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Whether your New Orleans home has an electric water heater or a gas one, it’s possible for your hot water to run out fast due to any number of causes. These causes can range from the size of your heater to a developing problem. When your hot water runs out fast and is becoming a nuisance, a certified plumber can help uncover the underlying cause and suggest solutions so you can shower, do laundry, and more without running out of heated water. Keep reading to learn a little about how the inside of your water heater works and some of the most common causes behind why hot water runs out fast in many homes.

The Anatomy of a Water Heater

Most homes in the New Orleans area have a tank water heater powered by either gas or electricity. These water heaters can be gas or electric.

While tankless water heaters are becoming more common, the most popular water heater design in the U.S. is a water-filled drum with a heating element on the bottom or inside. The main difference between these two kinds is their power sources.

They have the following components in common:

  • Water tank: Stores hot water.
  • Thermostat: Controls water temperature.
  • TPR valve: It releases too much pressure or heat within to prevent an outburst.
  • Internal anode rod: It pulls in the water’s corrosive components so that they don’t erode at the tank walls.
  • Hot water outlet: This is where hot water exits the tank and enters the piping of your house.
  • Drain valve: Empties sediment buildup.
  • Dip tube: This cold water pipe brings fresh water to the water heater.

Gas Water Heaters

Gas water heaters have a tank filled by an attached cold water line. A gas-powered burner sits at the bottom of the tank, which heats the water and holds it at a steady high temperature. The water heater also features a thermostat for changing and maintaining the water temperature, a temperature-pressure relief valve that releases pressure from the tank, and a vent that allows combustible gasses to escape.

Additionally, it consists of a burner, vent flue, and thermocouple. The thermostats in gas water heaters have a thermocouple and a mercury sensor in the tip. The mercury sensor tracks the temperature of the water while the thermocouple monitors the pilot light.

The gas control valve receives a signal from the thermostat when the tank temperature is low. This valve interfaces with the thermocouple to ensure the pilot light is turned on. If so, the valve opens, letting gas into a burner, and igniting a flame to heat the water.

The gas control valve closes once the tank’s water has heated to the desired temperature. Burner exhaust safely exits the building through the flue vent.

Pro Tip: Regularly check the vent to ensure it’s clear and allows for easy ventilation, especially if your tank is stored in an enclosed closet.

Electric Water Heaters

Electric heaters are very similar to gas-powered heaters. The key difference is that it uses electricity, rather than gas, to power the burner that heats the water.

Electric hot water heaters contain a metal loop (a heating element) within the tank and a thermostat positioned outside the internal tank. If the thermostat detects a drop in temperature, it activates the heating element inside the tank to heat the water. The thermostat cuts off the heating element when the water reaches the desired temperature.

Two of the most important parts of water heaters to consider if you’re running out of hot water frequently are the tank and the thermostat. The tank may be too small for your needs, or the thermostat may be set too low for your preferences.

How Long Should My Hot Water Last?

The hot water tank heats the water and maintains its warm temperature. The tank has a heating system, thermostat, and insulation that regulates the temperature between heating cycles. The amount of heat loss, which determines how long the hot water will last, increases with tank size, type of insulation, and tank quality.

Possible Reasons Your Hot Water Runs Out Fast

Many homeowners feel like their hot water runs out fast — sometimes even faster than it used to. If you frequently notice this problem, consider these common reasons why people run out of heated water.

Too Many Appliances

If you have your dishwasher and clothes washer running simultaneously, jumping into the shower may overwhelm the system. Either you’ll have cold water running directly to one of the systems, or you’ll quickly deplete the ready supply of heated water, and your water heater won’t be able to heat the new water quickly enough to keep up.

Sediment Buildup

If your home has soft water (like many New Orleans, LA, homes do), then sediment will build up in the bottom of the tank. Too much sediment will eventually hamper the performance of your water heater, causing malfunctions, inferior heating capabilities, and more. Draining your tank once a year can help you manage this issue.

Bad Heating Element

Electric water heaters frequently have two heating components. The lower element does most heating, and the top piece only maintains the water to the desired temperature. The volume of hot water produced will significantly decrease if the lower part is damaged.

Exceeding Gallons Per Minute Capacity

Your water heater may become overworked if too many faucets are running simultaneously. Select the hot water action you need, switch off the rest of them, and start your unit again.

Broken dip Tube

The dip tube transfers cold water to the bottom of the tank to heat up. If the dip tube is damaged, the cold water will accumulate at the top of the tank and cannot heat adequately.

Thermostat Issues

The water heater may provide cold water due to a damaged or defective thermostat. In some cases, a simple adjustment to the thermostat may be all that is required.

Old Water Heater

Water heaters go bad over time. Most units have a lifespan of ten years; while your unit may not have broken down, the burner will become less effective and less efficient over time. The thermostat could also become buggy.

Wrong Water Heater for Your Home

Some homes need more hot water. If you have a small tank or a lot of occupants in your home, it may be time to upgrade to a larger unit. You could even switch to tankless water heaters at each of your showers and major appliances.

What Can I Do If My Hot Water Runs Out Fast?

Running out of hot water can be a frustrating and inconvenient problem to deal with. If you’re experiencing this issue in your New Orleans, LA home, it’s important to address it as soon as possible to ensure that you always have access to hot water when you need it.

One solution to consider is having the hot water pump repaired or replaced.

The local team at Rooter Man is here to help you resolve any water heater or plumbing problems you may be experiencing. We offer fast, reliable service and can schedule a convenient service call at your home.

Don’t wait to get your hot water issue taken care of – contact Rooter Man today to get started.


Image Credit: Minerva Studio /  Shutterstock

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