Why Does My Water Heater Keep Turning Off?

More often than not, we love using hot water for a massive range of different uses. Some people prefer to use hot water so that they don’t need to wait for what feels like 30 minutes or even longer for a pot of water to boil, just so they can start making lunch. 

Others would much rather take a hot shower even in summer so that they don’t feel like they’re freezing. No matter what we use the hot water for, we would much rather keep our water heaters running well than have a sudden blast of cold water no matter which way we turn the tap. Unfortunately, this is one of the most common problems homeowners can run into.

If you find that your water heater keeps turning off or lowering its settings soon after it turns on and want to know the answer to the question, “why does my heater keep turning off?”, there are many different reasons that can cause this to happen. 

Often the cause of the issue can be fixed easily at home or might simply need a replacement part in order to work well. Sometimes, even a little cleaning and maintenance works wonders towards fixing the problem.

For more information on the question “why does my water heater keep turning off”, we’ve collected some of the main causes and how you can go about fixing it yourself.

 As always, when it comes to plumbing work that you might feel uncomfortable doing yourself or if you don’t want to accidentally damage the systems, contact Clover Contracting.

Do water heaters turn off?

Though the fact’s not as well known as it could be, some types of water heaters do turn on and off throughout the day. 

Many tank type water heaters often activate their heating elements to heat the water inside whenever it isn’t used for a while and gets too cold. Once the water reaches a set temperature, it shuts off the heating elements until the water needs reheating again. The process repeats until the water inside is sent to faucets and new cold water is brought in. 

Tankless heaters work similarly, though only turning on the heating element when someone turns a faucet onto hot. 

However, water heaters don’t really turn off more than they simply lower their settings. When you turn the tap off and stop using hot water or the tank stops its heating elements, the system lowers its energy use. Once that’s achieved, the system goes into a standby mode until it’s needed again. While they can be turned off, the water heater itself can’t do it automatically, and needs external and manual input to turn off. 

The pilot light or tube is dirty

Occasionally, the main cause in many gas powered water heaters is the pilot light is too dirty or the tube it comes from is clogged or also dirty. Some water heaters use a small flame to heat the water that comes through, shrinking back down when not in use. 

In more electrical models, this is instead a small light that activates the burners inside. If the bulb isn’t well lit or the flame is too weak, the burners inside the system won’t activate as they should and the water heater “turns off”.

In the case of the pilot light being unclean or loose, all you need to do is tighten its connections and clean off any grime. 

Occasionally, a pilot flame’s tubes might also be the cause and to fix the issue, you again need to clean out the tube. If the flame still isn’t as big as it should be – roughly an inch and a half when on – then the adjustment knob for the flame was likely accidentally turned too low. Just turn it back up to an appropriate level.

The gas supply isn’t enough

Another of the more simple answers to the question, “why does my heater keep turning off?” is that the flow of gas to the pilot light isn’t enough. 

These pilot lights are what activates the burner which in turn heats the water. If the light won’t stay on for a long enough time, the water heater will turn on before suddenly turning back off too early. This solution is also quite easy. 

If you can get access to the gas supply lines that are connected to the water heater, check to ensure that all the valves are open. If they are, you might need to call a technician.

The water heater’s thermocouple is dirty or damaged

If your pilot light can be lit but it keeps going back out, make sure you check that your water heater’s thermocouple is fine. 

When it comes to working with gas powered heaters, the electrical thermocouple is what makes sure that the lit pilot light flame stays on and that the gas supply that it needs stays on as long as it should. If the thermocouple is dirty or damaged, the pilot light goes out which causes the burner to stop. 

When you go to check if the thermocouple is the reason as to why your heater keeps turning off, do be aware that the electrical switch is right beside the pilot light. If it’s just dirty, turn the gas off first, since you need to make sure the part is properly cool beforehand. Once it’s cooled enough, just wipe off any caked on dirt. If the part is damaged, you will need to replace it.

The electrical components are breaking down

Though many water heaters also have some electrical components, electrical heater systems are more likely to face these kinds of issues. However, this is far simpler to find. 

Often, the electrical components inside begin failing, causing the entire heater to stop suddenly. Other times, the cause might be loose wires or a power surge. When it comes to answering the question, “why does my electric heater keep turning off?”, the solution is fairly simple; you either need to replace the parts or tighten any connections.

Why does my heater keep turning off? — Takeaway

There are many potential reasons that can cause your water heater to cycle on and off. However, many of these problems have simple solutions. Always make sure that your pilot light is properly lit first if you own a gas water heater. Once you ensure that it isn’t the cause, searching for what it might be becomes far easier. 

If you would prefer to get a more professional view on the issue and need help fixing it, call our team at Clover Contracting today.

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