It’s always a cold day.
You stayed in bed for that 5 minutes extra, in fear of getting out your cozy bed, and into the chilly start to the day that lies ahead.
The hot shower will be your solace. After few seconds of discomfort when walking across the cold tiles and exposing your bare skin to the room, you will have made it to the start of the day.
You step in, ready for the warmth to thaw your body.
You let out a groan as your foot hits the water.
The water’s cold.
Now you’ve got to work out how to get your water heater working again.
Fortunately, we’re here to help.
How to diagnose the problem
If you can hear unusual noises coming from within the water heater, it’s possible that the cause is a buildup of minerals on the inside of the tank that has broken off and is now moving around. This can cause water heaters to malfunction. To rectify this, you will need to drain the tank and clean it out. In most cases it would be beneficial to hire a professional to do this for you.
If there are no unnatural noises to contend with, your next step is to check if the pilot light has gone out. The pilot light is the blue flame in your heater and is often the reason that the hot water heater is failing. However, this is not always the root cause, as this can be deeper than simply reigniting the flame.
To check if it has gone out, remove the access panel at the bottom of the tank to see inside. If your water heater is relatively new, you may not have to remove an access panel. Instead, you may be able to see directly through clear glass.
If there is no flame, you have found the problem.
Preparing to relight the water heater pilot light
It is crucial to your warm water aspirations and your physical wellbeing that you make sure that there is no significant gas leak before attempting to relight the pilot light.
To check for this, you are going to use your sense of smell!
Get close to your water heater. If you smell anything unusual, you might have recognized a gas leak. We shouldn’t usually be able to smell natural gas, but gas companies add mercaptan to it that allows us to identify a gas leak without ultra-high-tech gas visibility glasses! The gas will just smell of sulfur (or rotten eggs).
If you don’t smell sulfur from this first test, you’re still not safe just yet!
Get right in there! Get right up to the valves where there could be a possible leak and give it a good whiff. Also listen for any hissing sound, as this is another indicator of a gas leak.
If there is any hint of a leak, do not go any further in your attempts to relight the pilot light.
Relighting the Water Heater via the Pilot Light
- Turn the gas control knob to turn the water heater off.
- Allow the water heater to sit for 10 minutes, with the area ventilated. This will ensure that any excess gas in the room can escape, as this could be a big safety hazard when attempting to ignite the gas.
- Set the gas control to ‘pilot light’.
- Press the red control button to allow the gas to run. Hold this button down to allow enough gas to enter the chamber. There might be a blinking light as the gas is allowed to move.
- Press the ignition button and listen for a clicking noise. This will tell you that the ignition system is attempting to light the pilot light.
- At this point, you will hopefully have a flame at the pilot light!
- Next, turn the gas back on using the control knob that was used to turn it off. If the pilot light remains lit, you should get your hot water back. If the pilot light goes out, there might be an issue greater than just the pilot light going out. In this case you should contact a professional to inspect your water heater.