of This World Plumbing. We are here to help you with knowledgeable, friendly plumbing service and advice.
Contact us any time, day or night, for all of your plumbing needs.