​What to Do When You Have No Hot Water in Your House

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Posted February 7, 2018

The cold winter temperatures make getting out of bed in the morning harder and harder. Sometimes the only thing that can make crawling out from under those toasty, warm blankets might be visions of jumping in that steaming hot shower.  But oh no! Your hopes for a hot shower are met with an icy reality as freezing water hits your back — you have no hot water.

We know just how frustrating it can be to have your hot water go out! Thankfully, there are many solutions to this problem. If you know what to look for, you might be able to get it working yourself with a simple fix. Otherwise, make it easy on yourself and give your local plumber a call.


Sometimes the hot water will return. If you have a lot of people using hot water in the house, you may not have a heater big enough to meet your home’s needs. If after waiting a while for your water to heat up doesn’t work out, then you may have a more significant problem.

Gas Heaters

The first place you’ll want to check when you have no hot water is the pilot light on your water heater. Newer model water heaters don’t always have a pilot light, however, if yours does have one, check to see if the flame is out. If that is the case, then you’ll need to consult your manufacturer’s instructions for how to relight it. Sometimes this information is on the side of your water heater. If you can’t find it or get it to work, give us a quick call, and we can help you through it.

If your water heater does have a pilot light, follow the tips below to relight or consult the instructions for your specific model.

  1. Turn the regulator to the off position and wait at least five minutes for the gas to dissipate.
  2. Then turn the regulator to pilot.
  3. If your water heater has the self-ignite option, just hold down the ignition button for about a minute, then turn the regulator to on.
  4. If you need to use a flame to light your pilot light, then use a long lighter and direct the flame near the pilot burner. This is where the gas supply is located.

Your pilot light should now be ignited. If it won’t light, or doesn’t stay lit, then there is a possibility that your gas valve has been closed. To check, turn the handle parallel to the gas line and follow the directions above. For gas water heaters, a leak in the gas line may be the cause. When a gas leak is present, sometimes you might smell a rotten-egg odor permeating your water heater or sometimes there is no smell. Regardless, immediately turn off your gas valve! A gas leak can be a dangerous problem and should only be handled by a plumbing professional.

If no gas leak is present, then your burner may be the issue. Checking this is relatively simple! When the burner is off, set the thermostat to 120 degrees. Turn on a hot water faucet and let it run for a minute. Watch for the burner to ignite, and adjust the temperature higher as you run water. If the burner ignites, replace the cover and reset the temperature. If the burner does not ignite, then your thermostat may not be functioning correctly. Contact a plumbing expert to repair your unit.

Electric Heaters

If you have an electric unit and no hot water, then the first place you will want to check is your breaker for a tripped circuit. Learn how to locate your electrical panel here. When a breaker is tripped, it won’t necessarily be in the off position, but resetting it should correct the problem. If you reset the breaker and it trips again, you may have an electrical problem. Water heaters require a lot of energy and keeping one on its own dedicated circuit is your best option. Contact a qualified electrician to service your breaker or to establish a distinct water heater circuit. Water inside your compartment is a likely sign of a leak in your tank. The leak can cause water damage to your thermostat causing a short. If your tank is leaking, you’ll want to replace the unit to restore your hot water.

Additionally, water heaters only have a lifespan of approximately 10 years, so if your’s is nearing that age, pieces like the heating elements may be dying. Though replacing the heating elements is an inexpensive fix, if your heater is reasonably old, you’re probably better off replacing the unit entirely.

Sometimes the problem is out of your control. When temperatures plunge, an unused heater that has been sitting overnight may stop functioning. If the weather in your area has been freezing and your boiler is still running, then try turning the water heater to the maximum temperature until it kicks back into gear. After letting your heater warm up for 30 minutes or so, run a kitchen or bathroom faucet to check that the water is heating up. If everything heats up okay, then you may want to keep your heater set higher until the temperature outside rises. Discover more tips for protecting your water heater during the winter here.

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