DYI Guideline to Hot Water System Repair

This generalized guideline  for hot water system repair is an approximation of the work tasks , materials and tools required  for a hot water system, inspection, maintenance and/or repair. The intent of this page  is to give a person  a foresight of the scope of such an undertaking.

Hot Water System Modes of Failure

Following  is brief discussion of the potential  failure modes for the individual components and devices are comprised in hot water system repair.


Leaks are visible. The cause can be simply a fitting  and/or valve mechanical failure. However, if caused by corrosion, it will require further  investigation. Mechanical plumbing adjustments , refitting  and/or a valve replacement can correct most of these problems.

Pressure Relief Valve

The pressure relief valve can fail due to deposit build up from affecting its pressure setting . It can relieve prematurely that would appear as intermittent leak, or, not relieve sufficiently. Activate it manually to determine sufficient water flow.

Sacrificial Anode

Hot water tanks are provided with a sacrificial anode as a means to protect hot water failure  and /or tanks fittings from corrosion. This anode may fail; i.e.,  broken off tank body or consumed .  Anode can be replaced,  if tank is still considered serviceable. Otherwise, if tank leaks, one might consider replacing tank as a unit.

Heating Elements

Heating elements can fail as a result of corrosion and/or material build up on element, i.e., calcium salts and other minerals deposit build up. Over time the salt deposits coat the elements with very thick hardened layer rendering them virtually ineffective, causing the elements to overheat and fail. Also,  aggravated by corrosion, the units can short-out. Test  the  elements'  resistance, normally between 12 and 14 ohms. The heating elements can be replaced

Heating Element Temperature Control

The heating element control controls the power feed, turning the power on and off to the individual elements depending on water temperature. These can burn out due to frequency of switching or from heating element failure mode.

DYI Person Advisory

The physical work is relatively within realm of DIY person,  a  would be Jack of all trades.

The hot water system repair diagnostics can be a bit of a puzzle, as components and devices are enclosed and under pressure. They also encompass the technical knowledge of a number of trades. Acquiring  the specialized  components can also be a challenge . For the uninitiated, the research and sourcing  the tools and components parts that are at times unique can take considerable amount of time.

However, most  households cannot afford the time for the preparatory  work. This is especially true, if hot water system has already failed.   Then, unless well equipped, you are faced with a messy tasks to carry out  the fix.

For the enterprising individuals, determined DIY that are prepared to take on the task but require technical support, we can provide advisory services for a  fee.

Hot Water Repair Tasks List

Irrespective of the mode of failure, a thorough inspection of the system is required to determine the cause or causes. To do this, one has to do the following tasks;

  • Disconnect and lock out power supply to the tank
  • Check for exterior leaks from tank, tank fittings, piping  and valves
  • Check functioning  of pressure relief valve
  • Depressurize tank by dewater the system
  • Disconnect power supply wiring
  • Remove the heating elements
  • Clean and test the heating  elements
  • Inspect the interior of tank visually with a scope
  • Check the sacrificial anode

If tank, tank fittings  and piping are serviceable one can then proceed to replace the failed components. For example,

  • Replace a faulty sacrificial anode
  • Replace the heating elements, if they show signs of damage from corrosion, mechanical damage after removal of calcium or other mineral deposits or fail resistance test
  • Replace the temperature controller
  • Adjust and /or replace leaky pipe fittings, valves
  • Turn water on, check for leaks.
  • Reconnect power cables
  • Turn power on

Hot water system should be good to go.

List of Basic Tools for Hot Water System Repair

To determine the cause of problem in the hot water system requires opening the system up, as inadvertently, the cause is hidden in the internal water pressurized  components.

The suggested tools:

  •  Hoses
  • Water drainage pump
  • Container to salvage the water, or, a drain point to dispose of the water.
  • Screw drivers
  • Socket wrench set
  •  Multi-meter.
  • Element's  socket  wrench 1 1/2"
  • Plumbing tools

We offer advisory assistance to DIY persons for a fee determined by extent of service require  either on line or onsite upon request.