Is Your Hot Water Running Cold? Here Are 10 Fixes

There’s nothing worse than needing a shower or wanting to do the dishes – and there’s no hot water. Let’s look at the causes and solutions so you can wash the kids without turning them into ice cubes!

  1. Overuse of hot water.
  2. Insufficient hot water tank size.
  3. Faulty or burned-out heating element.
  4. Sediment build-up in the water tank.
  5. Broken water heater dip tube.
  6. Thermostat isn’t properly functioning.
  7. Poor maintenance and damage/ work out parts.
  8. Faulty pipes and pipe proximity/vicinity.
  9. The heating system is too old.
  10. Inconsistent power.

As you can see, there are many reasons why your shower could be acting up. Next, we take a closer look at each possible cause and their solutions so you can enjoy a hot shower again in no time.


1. Overuse of Hot Water

This is the most common reason why showers run cold. If there are several people in the house who use the shower within a short period of time, the hot water can simply run out. When that happens, it’s replaced by cold water (sometimes mid-shower!). The load on the hot water may be increased if you also are running appliances that use warm water, such as a washing machine or a dishwasher.

Solution

You can avoid this situation by using hot water over a wider period of time. This gives the tank enough time to heat more water so that you don’t run out. It will also help if you turn appliances on when no one needs hot water for a shower.


2. Insufficient Hot Water Tank Size                                               

Consider the size of your water tank. Does it meet your family’s usage and needs? Even if a tank is sufficient when you purchase a home, it might not be able to provide enough hot water once kids arrive or the family stays over for an extended visit. If the water tank doesn’t match your needs, the hot water will run cold frequently.

Solution

You can do two things to remedy the situation. Either get a bigger water reservoir or install backup water tanks. A plumber can connect the tanks to increase the capacity of hot water in your house.


3. Faulty or Burned-Out Heating Element

A faulty burned-out heating element is another common cause when hot water runs cold. Over time, the heating element gets old and burns out. This reduces the efficiency of the element which, in turn, lowers the temperature in your taps or stops heating altogether.

Most models of electric heaters have two heating elements. One element heats the water from the pipes and the second maintains the temperature in the tank. Apart from wear and tear, hard water sediment build-up inside tanks also cause premature faults with the heating elements.

Solution

Frequently check the tank for sediment build-up. You can also use a continuity tester or multimeter to test the voltage on the heating elements and see if they are functional (if faulty, it needs to be replaced). The size of the heating element should be able to deal with the size of the water tank and the hot water usage in your house.


4. Sediment Build-Up in Water Tank

The water from the main source contains solid material. This can include sand and debris from corrosion of water pipes. If you live in an area that receives hard water, the water tank must be installed with safety measures that remove the solid material from the water.

Sediment build-up contributes to hot water running cold in various ways. Minerals can accumulate in the water tank and settle on the bottom, causing the water tank to hold and heat less water. A sign of this problem is when you hear bangs and pops coming from the water heater.

Solution

You can drain and flush the water tank to remove the sediment. Adding a filter to the water heater can also prevent impurities from getting into the tank.

If you live in a hard water area, you may also consider installing a water softener that breaks up the sediment in your water system. Here is a blog on The 10 Best Water Softener Reviews For UK Homes (2021). Check out this post on How To Install A Water Softener as well.


5. Broken Water Heater Dip Tube

The dip tube supplies cold water to the tank from the bottom where the heating elements are located. The hot water outlet is present at the top of the tank where heated water exits the tank. If the dip tube breaks, the cold water starts to mix with the hot water and flow down the pipes from the outlets.

There are signs that you are facing this problem. Pieces of plastic from the broken tube might show up in your appliances, showerhead or strainer. Another symptom is that your hot water keeps going cold after a short amount of time.

Solution

A broken dip tube needs to be replaced. Since the dip tube lays at the bottom of the tank and runs along the length of the tank, it might be best to call an experienced plumber to deal with the situation.


6. The Thermostat Isn’t Properly Functioning

Thermostats tell the water heater when to turn on and to which temperature the water should be warmed. Both heating elements have a thermostat.

The two thermostats relay information to each other. If the thermostat on the upper level feels like water is colder than usual, it will send this information to the lower thermostat so that it can adjust its setting accordingly. But when this process breaks down, you might experience a constant lack of hot water.

Solution

A broken thermostat system needs to be replaced. Consult an expert to find out what model and requirements you need to install the correct system for your plumbing.


7. Poor Maintenance and Damaged/Worn Out Parts

Since water heaters are concealed, homeowners often neglect their maintenance. Water heaters require additional care as they age or if you live in a hard water area.

Solution

Regular checks can avoid major problems by catching small repairs early. A good idea is to schedule a plumber to visit your residence once a month.


8. Faulty Pipes and Pipe Proximity/Vicinity

An efficient pipe system is necessary for the water to heat properly. The smooth flow of water is disrupted when the pipes or fittings are poor and of low quality. Lacking the means to provide the tanks with a consistent flow, your hot water will quickly run cold.

The proximity of the pipes can also cause loss of heat in the hot water pipes. Piping systems are installed in constricted places. The hot and cold-water pipes often run parallel to each other and might be so close that the heat from the hot water pipe is transferred to the cold-water pipes.

If your pipes are made of copper, this issue is even more likely. Copper is a good conductor of heat which means that the heat from your pipes will escape the pipes and the water will run cold before it reaches you.

Solution

A plumber can help you estimate the efficiency of your piping and heating system. You might have to replace faulty fittings or old pipes. You might have to replace copper pipes with other materials that are not as conducive or, if your pipes are too close, insulate them with sleeves made of different materials.


9. The Heating System is Too Old

Every appliance has a life span. The average lifespan of a water heater is 8 to 12 years. Hard water, overuse, and faulty installation of the tank are some of the things that reduce the lifespan of your heating system.

Solution

Consult a certified plumber to see if the water heating system is too old to function properly. If that is the case, you might have to replace the system with a new one.


10. Inconsistent Power

Since the water heating system runs on electricity, an unsteady power source can result in a lack of hot water. This can even happen if you use solar power.

Solution

If you experience unsteady voltage or fluctuation, you will have to find alternative sources of power or another way to stabilize your electrical appliance. You can consider a stabilizer or a power generator that kicks in when the main power fails.


Ways To Conserve Hot Water

Use Less Water

Conserve hot water by washing your clothes less frequently and running the dishwasher only when it is full. Clothes can also be washed in cold water. In fact, cold water removes stains from clothes more effectively while hot water sets in the stains.

Take Shorter Showers

Take shorter showers and don’t keep the water running while you shampoo or scrub. Scheduling showers help conserve hot water by distributing the water usage over time. Some of the family members may shower at night before they sleep so that they may not need to shower in the morning.

If you wish to install a separate water heater in your bathroom specifically for hot showers, check out our post on The 10 Best Bathroom Heater Reviews In The UK (2021) for product reviews.


Bottom Line

If you inspect the water heating system on a monthly basis and schedule repairs when needed, the lifespan of the water heater will increase. Good maintenance and usage habits will also provide you with all the hot water you need.

Related Topics To Read Next

Cold Water Not Working? Here’s Why

How To Install A Water Softener

Best Water Softeners

About the Author Harry Thompson

Involved in home renovations throughout his life, Harry is an expert in everything to do with home and garden DIY. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and tending to his garden.