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My Hot Water Turns Cold After a Few Minutes

Picture this: you’ve had a long day and are getting ready for a nice, warm shower. However, after just a few minutes, that steamy shower turns ice cold. These common reasons explain why your hot water may become cold quickly:

In this blog, we’ll go over these reasons in deeper detail, then explain what plumbers can do to help restore your hot water to prime condition.

Does your hot water turn cold after a few minutes?

Don’t struggle with cold showers – contact the MSP Plumbing Heating Air team at (651) 228-9200 for help today. With over a thousand 5-star reviews (and counting), you can trust us to provide high-quality, prompt, and affordable water heater services to the Twin Cities community.

Broken Dip Tube

Plumbing pipes of various sizes connected together and affixed against a red brick wall.

Water is warmed in your water heater before being distributed through your home’s plumbing system.

After a long day of work, most of us appreciate a steamy, hot shower. With a 40-gallon tank water heater, hot water can last up to an hour in the shower. However, if your water heater is experiencing issues, that hot water can turn cold in just minutes.

When hot water doesn’t last as long as it should, the problem is usually due to a broken dip tube, which plays a vital role in separating cold and hot water. A typical water heater has hot water at the top of the tank. The dip tube sends cold water to the bottom, where it’s heated up before it joins the hot water near the top.

When the dip tube isn't functioning properly, your water heater cannot separate the cold water from the hot water. Therefore, your water will not stay hot for very long, and your water heater may only be able to produce tepid water.

How to Fix:

Now that you know why a broken dip tube is a problem, you might wonder how to fix it. The best way to resolve the issue is by contacting a plumbing professional for a drain tube replacement.

Faulty Heating Element or Thermostat

Dark orange-brown water coming out of a silver faucet and pouring into a white porcelain sink.

A faulty heating element can lead to discolored water.

Most electric water heaters come with a thermostat where you can set the water temperature. This thermostat controls two heating elements: an upper and a lower element.

As mentioned earlier, the dip tube directs cold water to the bottom of the tank. Then, the heating element will warm the water until it reaches the desired temperature. As it warms, it will rise to the top of the tank before being sent throughout the home.

If the upper element is faulty, the hot water will not reach the temperature set on the thermostat (or the water won’t become hot at all).

If the lower element is faulty, the hot water will run out faster than usual. In addition to cold water, you may experience discoloration and leaks.

How to Fix:

Double-check your fuse box if you suspect you may have a faulty heating element or thermostat. A power surge can affect the tank’s ability to produce hot water. Fortunately, this is easily solved by resetting the box. You can also manually check the heating elements with a digital multimeter or contact a plumber.

Water Heater Is Too Small for Your Household’s Needs

Water dripping out of a shiny silver faucet into a white porcelain sink.

Our plumbers can determine what size water tank is most suitable for your needs.

There’s no “one size fits all” when purchasing a water heater. What works for one household may not be sufficient for another. One of the most important factors to consider when purchasing a water heater is size. A heater that's too small won’t be able to support your hot water needs.

For example, about 75% of your hot water tank should be for hot water. So, if you have a 40-gallon tank, that means 30 available gallons. When using hot water for multiple appliances (such as your dishwasher, washing machine, and showers), this supply quickly depletes, causing the hot water to become cold.

What about tankless water heaters? Since they operate on demand, their hot water may not run out as quickly. However, their water supply can still diminish if it cannot keep up with demand, leading to slower and weaker water flow throughout the house.

How to Fix

When your water heater is too small for your needs, the simplest solution is to get a replacement. As a rule of thumb, you should get a 50-60 gallon tank water heater for a household with three to four people.

Get a high-quality water heater replacement in the Twin Cities area with MSP!

Looking for quality water heater replacements in Minnesota? Call MSP at (651) 228-9200. Our plumbers are committed to your comfort and can perform thorough, speedy jobs at affordable rates. After assessing your home, we can recommend a water heater size and perform a safe installation so that your showers stay toasty warm.