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Why Is My Water Heater Running Out of Hot Water Faster Than Normal?

Have you ever wondered: “Why is my water heater running out of hot water faster than normal?” If so, you’re not alone. Most of us rely on water heaters to warm our water supply – when it falters, we’re left with cold, uncomfortable showers.

Don’t worry—we’ll help you troubleshoot this irritating plumbing problem. The most common reasons why your water heater runs out of hot water include:

We’ll detail these scenarios to help you get to the bottom of this issue.

Need help with your water heater? Call MSP today!

Is your hot water running out faster than normal? At MSP, we have over a century of experience delivering high-quality water heater repairs and water heater installations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. If you’re looking for an efficient, trustworthy team, don’t hesitate to contact us! For speedy scheduling, call us at (651) 228-9200 today.

Faulty Heating Element

Water heater with open panels showing internal wiring.

Water heaters consist of two heating elements.

A lack of hot water often results from a faulty heating element. Electric water heaters have two heating elements. Over time, the first one may burn out, making the water cool down faster. Then, you're left with cold water if the second element also stops functioning.

Signs of a faulty heating element include:

  • Hot water shortage
  • Rusty or cloudy water
  • Water heater leaks and noises

While anyone can experience a faulty heating element, you’re more at risk if you’ve owned your water heater for 15 years or longer. Poor installations, improper maintenance, and power surges can also negatively impact your heater.

If you suspect you have a faulty heating element, our team can help. Since 1918, we’ve provided local homeowners with prompt, high-quality plumbing services, including tank water heater repairs and tankless water heater repairs. Whether you need quick maintenance or a more comprehensive repair, you can trust MSP’s experts to get the job done.

Broken Dip Tube

Every water heater has different moving parts, all of which work together to produce a steady flow of hot water for your home. If even one of these parts isn’t working properly, it can cause problems throughout your entire water system.

One element that plays a vital role in overall water heater performance is the dip tube. It is a long, plastic tube that connects the cold water inlet to the bottom of the heater. In a functional water heater, the cold water warms up before rising to join the hot water at the top of the tank. A broken dip tube will lead to the cold water mixing with the hot water, leading to lukewarm showers. The causes of a broken dip tube include:

  • Water acidity: Water chemistry and heat can change the structure of the dip tube.
  • Material quality: Dip tubes made of plastic are more prone to wear and tear.
  • Old age: The average dip tube lasts between eight and 12 years.
  • Defective product: Some water heaters may have come with defective dip tubes.

In addition to producing tepid water, a broken dip tube can lead to tiny flecks of plastic in your water supply. The easiest way to resolve the issue is by replacing the dip tube entirely. Our experienced plumbers can evaluate your water heater, diagnose the problem and – if necessary – perform the replacement.

Sediment Buildup

Diagram showing sediment buildup in a water heater.

Water heaters can have sediment buildup at the bottom of them.

Sometimes, your hot water might become cold out of the blue. Other times, it’s more of a gradual change. If your hot water is getting increasingly colder over time, sediment buildup may be the culprit. Over time, accumulated sediment at the bottom of your water heater interferes with the system's ability to produce hot water.

So, where does this sediment come from? Believe it or not, it originates from the water itself. Your water contains small amounts of dissolved minerals like calcium and magnesium. Because they’re heavier than water, they settle down to the bottom of your tank, where they can block the heating element from reaching your water. Signs of sediment buildup include:

  • Popping noises from the tank
  • Rusty or odorous hot water
  • Diminished water supply
  • Leaks near the drain valve

In most cases, a plumber can resolve this issue through flushing. In this procedure, the plumber will drain the tank to “flush” out the sediment and then inspect it before refilling it.

Old Age

Old rusted skinny water heater

Old water heaters might be too rusted to function.

There is no shortage of reasons why a water heater might stop producing hot water. Sometimes, there’s a specific reason behind the problem, such as a broken dip tube or sediment buildup. Alternatively, your water heater may simply stop working due to old age.

Generally, a residential water heater can last anywhere from six to thirteen years. As a heater reaches the end of its lifespan, you may notice issues like lukewarm water, a depleted water supply, or water discoloration. You can extend your water heater's lifespan by doing the following:

  • Scheduling regular maintenance: Your water heater should be flushed and drained at least once a year.
  • Installing a water softener: If you have hard water (or water with lots of minerals), a water softener may help reduce sediment buildup.
  • Avoiding crowding: Leave space around your water heater to promote air circulation and facilitate maintenance check-ups.

As your water heater ages, repairs are inevitable. Eventually, you will need to get a complete replacement.

Get Your Water Heater Back to Normal With MSP!

Contact MSP Plumbing Heating Air today at (651) 228-9200 if you’re looking for speedy, trustworthy plumbers to diagnose the issue. Our same-day water heater repairs and water heater installations, upfront rates, and commitment to quality make us stand out!

We are committed to outstanding service, prompt response rates, and honest prices. In addition to accurately diagnosing the cause of your water heater issues, we’ll provide a comprehensive solution.