Two Common Gas Hot Water Heater Problems

Before you call in a professional for a gas hot water heater repair, it’s a good idea to know what’s wrong so you can tell the plumber what to expect. For this reason, you should know how to do basic hot gas hot water troubleshooting. Just be aware that if you smell leaking gas anywhere near your water heater, shut off the pilot light and close the main gas valve. Then, immediately call a plumber or the gas company to have them come out and investigate. Otherwise, the following troubleshooting guide should help you identify the cause of two common issues.

No Hot Water

This is by far the biggest complaint from homeowners who have gas hot water heaters. Usually, this is due to the pilot light going out, so you just have to relight it. If you’re having trouble relighting the pilot light, you might need a new thermocouple, a part that can easily be replaced on your own. If your water suddenly goes cold, you might just have used all the hot water in the tank and you have to wait for it to heat up again.

Another issue that could cause your gas hot water heater to stop heating the water is that the main gas valve is closed. This prevents the gas from keeping the pilot light lit, so if you just open the main gas valve and relight the pilot light, you will have solved the problem. If your water just isn’t getting as hot as it used to, your tank probably has built up sediment in the bottom, so you’ll need to have it drained and cleaned, something a professional should do.

Burnt Gas Smell

Obviously, if you smell gas at all, you should contact your gas company, but if the gas you smell is burnt, you might have a problem with a lack of oxygen. Your hot water heater requires fresh oxygen to work properly. Without it, the heater can’t function the way it should. The air needs to come in at the base of your heater and enter the flue from under the vent hood. All it takes is for this space to be blocked for there not to be enough oxygen to keep your hot water heater operational.

The signs of blocked airflow to a gas hot water heater include the burnt gas smell, a yellow burner flame, a pilot light that keeps going out, a sooting burner flame, and the presence of carbon monoxide (although this isn’t always present when this problem occurs). You can usually fix this issue very quickly by removing whatever is blocking the airflow. When your heater was installed, the installer ensured there was enough space to allow oxygen to flow, so you just need to open that space up again.


These are two of the most common issues that homeowners with gas hot water heaters experience and they can usually be fixed with a little investigation. But, if you don’t feel comfortable working on your gas water heater yourself, that’s perfectly understandable and a professional will be more than happy to handle your repairs for you.

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