Full Flow Plumbing & Drainage

hot water system problems

10 Common Hot Water Problems During Cold Weather

Hot water problems can arise during cold snaps and temperature drops for a variety of reasons. As with most unexpected problems, they occur at the most inopportune times, like when you need to shower, only to realise there’s no hot water!

Here are some of the common reasons why an electric hot water system might not work properly, and when you need to call a plumber for hot water repairs.

Common Hot Water Problems

1. Increased Demand

Cold weather often leads to a surge in hot water usage for showering and washing dishes. This heightened demand stresses the hot water system, making it struggle to keep up and potentially resulting in a hot water problem.

2. Lower Incoming Water Temperature

When temperatures drop, the incoming water supply’s temperature can significantly decrease. This forces the hot water unit to work harder and consume more energy to heat the colder water, leading to longer heating times and reduced hot water availability.

3. Reduced Efficiency

Cold ambient temperatures can negatively impact the efficiency of electric water heaters. Heat pumps, commonly used across the Gold Coast, lose efficiency in colder temperatures, causing them to work harder to extract heat from the air. This results in reduced performance and increased energy consumption.

4. Lack of Insulation

Insufficient or damaged insulation around the hot water tank and pipes can cause heat loss during cold snaps, making it difficult for the water heater to maintain the desired water temperature. When this happens, you might find you never have enough hot water. 

5. Frozen Pipes

In extremely cold conditions, water pipes can freeze and restrict water flow to and from the hot water cylinder. This can lead to system overheating and pipe bursts, causing water damage and costly repairs.

6. Heating Element Failure

Cold temperatures can strain various electric hot water system components, such as the heating element. If there are no signs of leaks or external damage, and your water is heating too slowly, or not heating at all, it may be an element problem.

A broken heating element can result in the water remaining cold, making for an unpleasant shower experience, particularly with the recent cold snap across South East Queensland!

To address a faulty hot water system, first, turn off the power supply and isolate the water supply. Then, call a professional plumber to inspect your hot water unit and safely replace any faulty element. Only a registered, fully qualified plumber has the skills and expertise to properly diagnose and fix such issues.

7. Thermostat Failure

If your hot water seems to be too hot, or if it keeps fluctuating between hot and cold, there is a possibility that the thermostat is not functioning properly. The thermostat is responsible for regulating the temperature of the water by turning the heating element on or off depending on the current temperature in the tank.

It is important to note that a defective thermostat can cause the water to heat up to dangerous temperatures without any warning, which can result in severe burns or scalds.

8. Tank Splitting or Bursting

Hot water tanks can split or burst during cold snaps due to the rapid expansion and contraction of the metal tank. Maintaining consistent water temperature can help prevent this issue.

Here are some additional tips to prevent tank splitting or bursting:

1. Insulate your pipes: Insulate the hot water pipes, especially those that are located outside in cold and shady areas.

2. Set the thermostat temperature: Keep the thermostat temperature at a consistent level to avoid rapid temperature fluctuations.

3. Drain the tank: If you’re leaving your home for an extended period, turn off the water supply to the tank and drain it.

4. Hire a professional plumber: Hire a licensed plumber to inspect your tank to ensure it is in good condition and working efficiently, and address any identified issues before they become big problems. 

9. Faulty Temperature Relief Valve

Temperature relief valves release excess pressure and hot water from the tank if the water temperature or pressure becomes too high. If not functioning correctly, the valve can cause pressure buildup in the tank, leading to potential tank failure or explosion. Regular inspection and maintenance are crucial for proper valve functioning.

Here are several reasons why it’s important for a plumber to check these valves:

  1. Prevent Explosions: If the TRV malfunctions and can’t release pressure, the water heater could potentially explode due to over-pressurisation. This is a rare event, but it’s extremely dangerous when it does happen.
  2. Prevent Damage: If the TRV is stuck open, it can lead to water damage. An open valve can release water continuously, which might lead to flooding and subsequent water damage in your home.
  3. Ensure Optimal Operation: Regular checks can ensure the TRV is operating properly and efficiently. A malfunctioning valve could also affect the efficiency of the hot water system.
  4. Early Detection of Problems: Regular checks can help detect other issues with the water heater. For example, if the TRV is releasing water frequently, it could be a sign that the water heater’s thermostat is malfunctioning and allowing the water to get too hot.

Checking the temperature relief valve is a job for a professional plumber. They have the knowledge and tools to test the valve properly and safely, and they can repair or replace it if necessary.

10. Sacrificial Anode Failure

Installed inside the hot water tank, these metal rods protect the tank from corrosion by attracting corrosive elements into the water. Increased hot water demand during cold snaps can accelerate the corrosion process, wearing out the sacrificial anode faster and reducing the tank’s lifespan.

Many homeowners also don’t realise these should be serviced every 5 years.

Book a Hot Water System Service

FAQ’s About Hot Water Systems and Common Problems

Why is my hot water system noisy?

If your hot water system is making unusual noises, it could be due to sediment buildup or an issue with the heating element. Regular maintenance and cleaning can prevent such problems. It’s also recommended to turn the hot tap on first to allow the air to escape from the system.

How often should I service my hot water system?

We recommend servicing your hot water heater every 2 years to prevent common problems like leaks, sediment buildup, and low water pressure. Regular maintenance can also ensure the safety and optimal performance of the system. The sacrificial anode should be replaced at the 5-year service.

Should I repair or replace my hot water system?

If your hot water system is regularly serviced and maintained, it can last up to 10-15 years, depending on the type and usage. In case of frequent repairs or if the system is over 10 years old, it’s best to consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient model.

How can I ensure a constant hot water supply?

To ensure a constant hot water supply, invest in a good-quality hot water system with a large storage tank. Regular maintenance and cleaning can also prevent issues like sediment buildup and low water pressure. If your system is failing, it’s time to call a professional plumber to fix the issue

An electric hot water system is a critical component of modern households, providing the comfort and convenience of hot water on demand. It’s important to note that these systems can account for up to 30% of a home’s electricity usage. As energy costs continue to rise, it becomes increasingly crucial for homeowners to understand the impact of their hot water systems on their energy bills.

By making informed choices about system efficiency, proper maintenance, and timely upgrades, you can optimise your electric hot water system’s performance, reduce its energy consumption, and ultimately save on your electricity costs while enjoying the benefits of a reliable hot water supply.