Not Enough Hot Water? 3 Problems To Check For

Have you been running out of hot water sooner than you should be? This problem can be pretty frustrating, especially if you went out of your way to buy a large-sized water tank so you'd have enough to go around. Rest assured that in most cases, you won't have to replace your water heater or even make extensive repairs. Usually, the problem comes down to one of three issues, all of which are easily solved.

1. The Wrong Temperature Setting

Your water tank should be set high enough that when you take a shower, some cold water is mixing with the hot. This ensures the hot water lasts a while. If your temperature setting is too low, when you turn the hot water on, you'll be using only hot water directly from the tank -- so you may run out after only a shower and a half or so! Check your water heater's temperature. It should be set at 140 degrees F, in most cases. If you have kids and you are worried about them scalding their hands, you can set it to 120 F, but do not go any lower than that.

2. Sediment in the Tank

If it has been more than a year since you drained your water tank, there may be sediment built up in the bottom of it. This sediment begins as minerals in the water -- they slowly settle out over time. Sediment can interfere with the tank's ability to sense temperature, which may cause the water not to heat up fully. It could also interfere with the valves, preventing hot water from leaving the tank when it is at a certain pressure. 

You can remove the sediment by turning off the water and power supplies to the tank, connecting a hose to the outlet valve at the bottom of the tank, and draining the tank completely. The last bucket or two of water that comes out will probably be laden with sediment. Disconnect the hose, turn the power and water back on, and turn on the valve. Once the tank heats up, you should have better luck.

3. Damaged Dip Tube

The dip tube is a long tube that stretches from the bottom to the top of the water heater. It senses how full the tank is and triggers the tank to fill up as it becomes empty. If the dip tube stops working, the tank may only partially fill, which explains why you have limited hot water. This is the most likely explanation if changing your thermostat setting and removing sediment from the tank don't work. Luckily, a water heater repair company can remove and replace the dip tube with relative ease.