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Why is My Water Heater Overheating – When Hot is Too Hot

Posted on: January 26th, 2017 by admin

The function of a water heater is to provide us with hot water, right? But what happens when the water is too hot? This is not just having a water that is hotter than usual, but we are talking about scalding water. You may think that your water heater is overheating. Actually, this should be cause for alarm because of the possibility of accidents.

The Thermostat


One of the more obvious reasons why water heater overheating becomes a problem is a malfunctioning thermostat. The problem normally with this scenario is that the heating element remains powered on all of the time instead of power cycling to deliver heat only when it is needed.

As a result, you have scalding water being delivered to your home plumbing system. It is understandable that the problem may go unnoticed at once, especially when it starts during the hot months when the use of hot water is at the minimum. However, the telltale sign would be a significantly higher electric bill.

How significant? Your electric bill may increase by $20 on the average. This is on the account of the heating element constantly powered on.

Inspecting the Problem

A closer inspection would help you determine the problem. However, before you begin with the inspection, cut the power to the water heater by turning off the circuit breaker. It is important to ensure that the main power supply to the heating unit is turned off. This is to ensure that you do not get electrocuted in the process.

To begin with the inspection, start with the main electrical line going into the unit. You have to ensure that the connections are not melted or extremely hot to the touch. This should not happen, but, obviously, it can. Make sure that the shielding of the line is not melted. An indication of a possible melted shielding is when the feed line is too hot to touch.

Proceed by removing the access plates to inspect the electrical parts. Water heaters with a capacity of 60 gallons or more normally have two heating elements and thermostats. The wiring to the thermostat should not have melted or burnt areas. Inspect this line the same way you did the main line.

The Next Step

When you see that there is nothing melted or burnt with the wirings, the next step is to make sure that the thermostat is properly set. You would think that this is the first thing to check, however, we are assuming that everything was working fine before. That’s why you suddenly thought the water heater is overheating.

So what do you do? Turn down the temperature using the thermostat dial. Make sure that you mark the setting with a felt tip pen before turning it down. Gradually move it to a cooler setting and wait for the new setting to take effect. This may take a couple of hours on the average. What if this does not work?

The possibility is that the water heating unit is not shutting off as it reaches the preset temperature. Observe if you hear sounds similar to boiling water inside the storage tank. Take note as well if there is excessive steam shooting out of your faucets.

The excessive steam buildup is an indication of a possible temperature pressure relief valve malfunction. The malfunction maybe attributed to improper installation or simply a faulty valve. Whatever the reason, this is a very dangerous situation to be in because the combination of hot water and steam can lead to the storage tank bursting.

You would need to turn down the temperature to allow the water to cool. Once this happens, you can proceed with the replacement of the malfunctioning valve. This should solve the problem of overheating.

What if it doesn’t? Then it is time to pick up the phone and call a licensed plumbing professional.

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