The first version of the modern shower was patented in 1767 in England by William Feetham. But it never caught on because there was no way to heat the water. Almost 100 years later, hot showers became available, and we all were fans. In fact, we take it for granted that soothing heated water will rain down when we turn the shower valve, but what if it doesn’t?
There are several reasons you might be getting the cold shoulder from your shower. Here are a few to check out:
Water Heater Problems
If you’re not getting hot water from any faucet, there may be a problem with the water heater. Start troubleshooting by checking that you haven’t blown a fuse to the electrical circuit and the pilot light is still on for gas heaters.
If you need to relight the pilot light, follow the instructions for your model. Older models may need a match, but new ones have ignitors. Once it’s relit, make sure it stays on. If it keeps going out again, there may be a problem with the thermocouple, which is a safety device that prevents gas leaks. If you can’t keep the pilot light on, call a professional for help; there may be a larger issue at work.
Next, check to see if the thermostat is working and set correctly. The water heater thermostat regulates the temperature and tells the system when the water has cooled below the proper level. If it’s not working at all, you’ll want to have it replaced. But it might just need adjusting. Water temperature is generally set to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. You can increase it a bit based on your preferences, but don’t go over 140 degrees, or the water will be hot enough to cause third-degree burns. If you adjust the thermostat setting up, make a series of small changes and test the water each time to avoid injuries.
If your water has not gone ice cold, but doesn’t heat as well as it used to, you may have sediment in the heater. The water in the Dallas/Fort Worth area is relatively hard, which means minerals may form and build up on the heating element. The build-up gradually reduces the heater’s efficiency, so water will get slightly colder over time rather than going ice cold all at once. You may also have a malfunctioning element that needs replacing.
Finally, the problem could be caused by a broken dip tube could be the cause of the problem. The dip tube is a pipe that channels fresh cold water to the bottom of the tank where the heating element can warm it up. Dip tubes in older heaters may crack or break off. If it’s broken, cold water added to the tank will sit on top for a while, and when you draw water for a bath or shower, that cold water comes out first.
Low Water Heater Capacity
If you get hot showers sometimes but seem to run out of heated water regularly, the water heater is probably not sized correctly for your needs. When you’re drawing water for showers and appliances or have several people bathing at the same time of the day, your water heater may not be able to keep up.
Consider the amount of hot water a typical household draws daily:
- Shower: 27 gallons
- Bath: 4 gallons
- Faucet: 27 gallons
- Washing Machine: 22 gallons
If your family tends to take showers, run the faucets, and run laundry around the same time each day, you may need a larger water heater or a tankless version.
Faulty Shower Mixing Valve
If the water in other parts of your house gets plenty hot, the problem may be inside the shower itself. The shower mixing valve lets you choose water temperature by turning the handle to blend hot and cold water. Mixing valves feature a rotational stop limit, a small plastic blocker that prevents you from turning the valve all the way to the hot side. That safety mechanism may be set too low.
If you’re handy, you can remove the shower valve and adjust the stop limit. Take off the valve cover, and there’ll be a plastic ring on the valve stem which you turn slightly counterclockwise to increase the amount of hot water in the shower mix. Remember to make small changes and test the water each time to avoid injury.
Older valves can also just wear out or have leaky o-rings. If the valve has broken down, there may be pieces inside preventing it from turning completely. You can inspect the valve by removing the cover and looking for broken pieces or leaks, but replacing a mixing valve is tricky unless you have experience. This is one for the professionals.
Gas or Electrical Problems
If everything seems to be in order with your plumbing, there might be an issue with the gas piping or electrical system that’s causing your heater to malfunction. For example, if electrical wires are frayed, you may be getting a short. Or a wire may be grounded improperly. It’s important to get help when troubleshooting the gas or electrical system in your house, and if you think there’s a problem, get it addressed quickly; electrical and gas malfunctions can be dangerous.
A leak in your hot water lines may explain why only cold water is making it to your shower stall. Monitor your water bills; if there’s a leak between the heater and the rest of the house, your bills will increase even though your water usage hasn’t. Keep an eye on the water heater as well. Older ones can start to leak and lower your hot water capacity. Leaking tanks will generally need replacing.
If you’re in an older house, you might have a piping configuration that doesn’t work well with newer shower valve designs. If so, your infrastructure is fighting itself, and you’ll need professional help to untangle it.
Also, there could be excess air in the pipes. If so, it will rise to high points and get trapped causing airlocks. These airlocks can block or impede water flow, and if you have them, you’ll notice that water sputters out of the faucet. Airlocks in the hot water lines can keep hot water from flowing to your shower, but a plumber will help you release the air and get water moving again.
In areas with hard water, the mineral sediments can adhere to fixtures like the shower valve as the water runs through it over time. Hotter water precipitates more deposits, so the hot water side of your shower may get clogged faster than the cold-water side and prevent you from getting enough heat in the shower flow.
Don’t Put Up With Cold Showers
If you’re sensing a problem with shower temperatures in your home or if faucets have suddenly gone cold, don’t hesitate to get some help and fix the problem fast.
Schedule a free consultation with the experts at Horizon Plumbing and get your warm, soothing showers back.