It can be incredibly frustrating to wait for hot water to come out of the faucet and it never comes. This is particularly true if all you want to do is take a nice hot bath or shower after a hard day at work.

The good news is that the majority of water heater issues can be solved on your own without the help of a professional plumber. If your water heater is shutting off, there are several different reasons for this. You first need to determine whether you have an electric- or gas-powered water heater. Once this has been determined, you can move on to begin determining the root of the problem.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

Gas Water Heater Keeps Shutting Off

Over the years, gas water heaters have gained popularity with homeowners. This is due to the fact that they are far more affordable upfront and more energy efficient than their electric counterparts. If your water heater is fueled by gas and it continues to switch off, here are the steps to remedy the problem.

Step #1: Check the Gas Supply

In order for a gas unit to remain functional, it must have a steady flow of gas running to the pilot light. In the event that the gas supply is blocked off of the amount of gas that is flowing to the pilot light is not sufficient, the pilot light will be unable to remain lit.

Therefore, you should check to ensure the gas line valves are open and not shut. This is the only way to ensure that the pilot light is receiving a sufficient supply of gas.

Step #2: Have the Pilot Light Cleaned

Water heater maintenance is important, but it is often overlooked. Unfortunately, when you don’t maintain your gas water heater, it can lead to dirty parts and a whole lot of issues. For instance, if you fail to maintain your water heater and are not experiencing your unit shutting off frequently, it could be a dirty pilot light.

A dirty pilot light can occur from dust, soot, or other particles. When this happens, the flow of oxygen is limited to the pilot light, and the pilot light requires oxygen in order to remain lit and keep your water heater operating. While you can restart the pilot light if it goes out, it will eventually go out again, requiring a professional cleaning.

Although you can clean the pilot light yourself, it is recommended to contact a plumber to clean the debris out due to the fact that the cleaning process is a bit complex.

Step #3: Check the Thermopile

The thermopile is the component of the gas water heater that responds to the pilot light and then turns the gas on. Similar to the pilot light, this part can start to malfunction if it becomes dirty or worn out.

In the event that the thermopile is unable to send a proper signal, the water heater won’t function properly. This is true even if the pilot light is working.

The good news is that the thermopile is an easy part to replace, and the part is relatively affordable. However, if you aren’t a handyman, you may want to rely on a professional for this task.

a thermopile device
If the thermopile is in a working condition, you would not have any problem getting hot water out of the water heater.

Step #4: Check the Air Inlet

Another component of the gas water heater that may get dirty and cause the appliance to not function properly and turn off is the air inlet. This component is responsible for ensuring the air is able to flow to the primary burners.

In the event the air inlet is clogged, oxygen isn’t able to reach the lamps, resulting in them turning off. Routine maintenance is the most effective way to prevent the water heater from getting excessively dirty.

If the air inlet does become clogged, which is normally the case if the thermopile is working properly and the pilot light isn’t staying on, a plumbing professional can perform a cleaning.

Electric Water Heater Keeps Shutting Off

Electric water heaters tend to be the most common in the majority of homes across the country. While they tend to be more reliable than gas water heaters, the fact of the matter is that malfunctions may still occur.

Most electric water heaters are designed with a similar electronic system, so regardless of the brand you have, fixing the problem will be somewhat the same. There are three main parts that will malfunction, so there will be a bit of trial and error to determine which one is malfunctioning when your water heater keeps shutting off.

Step #1: Check for an Electrical Problem

The electrical outlet is what ensures the water heater gets electricity. If there is a broken outlet, it could cause the appliance to turn off without warning. This can be very dangerous and needs to be addressed as quickly as possible.

Don’t forget to also check for any tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses. If a breaker is tripped, reset it, and if a fuse has blown, replace it.

If you hear a cracking or buzzing noise when the water heater is on, you should immediately turn it off. If you leave it on, it could lead to a short circuit or possibly an explosion.

If you suspect an electrical issue, contact a local electrician to avoid severe damage to the unit as well as your electrical system.

Step #2: Check the Thermostat

If it doesn’t seem like there is an electrical problem, then you should move on and consider the thermostat. The thermostat is responsible for managing the heating elements of the water heater.

If the water is cold, the thermostat is what sends a signal to the heating elements to heat the water. As soon as the water is at the desired temperature, the thermostat will send another signal to the heating elements to turn off.

Generally, electric water heaters have two thermostats: an upper thermostat and a lower thermostat. The reason for this is because there are two heating elements in an electric water heater and each one requires its own thermostat.

Like all other parts, thermostats can malfunction. In the event this happens, they may get stuck and fail to work properly. This results in the water heater not working the way it should and failing to heat up the water.

Your only solution is to replace the defective thermostat.

thermostat
Before changing the current thermostat, it is advised that you purchase a new one of the same brand.

Step #3: Check the Heating Element

The last thing that can cause problems with your electric water heater is the heating element, which is what receives the signal from the thermostat to heat the water. In fact, the heating element is a relatively common cause of your water heater turning off constantly.

As soon as the heating element messes up, it will stop heating up the water. The water will remain cold, even if all other components are working fine. The heating elements should be replaced by a professional, because if they are installed improperly, it can result in a short circuit and serious damage.

Conclusion

When you have a water heater that keeps shutting off, it is important that you figure out what is causing it. The aforementioned steps should help you in determining the cause and fixing the problem with your gas or electric water heater. If necessary, you can call on a professional plumber for assistance.

Make sure to check out our other articles when you need help with someone at home.