5 Things to Do When You Suddenly Don’t Have Hot Water

Last Updated on December 15, 2023 by Kimberly Crawford

There are few things that are worse than suddenly discovering you don’t have hot water. Whether you’re washing dishes, washing clothes, or hopping in the shower, there’s no question that water heaters are essential in today’s homes. When something goes wrong, living in your home can be downright miserable.

Don’t panic yet. There are things you can do to get your water heater back up and running quickly:

  • Has Anyone Else Used the Hot Water?
  • Check the Circuit Breaker
  • Reset the Thermostat
  • Relight the Pilot Light
  • Call a Plumber

Has Anyone Else Used the Hot Water?

Sometimes, the simplest answer is the correct answer. In the case of your water heater, that means asking yourself if anyone else has used the hot water.

If you live with others, it’s possible that someone just got done taking a hot shower. If they just finished within a half hour of you trying to use the hot water, and you have a traditional tank heater, there likely isn’t enough hot water in there for you to use.

It’s not just showers that can drain away all the hot water. If someone has been using hot water to wash clothes or they have been washing dishes, there might be less hot water in the tank than there otherwise would be.

Check the Circuit Breaker

check the circuit breaker 1

It’s possible that the circuit breaker got tripped. If your family has been using the water heater a lot, or especially if the water heater shares a breaker with other appliances or outlets in your home, it’s possible that the breaker was overloaded and switched to the “off” position.

Resetting a tripped breaker is relatively easy. Go to your breaker box and double-check that all of the switches are in the “on” position. They should be firmly in place and pointing to the opposing row of breakers. If one seems wiggly, it has been tripped and should be turned back on.

If you aren’t sure, take a look and see if the breakers are labeled. If you’re lucky, one will be labeled “water heater” and you can tell right away if it has been tripped.

Reset the Thermostat

Do you know what your water heater is set at? If not, it’s worth your time to head down into the basement and check out the thermostat on your water heater.

If your water heater is set low, it could just be the case that it needs to be turned up. For example, your water likely won’t feel very hot if it is set to below 120 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, bacteria can also grow, so it’s a good idea to bring your water heater up to at least 120 degrees.

Some people don’t find 120 degrees to be hot enough, so even if that is where your water heater is set, you may want to turn it up even further. Just make sure you don’t turn it up any higher than 140 degrees, as water hotter than that has the potential to scald skin.

Relight the Pilot Light

If you have an older gas water heater, it’s possible that the pilot light has gone out. You can actually see the light if you open the door on your water heater. Just don’t go in with a lighter yet. Before you relight the pilot light, you need to turn off the gas and switch the valve to “pilot.” Then you can relight the pilot light before turning the gas back on.

If you have a newer system, you may be able to relight the pilot light with a knob. Simply switch it to “off” and wait ten minutes before turning it to “light.” Once lit, it can be moved to the “on” position.

Call a Plumber

If you’ve checked all of these things with no success, or if you feel a little nervous doing this kind of stuff by yourself, it’s not a bad idea to call a plumber.

Calling a plumber doesn’t automatically mean you have to replace your water heater. A reputable professional will provide you with advice on whether you actually need to replace your water heater, or if there’s a repair that’s more affordable so you can get your hot water back up and running quickly.

It can be frustrating to discover that you don’t have hot water. Fortunately, it doesn’t necessarily mean you need a new water heater. There are plenty of things you can try that can fix the problem.


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