Water Heater Keeps Turning Off? Here’s Why5 min read

You know that feeling when you’re really craving a warm shower only to find that your water heater just doesn’t want to play ball? I get it – it’s happened to me (and many of my clients) before. If your water heater keeps turning off, it’s a pretty clear sign that something’s up.

Water Heaters commonly turn off due to overheating, electrical issues, thermostat issues, or gas valve issues. Some of them are pretty simple to fix, but others may require a licensed professional to come over and take a look.

First I’ll cover the most common causes of a water heater turning off, then I’ll get into what you can do about it at home.

I take information accuracy seriously therefore everything you’re about to read has been expert reviewed by Mark Longhurst, a professional plumber with over 15 years experience.

What Causes a Water Heater toTurn Off?

There are quite a few reasons why a water heater may turn itself off and shut down. These are the most common ones that I’ve come across:

Overheating

Overheating is really common for water heaters and I’ve seen this a few times in the past.

Water heaters operate at specific temperatures: usually around 120-140 degrees Fahrenheit (which is 48-60 degrees Centigrade). If the unit gets too hot, the pressure relief valve springs into action, releasing hot water and steam.

This is good because it stops it from exploding, but it may also cause your water heater to switch off.

Electrical Issues

Electrical problems are a bigger issue. Anything from a tripped circuit breaker or a blown fuse can cause problems, alongside more complicated stuff like faulty wiring, frayed cables, or even incorrect installation. This will cause your water heater reset button to trip.

If the problem turns out to be caused by electrical wiring or a water heater circuit, you’ll need to call a certified, licensed electrician. They can conduct a line/circuit test for your water heater, and they can help you figure out what’s going wrong. As a bonus tip, make sure the outlet provided for your water heater is weatherproof to avoid any issues with condensation (your electrician can help with that, too).

Mark Longhurst

Faulty Thermostat

Faulty thermostats are a problem when you really need a hot shower! The thermostat monitors the temperature of the water, sending a signal to the heating element to switch on or off to maintain your desired temperature.

If this is faulty, however, it may not be able to accurately tell what the temperature of the water is, causing it to stay on for too long or not too long at all. This, in turn, can cause the tank to get way too hot or not hot enough and cause more complications later on.

Gas Valve Issues

Faults with the gas valve can also cause a water heater to turn off. The gas valve controls the flow of gas to the burner in the unit.

But if this isn’t functioning properly, it can prevent gas from flowing to the burner, causing the appliance to shut down or not operate efficiently.

how to fix a water heater that keeps turning off

Now’s the time to take matters into your own hands. (Depending on what the problem is, of course).

But before you can attempt any DIY techniques, it’s crucial to take a few safety measures:

Start by turning off the power and/or gas supply to the water heater before performing any maintenance or repair work. Safety is the priority, always: only attempt work on your water heater if you feel safe and comfortable doing so.

Allow the water heater to cool down before attempting to drain the tank or work on it.

Additionally, consider wearing protective gloves and eyewear when working on the water heater and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for any maintenance or repair work.

Double (even triple!) check that everything is switched off and cool down before you go ahead. Believe me, you don’t want to deal with super hot water inside a water heater – it’s not worth the risk.

Have everything ready? Below are the steps for troubleshooting your hot water heater.

Check the Power Source

If you have an electric model, ensure it’s receiving power. Inspect the circuit breaker or fuse box to see if it is tripped or blown. If it is, reset the circuit breaker or replace the fuse. This may solve the problem with just a simple step.

If the circuit continues to cause issues, you may have a problem with the wiring or the water heater. These situations will need professional assistance.

Inspect the Gas Supply

For gas water heaters, check to ensure the gas supply is turned on and the pilot light is lit. If the pilot light is not lit, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for your specific model. It should hvae a troubleshooting guide.

I found this useful YouTube video on how to light your pilot light:

If the pilot light continues to cause issues, you may have problems with the gas supply or thermocouple. In these cases, it’s best to contact a licensed technician, as the problem may be too complicated to try a DIY solution.

Check the Thermostat

If your unit isn’t reaching the desired temperature, inspect the thermostat to ensure it is set correctly. Your unit may have a display panel allowing you to adjust the temperature, but you’ll need to consult the owner’s manual. It may be that it’s just set wrong, which is the ideal problem to have as you can put it right super quickly!

If the thermostat is set correctly, but the water is not heating or it’s not staying on, you may have an issue with the heating element, wiring, or other components. It’s best to contact a professional in these situations for further help in this case.

Inspect the Pressure Relief Valve

Faults with the pressure relief valve can also cause your unit to shut down, malfunction, or leak.

Most manufacturers recommend professional inspection of the valve to ensure it is working correctly. Manually operating the relief valve can expose you to hot water, which can be dangerous, so always wear protective gear and take adequate safety measures so you don’t get hurt.

Other Ways to Prevent Water Heater from Turning Off

Besides the troubleshooting methods listed above, there are a few standard solutions if your water heater frequently shuts down. These are pretty simple and not too time-consuming:

  • Regularly flushing the tank to remove sediment and mineral build-up. Most manufacturers recommend flushing the tank every 6–12 months.
  • Replacing the thermostat or heating element. Broken components can lead to malfunction, so it’s best to deal with these issues swiftly.
  • Replacing a faulty pressure relief valve or thermocouple.
  • Calling a professional to inspect and repair any electrical or gas supply issues.

Before going for a DIY fix, always ask your water heater supplier or manufacturer if your unit is still covered by a warranty. If it is, they’ll either fix it or replace it, and they should cover the costs. It’s always worth making the most of the warranty!

Mark Longhurst

how to prevent your water heater from turning off in the future

You can’t always stop this kind of thing from happening: if you happen to have an older water heater, wear-and-tear will get to them eventually.

However, I do think a few routine maintenance tasks, although a little boring, may help to prevent water shutdowns:

Practice Preventative Maintenance

Schedule annual maintenance inspections (or the most frequent maintenance possible!) with a certified plumber to check the tank, anode rod, and other parts for damage. The plumber will find problems before they become significant, saving you money and time in the long run.

Replace Faulty Components

Address minor issues and damage before they become severe. This may include replacing faulty parts, tightening connections, and patching small leaks. Learning to do these small tasks can build your DIY skills and help your appliances to have a longer life.

Upgrade to a New Water Heater

Upgrading your unit can prevent future issues, especially if your water heater is over ten years old. You can contact a licensed technician for their recommendation for your home and needs.

When to Call a Professional

There are times when an at-home solution isn’t going to cut it; you’ll need to hire a professional instead. I’d recommend calling for help if:

  • The problem is caused by faulty or damaged components.
  • You are unsure how to proceed with any repairs or maintenance on your water heater.
  • You have attempted troubleshooting solutions, but the issue persists.
  • You notice a leak in your hot water system, especially if it is coming from the tank itself.
  • The water heater makes unusual noises, such as popping or hissing sounds. (Any appliance that makes weird noises, from washing machines to dryers to boilers, is trying to tell you that something’s wrong!)

Water Heater Keeps Turning Off: Key Takeaways

I know how annoying it is when your water heater keeps switching off. There are a few reasons for it:

  • Overheating, which is a problem that needs fixing pretty swiftly
  • Electrical issues, which can be everything from a busted fuse to faulty wiring
  • Faulty thermostat, which means your water heater may not be able to detect how hot (or cold) your water is
  • Gas valve issues, which can prevent water from heating properly

While there are a few fixes you can do at home, I always say it’s better to call a professional than to try it yourself if you don’t feel confident. Hopefully, this guide has helped, and you will be able to have a warm shower in peace ASAP!

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Hi, I'm Ed, and I run BuildFanatic! I enjoy providing the best possible information on a range of home improvement topics.

Mark Longhurst
Plumber at http://www.pipesmart.com.au/ | Website | + posts

Mark Longhurst is a professional plumber with over 15 years of experience, owns Pipesmart, and is our resident expert in all things plumbing.

Mark helps review plumbing-related articles for BuildFanatic to ensure we're providing our readers with the most accurate and updated advice.

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