Might be as simple as an inlet dip tube which has fallen off, or maybe
one element in a two element heater is burned out, or as you suggest one
(even possibly two) thermostats bad.
You'll need some diagnostic assistance and a decent VOM (volt-ohm
meter)to learn what's wrong.
If it isn't leaking, it CAN be returned to normal operation by finding
and replacing defective parts at less cost than buying a whole new heater.
The water heater probably has an element burned out, but it could also
be other problems. Whether it is better to replace the whole heater or
repair this one depends on what the actual problem is, the age and
general condition of the rest of the heater, etc. It is not that hard to
check one out if you have a volt-ohmeter and a basic kmnowledge of
A 20 minute shower is a tremendous use of energy (and time!).
Leaving that aside though, some simple trouble shooting without even
the use of a meter can point out the trouble.
While a technician/electrician might use a test-meter of some sort;
because they have one and are familiar with it most parts can be
tested with a simple light bulb. We have several test meters for
example and it is usually a matter of which one is at hand etc.
Assuming we are talking about a standard 40 US gallon or equivalent,
North American style water heater, connected to 230 volts and
However the style of question suggests that the OP has little/no
electrical knowledge and should therefore get someone knowledgeable to
do the work. The 230 volts and a tank full of hot water at pressure
Agree it is probably, most likely something simple such as burnt out
heater element, defective thermostat etc. But since there are two of
both in most tanks and the method they are usually connected (flip-
flop between upper and lower etc.) while instantly understandable by a
competent person, it can be confusing to someone working on it for the
first time or only once in 20 years.
If tank not leaking; a shame (and wasteful) to spend at least several
hundred dollars to have it replaced if it's a $20 to $40 repair
My WH is 18 years old and while I have not repaired it, I have replaced
the T/P valve, drain valve, and anode. See no need to spend big $$$ to
replace it as it shows no signs of failing now that I've caught up on
the maintenance. (gas tanks seem to be far more expensive than electric
for some reason.) Plus if I get a new WH I'll save the valves that I
replaced for spare parts (actually, I'd install the ball drain valve in
the new heater before even turning it on.) No, I don't drive a hybrid.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
Agree. If I had an 18 year old gas water heater, I'd replace it just
based on age to avoid a potential disaster. If a tank lasts that
long, a new one would work out to ~$30 a year, which is a small price
compated to a flood in the middle of the night.
Also, for someone worried about the energy usage of a 20 min shower, I
would think they would want either a new higher efficiency conv tank
or tankless instead of an 18 year old one.
I wasn't the guy that was worried about the energy usage, just giving my
experiences. Right now there's not enough free cash laying around to
simply replace it; if I had a lot of cash I'd consider it, but new
clutch hydraulics for the car, new tires for the pickup, etc. have taken
precedence lately over proactive replacements of home appliances that
are still working. And I don't think that I'm "working hard..."
everything I've replaced has taken a few minutes with a pipe wrench
and/or socket/breaker bar, not a whole lot of labor involved.
replace "roosters" with "cox" to reply.
Tanks we have used during last 50 (1960 to present) years have lasted
an average of about 9-10 years.
All have been 40 US gallon electric with two elements usually 3000
watts IIRC correctly.
Minerals in water, an acidic soil and acid rain from mainland north
America seem to be reasons for short life.!
All tanks here are electric; no gas available except propane, used by
RVs and for some propane fireplaces and is expensive.
Impression from OP is that an electric being discussed?
No; do not drive a Prius etc. have along paid for and hopefully, in
these corrosive conditions next to the North Atlantic, pickup will
last for another 8 years or so. So while gas is expensive here, drive
only as necessary.
A city-slicker is strolling down a country lane when he spots a farmer
holding a pig up in the air so the pig could nibble at low-hanging apples.
"Just WHAT are you doing?" asked the city-slicker.
"What does it look like I'm doing," replied the farmer. "I'm feeding the
The city-slicker shakes his head and comments: "Looks like a tremendous
waste of time to me."
Farmer smiles and replies: "Shows what you know. What's time to a pig?"
First thing I'd check would be whether there is 240 volts at the bottom element.
If there is, check the element for continuity. It's probably burned out. I'm
guesing the bottom element, or the thermostat switching that enables it, because
it sounds like only the top of the tank is being heated.
You are taking a "Hollywood Shower." Have you considered the alternative of
the "Navy Shower?"
1. Turn on shower, get wet all over.
2. Turn off shower.
3. Lather and scrub.
4. Turn on shower, rinse.
5. Turn off shower.
Total resources: Less than 3 gallons of water in only two minutes.
It's for the children.
But the OPs name "Dan" might be short for Danielle.
Most Wimmen I know spend far more time taking a shower than guys do, viz:
Young Dannie has fun in the shower,
With the water-jet set to full power.
For it sets her aglow,
When she aims it below,
And she comes for at least a full hour.
(Adapted from a lim by Peter Wilkins)
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