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What To Do When Water Heater Goes Out

Water Heater

Your water heater provides much-needed hot water for baths, cleaning, and washing clothes. So when it stops working as it should, you’ll find that many of the functions in your home might come to a halt.

Fortunately, there are ways to fix a water heater that suddenly stops doing its job. Wondering what to do when your water heater goes out? Here’s a quick guide:

  • A water heater can stop working if its pilot light has turned off.
  • For electric water heaters, it’s important to check the power source to ensure it’s properly supplied with electricity.
  • In most cases, performance issues with water heaters are best addressed by professional plumbers and HVAC specialists.

Like any other home appliance, your water heater can stop working. While it might be especially inconvenient for your hot water supply to run out, there are some solutions you can try to get your heater working again.

What To Do When Your Water Heater Breaks Down

1. Give It Some Time

Water Heater

If you’ve just turned your water heater on, you can’t expect it to provide hot water immediately. These machines need quite a bit to heat the water before delivering a warm supply throughout your household.

On average, a 40-gallon water heater will require 30-40 minutes to heat its contents. Larger 80-gallon may have to take as much as 60 to 70 minutes.

Wait it out before you consider more serious problems. Then, you can try the next steps if you wait long enough and still find that the water isn’t hot enough.

2. Rekindle the Pilot Light (for Gas Heaters)

Rekindle The Pilot Light

Gas heaters have what’s called a pilot light. This ignites the gas burner to heat the tank and produce hot water. Unfortunately, there’s no way to turn on the gas burner without a pilot light, so the water remains cold.

Lighting the pilot light can often be done through a dial on the side of the water tank. If you can’t locate it, you can check your user manual.

Instructions for calibrating the pilot light for your specific water heater can often be found in the instructions in the manual.

3. Check the Power Source (for Electric Heaters)

Check The Power Source

If you’ve got an electric heater, the pilot light shouldn’t be an issue since it won’t have or use one. What might be the problem is the power source.

Water heaters don’t plug into an outlet like traditional appliances, so power will typically be controlled using the circuit breaker.

Check your circuit breaker and ensure that the specific water heater switch isn’t turned off. You may want to consider performing a power cycle if it’s on.

Turn it off, wait 10 seconds, and then switch it back on.


If none of the steps above work to get your water heater working again, you might have to call in a professional.

Call a plumber or an HVAC specialist to look at your water heater and resolve any issues it might have.


Like any other appliance, your water heater can break down and stop working. However, you can, most of the time, resolve the issue by simply waiting or checking its power source.

But it might be time to call a professional if push comes to shove and none of these simple solutions work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Still Shower With a Broken Water Heater?

Yes, you can. But just for safety, you may want to turn it off. If it’s damaged, it may continue to attempt to heat water for your home despite malfunctioning.

So if you need to use water in your home, see that you shut off the heater’s power source first to avoid potential damage and injury.

What Are the Signs of a Broken Water Heater?

Several signs point to a damaged or broken water heater.

These include the following:

  • Loud noises
  • Inefficient heating
  • Discolored water
  • Leaks
  • Notable variations in water temperature
  • Decreased water pressure

If you notice any of these problems, schedule your water heater for a maintenance check to avoid more serious damage.

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