Spike in Temperature and Hot Water Heater Fail Rate

How to Prevent Hot Water Heater Failure During a Spike in Temperature

Spike in Temperature and Hot Water Heater Fail Rate

Whenever there’s a spike in cold temperature, the demand for hot water shoots through the roof. Everyone in the home wants to use hot water for washing, cleaning, and bathing.

This pervasive necessity forces your water heater to work harder and longer. Greater water volume increases the odds of sedimentation and heating element fatigue.

This article looks deeper into the leading causes of water heater failure in subzero temperatures and how to diagnose and prevent future issues when cold weather sets in. 

1. Thermostat Failure

If your water heater has a tank with a minimum water capacity of 30 litres, it probably has two thermostats 一 upper and lower. The thermostat is an automatic switch that lets electricity flow to the water-heating element. It also turns it off when it has reached the preset temperature.

The pipe that releases water to your showerhead or kitchen cistern is at the top of the water tank. So, the top thermostat is usually the first to go on.

As the hot water flows out through the outlet at the tank’s top section, cold water enters through the inlet at the bottom to maintain the flow. If the upper element alone is insufficient to keep the required heat, the lower thermostat turns the lower element on.

Diagnosing Thermostat Issues

With the above hindsight, there are three primary ways of diagnosing water heater thermostat issues. If your water heater cannot heat water, both thermostats aren’t working. That’s the first scenario.

The other two thermostat problems manifest as follows.

Lower Thermostat Failure

If your water heater releases hot water, which later turns cold, the upper thermostat is heating the water alright. But the lower thermostat fails to turn its element on when cold enters the tank’s inlet ‌at the bottom.

Since the upper element cannot single-handedly heat the water to the set temperature, the water comes out as cold.

Upper Thermostat Failure

You turn your shower on, and at first, the water is as cold as if it’s not heated at all. But the water only feels merely warm after what seems like an eternity. It means the upper thermostat isn’t working.

That the temperature change takes long shows that the water heated by the lower element takes time to rise to the top of the tank to replace the outflow. Even then, the water isn’t hot enough.

How to Fix Water Heater Thermostat Problems

Electric water heaters with water capacities of a maximum of 30 liters have only one thermostat and element. Additionally, every thermostat has a reset button next to it.

Single out the faulty thermostat by the diagnosis techniques explained earlier. Then press and release the reset button corresponding to the problematic thermostat.

If this procedure doesn't refresh the thermostat to work, get a Hot Water System Plumber to test and fix your water heater.

2. Sedimentation

All water sources and reservoirs are susceptible to pollution from mineral substances such as decomposed plants and animals and insoluble particles such as rust (metals), sand, salt, silt, and plastics.

Over time, the sediment accumulates in your tank and clings to the heating element, insulating it. When the element gets inundated, it becomes less effective, resulting in less heated water.

Signs of Water Heater Sedimentation

If your heater takes too long to heat the water or cannot make it as hot as you’d like, it could have sedimentation issues.

You can diagnose water heater sedimentation problems by watching out for:

  • Higher electricity or gas bills: Sediment creates a non-conducting layer between the heating element and the water, altering the heating process and duration. Besides, it takes more energy to heat the sediment itself.
  • Fluctuating water temperature: Heated water releases insoluble particles that settle at the tank's bottom, separating the water from the heating element.
  • Hissing, popping, or rumbling sounds: Resulting from burning sediment particles or air bubbles trapped in the sediment.
  • Diminished water flow: When sedimentation reaches critical proportions, it can clog your faucets, causing a drop in water pressure.
  • Coloured hot water: Sedimentation can cause corrosion of the element and the heating tank’s interior lining. If the heated water is cloudy or has an orange or reddish hue, your water heater could’ve incurred rusting caused by sedimentation.

How to Deal with Sedimentation

Preventing sedimentation is your first line of defence. Therefore, installing a whole house water sediment filter is the most effective way of warding off impurities and heavy metals such as lead and copper, chlorine, and other toxic substances. This filter will ensure a clean water supply throughout your home.

If your water heater shows signs of sedimentation, clean the heating tank and element by flushing and draining with cold water from the faucet. If the sedimentation of the heater proves stubborn, get a plumber to clean it.

 3. Leaking Pipes

Leaking pipes will deliver less water, resulting in insufficient pressure through the pipes and faucets. Furthermore, there’s the risk of chemical and solid contaminants seeping into the water delivery system through the cracks.

Water leakage is also risky to the water heater and the user because it can:

  • Damage the water heater through short-circuiting
  • Cause personal injury or fatality through electrocution
  • Cause house and property fire

Worst of all, water supply shortage will cause the heater to work harder, leading to inefficiency.

How to Prevent Hot Water Heater Failure During a Spike in Temperature

  • Install solenoid valves: A power plug-out causes the valves to automatically open and flush out the water from your water-heating unit an electricity outage, keeping it dry and free from rusting.
  • Keep the water flowing: Install a recirculation system or maintain a trickle flow when the heater isn’t used for extended periods to minimise sedimentation‌ and rusting.
  • Do Regular Maintenance: Get a plumber to appraise your water heater annually to keep it in optimal performance and recommend repairs, upgrades, and replacements.
  • Never use plastic pipes near the heater: The temperature in and around the heater is hot enough to melt or deform plastic pipes, adversely affecting water flow and leaking.

Whenever there’s a drop in the water supply into your home, call your water company to find out whether it’s an officially scheduled incident. If not, look for leakages along the pipes in your home and get a plunber to fix any leakages.

Final Thoughts

Because water is extremely cold during the cold season, your water heater works extra hard to heat it to your desired temperature. This increases the duration and energy it takes to heat the same amount of water. That explains the increased water heater failure rate during a spike in cold temperatures.

However, you can reduce such unfortunate eventualities by getting a plumbing expert to service your heater, especially just before the cold season sets in.

Finally, whether your heater is tankless or has a tank, don’t let water remain static in it during the cold season.



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