What Should You Check When Your Gas Water Heater Isn’t Working?

No one wants to make a potentially expensive service call for a minor problem. However, gas-fired appliances such as water heaters can be hazardous for amateurs. Still, there's no need to rush to the phone if you suddenly find yourself without hot water. Even without experience, you can check a handful of things to determine what might be wrong with your heater.

The good news is that these simple diagnostic steps can solve many problems. However, if these three checks don't restore your hot water, it's time to call a professional to diagnose your problem accurately and safely.

1. Check Your Status Lights

Most modern water heaters will include a gas valve with a prominent status light and a small card displaying several codes. While this may look intimidating at first, it's one of the easier things you can check when your hot water isn't working. You should see this light steadily blinking if there's nothing wrong with your gas valve.

Other blink patterns potentially indicate a problem. You can read the card on the valve to decode the blink pattern, but it's best to call a professional to deal with any issues relating to the gas supply. The one exception is if the light isn't blinking, which typically means there's a problem with your water heater's pilot light.

2. Check Your Pilot Light

If the gas valve status light is off or your water heater doesn't have a valve with a status board, you'll want to move on to checking the pilot light. While modern furnaces typically rely on electronic ignition, most water heaters still use pilot lights. You should be able to check its status by looking through a sight glass on the water heater.

Your water heater should have instructions to relight the pilot somewhere on the gas valve. If the pilot doesn't light, there may be an issue with the gas supply or the pilot light tubing, so you'll need a professional to help. If the pilot does light, you'll want to watch the burner for a few minutes to ensure it doesn't immediately go back out.

3. Check Your Thermostat

Your water heater includes a thermostat for setting its internal temperature. You shouldn't need to change this often, but it's possible to alter its setting during maintenance or service accidentally. If you can't find any other obvious problems, check the thermostat to confirm that the temperature is between 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

Note that setting your temperature above or below this value can pose serious health risks, and it's usually better to stay closer to the lower side of that range. Do not attempt to turn the temperature higher than 140 F. If this setting isn't enough to keep your water warm, you'll need to contact a professional for further diagnosis.

For more information about water heater repair, contact a local company.