Why No Hot Water in my Apartment?

Imagine going to take a shower and once you turn the knob, instead of warm, refreshing water, you are hit with cold jets. In addition to the unpleasantness, you now have to worry about what is causing your heater not to function.

Most people assume that the problem will require a replacement and that might cause financial inconveniences. However, you should know that there are plenty of reasons why your hot water supply has been cut off.

Read on for some of the most common reasons why this would happen together with what you can do once you find out you have no hot water.

What is a water heater?

If you have no hot water, the problem is usually in the heater. There are many types of water heaters and they can fail for different reasons. Before you can find out the problem, it would be helpful if you knew how one works in the first place. Most households use storage water heaters. These work by heating the water until it reaches a certain temperature and then the water is stored and kept at that temperature until the hot knob is turned.

There are two types of storage heaters, gas, and electric heaters. These two similarly do their job, the only difference being how the water is heated.

A gas water heater has a gas burner that releases hot but toxic air using a chimney that runs through the tank that stores the water. This air heats the chimney which in turn heats the water around it.

An electric heater has heating coils inside the tank. When water becomes warm, it rises to the upper part of the tank where it leaves to the rest of the house. 

Some of the components found in both these heaters are thermostat, temperature and pressure relief valves, insulation, a drain valve, and a sacrificial anode. This is a rod that is made out of a metal that rusts faster than the material used to make the storage tank. This rod should be replaced every few years to maintain the quality of the tank.

Why doesn’t my apartment have hot water?

When there is no hot water, most of us are clueless about what the problem might be. Here are a couple of common problems with water heaters together with their possible solutions:

Problems with all heaters

Some things can cause your heater to stop working regardless of whether it is gas or electric. Take a look:

1. A leaky tank

Chances are, you are running out of hot water fast since the tank can’t keep a lot of it in. Your tank could be leaking because of a hole in its body or sometimes, the connecting pipes and valves may not be installed properly.

If you check the tank, exercise caution because the water may be scalding hot. If you find water where the tank is usually stored, this might mean that the tank itself is leaking and it needs a replacement.

2. There’s not enough hot water

This problem is most common in households with high traffic. When a lot of people use the hot water in the tank in a short time, it is exhausted faster than it can be heated. It takes around 30 minutes for an empty storage tank to fill up with a significant amount of water.

If you feel like this is happening too often, you should consider looking for a tank with a capacity that is better suited for your household. In many cases, the installation of a heater considers the capacity of the tenants that live there or that are expected to.

This estimation is not always effective, especially in apartments. This is because they are not permanent living options and the number of tenants in a unit is subject to change. Also, in many buildings, all the units have similar equipment and each household is different.

3. Buildup of residue

This is a problem that occurs naturally. As your heater heats water, it is separated from some of the components in the water, like calcium. These sediments sink to the bottom of the tank. 

While down there, they increase the surface area of material that can be heated. Also, they absorb some of the heat that could have been used by the water. This makes the water heat slowly and also, the tank starts to lose its efficiency.

Another problem that this build-up causes is noise. You will start to hear a pinging sound. I could also sound like banging or knocking. If there is too much sediment at the bottom of the tank, you might have to get another tank. If not, it can be easy to get rid of the residue with these steps:

  • Start by turning the heater off. For electric heaters, you can do this from the circuit breakers or the fuse box. If you have a gas heater, turn the thermostat to the pilot setting. 
  • Turn off the cold water supply past the stop point and cross-check to ensure it is shut completely.
  • Open a hot water tap in the house so that a vacuum does not form inside the pipes. 
  • Locate the drain valve on your heater. It is usually at the bottom of the tank and sometimes, it is protected by a removable panel. Once you find it, fix a garden hose to this end and direct the other end of the hose to a drain or a bucket. If you use a bucket, ensure it is not made of weak plastic as it may crumble under the hot water.
  • Open the drain valve and let the tank drain for a short while. To check if the sediment is clear, fill a bucket and let it settle. If there is the residue at the bottom, continue flushing it. 
  • If there is no more sediment, close the drain valve and the hot water tap you opened.
  • Open the cold water valve and let the tank fill. After that, open the pressure valve to let out any excess air, close it, and then turn on a hot water tap until the water starts flowing well.
  • Switch the heater on and test the water after a couple of minutes.

Problems with electric heaters

Here are some of the issues you might have to deal with if you have an electric heater:

1. Tripped circuit breaker

Circuit breakers are tripped when the current flowing through the circuit is too much. A breaker switches itself off and breaks the connection. They prevent electrical appliances from getting short-circuited. 

Sometimes, the breaker keeps resetting because it is too weak for the current. You will need to replace the breaker.

To know if your breaker is tripped, check the circuit breaker box. If it has tripped, you will notice pretty fast since it will be the only one that is not facing the same direction as the rest of the breakers. To turn it back on, simply flip the switch. If it keeps tripping, there might be an underlying problem and you should tell your landlord or call an electrician.

2. Heating element

This is the part of the heater that generates heat for your water. If it becomes faulty, the water will heat slowly or not at all. If this is the issue, you will need to replace the element. This is an easy procedure and it costs a lot less than replacing a whole heater.

Problems with gas heaters

Gas heaters also encounter their fair share of troubles. Take a look at a couple of issues that may cause your heater to fail:

1. No gas supply

Your heater is powered by gas, so if it is not getting access to any, it cannot work. First, check to see if the heater is on. Put your heater in pilot mode and open the back panel to look at the gas inlet valve and see if it is open. To open it, turn the handle about the same distance as the gas line.

2. The pilot light is off

Sometimes, the pilot light goes off because there is no gas supply. If you open the panel to the pilot and see that it is off, all you have to do is relight it. To do this, look for instructions on the heater or the user manual. If you cannot find any, you could try this method:

  • Switch off the gas for more than 5 minutes and then set the regulator to pilot mode. 
  • If your heater has one, press on the ignition knob for about a minute then switch the regulator on.
  • In some cases, you will need to use a flame to light it. Switch on a long lighter near the pilot burner and this might get the job done.

3. A gas leak

Your heater could have a gas leak that is causing gas not to get to the pilot. Gas has a component added to it that helps us know if there is a leak since it is naturally odorless. This smell is like that of rotten eggs. 

If you feel this smell around your heater, turn off the gas valve. If it is the cause of the leak, arrange to fix it immediately.

Melanie Asiba

Melanie is an author, and she enjoys traveling, reading, and trying out new things. In addition to writing for Apartment ABC.