Water heaters

Published on April 17th, 2013 | by Henri

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Hot water goes cold quickly

Q.    I was so excited to find your blog. I am hoping you can help us. We just replaced our water heater as we were only getting about 10  minutes or less of hot water. The water starts out hot, then it starts dwindling and the water goes cold. Now we have a brand new 40-gallon water heater, and still only 10 minutes, sometimes five minutes of hot water. Both showers, washer, all plumbing goes cold. Do you have any idea what this could be?

A.    There are two possibilities. If, when you turn on a hot water faucet, it takes quite a while to get hot water, it is likely that the hot and cold water pipes are reversed (and that they were that way on the old heater as well and have not been changed). In that case, cold water is fed at the top of the tank and sinks to the bottom.

When you open a hot water faucet, water is drawn from the bottom of the tank instead of from the top and you get an initial draw of cold water until it is exhausted and hot water is drawn. However, new cold water enters the tank and soon the hot water is exhausted and you get cold water again. Check the connections to see if they are reversed by opening a hot water faucet and putting your hand on the pipe that is connected to the hot water outlet. If the pipe is cold and stays cold,  that’s your problem. Have a plumber reverse the pipes.

But if the pipes are properly connected and your water heater is electric, the problem may be due to the lower heating element not operating (a wiring problem or a defective element) so you only have hot water in the top 33 to 40 percent of the heater. A licensed plumber can verify this and replace the element if need be.

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