Hot water gone after single shower?


Hi, This past week my daughter complained of having to take a cold shower. I was busy, so about an hour I checked and got hot water. I figured she was just on drugs.
Several days went by and I didn't think anymore about it. She asked if the hot water situation had been fixed, and said she's had to take cold showers for several days. I immediately checked, and sure enough, no hot water.
The next day I took a shower and towards the end I had to hurry to finish up before losing all hot water.
Does this sound like a heating element has burned out or otherwise ceased functioning? (its a four year old electric water heater)
Its odd that I could barely get a single shower, since there should be 40 gallons (I believe) of hot water, right? Even if one element was burned out, it seems to me that I'd get 40 gallons of hot water, then the turnaround time for the next batch of hot water would be longer. Once reheated, I'd then have 40 gallons more of hot water.
But, what do I know?
Experts - what are your opinions?
Thanks in advance.
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What area are you in? What is the temperature of your incoming water? Your dip tube on the inlet may have broken off. You may not have the temp up high enough. With incoming water at 42 degrees, it takes a lot more hot water than in the summer when the incoming is 80. If this happened all of a sudden, I'd be checking that dip tube.
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Steve Barker

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Do you have a low-flow (2-2.5 gpm) shower head? If not, your shower could be using 7 gallons of water per minute. In this weather with very cold water coming in on the cold side, 90% of your shower water mix could be coming from the water heater. If that's the case, a 40 gallon tank will get cold with 5-6 minutes of use.
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BobJ

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Your idea about one element being able to heat the entire 40 gal if the other one was inoperative is logical, but in reality it doesn't work that way. Whenever I have had an element go out, it behaves exactly as you describe. Do you have a volt/ohmeter to check it out? Larry
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Probably one element is not set or is bad
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Steve Barker wrote:

Hi, Also tank size matters.
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Not only does size mattter. But, when she's naked in the shower, a long dip tube will make her happy.
The purpose of a dip tube is to bring the cold incoming water to the bottom of the tank. The hot water goes out the top. If the dip tube is broken, you'll get very little hot water.
Also, if the lower heater element is burnt out, you'll get very little hot water.
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Christopher A. Young
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On 6 Feb 2007 20:23:18 -0800, " snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com"

Probably. A lot of druggies can't tell hot from cold.

Does she take the first shower of the morning? If not, how many showers, and how long, before hers?

For you and a followup to people who replied to my questions. I had troubles a month or two ago. First the thermostat on the bottom eleemnt went bad and the water got up to 180! Then the heat limit swtich turned off the element and the water didn't get very hot. I replaced the thermostat, and again it went to 180 a couple times, but then it only went to 110. I had checked that the bottom element was using current, after I first installed the new thermostat. But I guess I didn't do it again after the 180 degree days.
So I didn't realize the lower heater element had burned itself out. I verified this by turning off the circuit breaker, measuring for voltage across the element and finding none, and then measuring the resistance across the element and finding infinite.
I just didnt' think the water would get as hot as it did if only the top element was working, because that only runs for 20 minutes, and only when the water is pretty cold.
Since this was a dual element element, with one 5500 watt element in it, that was burned out, and one 3800 watt element that had never been used, I moved the wire to the 3800 watt and everything seems fine now. It must take a little longer to recover, but not too much.
I wish I had saved the thermostats and elements from my previous water haeater. 3 out of 4 of them were probably good. And they were the same size.

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The same thing happened to me on a three year old water heater. It was a bad lower element. I called the manufacturer and they sent me a free element replacement.
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First thing I'd check is both elements . That is the #1 cause.
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Bookmarking.
Sometimes, my shower, actually, gets cold toward the end of my taking shower if it is taking me a long time, i.e washig hair, etc.
I always use the one in the hallway. A couple of months go, I locked myself out and couldn't get it unlocked. So I tried using the *shower* in the shower room connected to the bedroom. No hot water from the shower. The bathtub as wella s the commode were separateluy located outside the shower room. So, I took a bath in that tub with plenty of hot water.
I hate that claustrophobic tiny shower room. So I didn't really care but I think I need to attend to this issue. Any suggestion?
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Btw, the water heater in this house is about 3-4 years old.
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