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Troubleshooting Lukewarm Water in Your Home

If you’ve got lukewarm instead of hot water, here’s some tips to help you troubleshoot the problem.

Turn on the tap to find the temperature of your water a little… underwhelming? There are a few common causes and simple fixes homeowners can check on first before they call that plumber. 

Getting only cold water – no hot or warm water at all? Check out this post: No hot water in your house? Here’s what to do.

Let’s start with easy.

Make sure your water heater thermostat is set at the correct temperature. We recommend keeping the heat setting between 120-130 degrees, especially if you have kids in the home. It should keep your water hot enough for showering and dish washing, but not too hot, keeping the water from scalding anyone who accidentally kicks the faucet up a little too high. If it’s much lower than that setting, you’ll likely have too little hot water or lukewarm water. 

While you’re there, take a look at your pilot light if you have a gas water heater. If the pilot light has recently gone out, the water could be cooling off. We’ve got tips to relight your pilot light in this post here. If your pilot light refuses to stay lit, it could be that you need to replace the thermocouple. 

Remember: If you smell gas, a gas leak could be the problem. Evacuate your home and call your local propane or natural gas company immediately. Do not return to the building until it has been cleared. 

Give a few other things a once-over. 

If you have a gas water heater: Is the gas line that feeds your water heater fully open? Is the power vent fan on the gas water heater plugged in? Any issues with the gas supply line that runs into your house? 

If you have an electric water heater: Is the circuit breaker on? Is the electric water heater plugged in? Did you try the reset button on the water heater? 

For both types of water heaters: Are the valves feeding cold water into the tank fully open? What about the hot water pipes coming out of the water heater – are they fully open? Check for a water leak in any of the pipes, too, hot or cold. 

If that all looks good, the problem might be a little bigger. 

Does your hot water smell like rotten eggs? 

If so, it’s best to call a professional to flush and disinfect the storage tank. While the tank is empty, the water heater service and installation pro can replace the anode rod in your water heater that may be corroded. Magnesium rods are prone to corrosion, and can easily be swapped out for newer aluminum ones. 

It’s a common problem when you have really hard water, and you could consider adding a water softener in line with your hot water heater if you have not done so already. 

Have you flushed your hot water heater? 

As your water heater keeps pumping hot water through your home, the minerals in the water can build up in the storage tank of your hot water heater and cause some problems, like limit your water heater’s ability to do its one and only task: heat water.

For one, it can lower the available amount of hot water at any one time, since a significant amount of sediment may take up the space where hot water could be stored. The sediment buildup can also get in the way of the heating element in your hot water tank, causing it to be less energy efficient and affecting the amount of hot water it can create at any given time. 

Here’s how to flush your hot water heater – and what can happen if you don’t perform this routine maintenance. If it’s been more than 5 years since your water heater has been flushed, it’s best to call a professional to make sure it’s done correctly to reset the system and avoid causing larger problems with a DIY mistake. 

It could be a broken dip tube.

When cold water enters the top of your storage tank, it travels through a dip tube to the bottom of the tank, where it gets heated and then rises to the top of the tank to exit your water heater and show up in your faucets and shower heads. If this dip tube is broken, cold water may be leaking out and mixing with your hot water heater hanging out at the top of the tank, creating lukewarm water before it exits the tank water heater. A water heater pro can replace the dip tube and you’ll be back to hot showers in no time. 

Lukewarm water with a tankless water heater? 

If you have a tankless water heater, you’ll need to check a lot of the same things: Is there sediment building up in the water heater tank? Is the water supply on? Is the water temperature set high enough? Is the exhaust clear of any blockages? Is there power to the unit from the circuit breaker box? 

You can also ask yourself if you’re using too much hot water at one time and the water heater can’t keep up. If you’re getting a cold water sandwich, where there’s lukewarm or hot water for a little bit and then — BAM! – it’s cold for a few seconds, then back to warm, your tankless water heater may need a break – it could be overloaded. Check to see if it’s thrown an error code, try to reset the unit, and call a professional if that doesn’t help. 

Tried it all and still got a cold shower? 

Your water heater may have reached the end of its lifespan, and it may be time for a new water heater. Take the opportunity to upgrade your water heater to a newer, more energy-efficient model to help you and your family get all the hot water your busy lives need. 

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