Tired of taking lukewarm showers during winter? Struggling to wash dishes with water that won’t get hot enough? It’s probably due to problems with your water heater or home plumbing. So why is my hot water only warm?

In this article, we’ll talk about why your heater taps keeps producing lukewarm water, how to troubleshoot the issue and prevent future occurrences, and when to give the pros a telephone call. Let’s get started!

Common Causes of Lukewarm Water

You’re not alone if you ask yourself, “Why is my hot water only warm?”. Experiencing lukewarm water is quite common in an Australian household as is no hot water in your shower. Below are some of the common culprits causing it:

Malfunctioning Thermostat

A malfunctioning thermostat is one of the main reasons your heater spouts lukewarm water. This component regulates the temperature of the water flowing through your hot water system. If it’s faulty or incorrectly calibrated, it won’t be able to signal the heating element to warm the water to your desired temperature.

To resolve this issue, call a professional plumber and have them inspect and replace the faulty thermostat. Don’t try to fix it alone, as it may lead to further complications.

Faulty Heating Element

Powered by gas or electricity, the heating element plays a vital role in your hot water system. Without it, you won’t be able to enjoy any hot water. And when it malfunctions, it will deliver lukewarm results or worse.

Call your trusted professional plumber if you suspect the faulty heating element is to blame. That way, they can assess the situation and determine if a hot water system repair or replacement is needed.

Sediment Buildup

Minerals and debris can sometimes accumulate within your heater’s built-in storage tank (if any) and pipes. These sediments will eventually take their toll on your system, resulting in poorer performance and lukewarm water.

To prevent this buildup, flush and clean your water heater periodically. Try soaking it with vinegar for around 6 hours. If you need help dealing with sediments, consult a professional plumber.

Leaks and Other Damages

Leaks, cracks, and other forms of damage can also impact your heater’s performance. With water and heat flowing out of your system, the remaining water will become less warm than expected.

If you notice water or heat oozing from your heater’s tank or tubes, address it immediately. Apply the suitable sealants on any minor cracks and damages you see. For more significant issues, call your trusted plumber.

Incorrect Temperature Setting

Incorrectly adjusting your heater’s temperature setting will also result in lukewarm water. If you set it too low, the water may not reach the desired hotness.

To remedy this, check your water heater’s manual for instructions on adjusting its temperature settings correctly. Be cautious not to set it too high, though! Otherwise, you might end up scalding yourself.

Partially Closed Valves

A partially closed valve can restrict the flow of hot water, which can sometimes lead to lower water temperatures. So make sure all valves leading to your water heater are fully open to allow for proper water flow.

If you suspect this issue, check all valves leading to your water heater and ensure they are fully open. If the problem persists, contacting a professional plumber for further assistance may be necessary.

Clogged Pipes

A clog in the pipes can obstruct the hot water flow, reducing the water temperature. Over time, mineral deposits or debris can accumulate and restrict water flow.

Try using drain cleaners specifically designed to remove mineral deposits to fix this. Or reach out to a plumber who can professionally clean the pipes.

Demand Exceeding Supply

Simultaneous hot water usage exceeding the capacity of your system can dilute the available hot water, resulting in lukewarm temperatures. This situation commonly occurs during high-demand periods, such as when multiple showers or appliances run simultaneously.

To manage hot water usage during high-demand periods, consider staggering usage or using efficient appliances that require less hot water. This can help ensure an adequate supply of hot water for your needs.

Dip Tube Problems

The dip tube in your water heater tank is responsible for heating cold water from the bottom of the tank. If the dip tube is broken, cracked, or dislodged, it can affect the temperature of the water.

If you suspect an issue with the dip tube, consult a professional plumber. They can assess the situation and recommend whether repairing or replacing the dip tube is necessary.

Pressure Balancing Valve

Pressure balancing valves play a vital role in maintaining a consistent temperature for your hot water. If these valves malfunction, they can cause warm instead of hot water. Such a valve issue may require professional assistance from a plumber experienced with water heaters.

Electrical Issues

Electrical connection problems or tripped circuit breakers can disrupt the water heating process, resulting in lukewarm water. If you suspect an electrical issue, check the connections and circuit breakers to ensure they function correctly. If in doubt, contact a qualified electrician for assistance.

Aging Equipment

As water heaters age, their ability to adequately heat water may diminish. If your water heater is old and inefficient, it may struggle to heat hot water quickly at the desired temperature.

Steps to Troubleshoot Your Water Heater

Experiencing lukewarm water is not exactly hazardous for your well-being. In fact, it can lead to great results. A study by Vinu A. Vij and Anjali S. Joshi found that drinking warm water can boost your metabolism by 30%. Another study (this time by J.P. Patel and her colleagues) even said that it helps senior citizens sleep better.

Still, it can be very frustrating if you want hot water and don’t get it. But before calling a professional, try these troubleshooting steps first. Doing so might help you resolve the issue.

Check Thermostat Setting

Begin by verifying the thermostat setting on your water heater. Sometimes, the temperature might have been inadvertently lowered. Adjust it to your desired temperature range for hot water.

Flush the Tank

Sediment buildup within the tank can hinder proper heating. Turn off the water heater and attach a hose to the drain valve. Drain a few gallons of water to remove sediment and improve heating efficiency.

Inspect the Dip Tube

A malfunctioning dip tube can mix cold water with hot water, resulting in lukewarm water. Shut off the water and electricity/gas to the heater, remove the cold-water inlet pipe, and inspect the dip tube for damages. Replace if necessary.

Assess the Heating Element

If you have an electric water heater, check the heating elements. Turn off the power, remove the access panel, and test the elements’ resistance using a multimeter. Replace any faulty components.

Evaluate the Thermocouple Inspection

For gas water heaters, a faulty thermocouple can lead to inadequate heating. Ensure the pilot light is on. If it doesn’t stay lit or the burner doesn’t ignite, the thermocouple might need replacement.

Maintenance Tips to Prevent Future Issues

Once you finish troubleshooting and resolving the problems in your hot water system, you must ensure it keeps working properly. Below are some of the best tips to prevent future lukewarm water issues:

Flush the Tank Regularly

Sediment buildup is a common cause of lukewarm water. Schedule a tank flush every six to twelve months to remove accumulated debris, allowing your heater to work efficiently.

Check the Anode Rod

The sacrificial anode rod helps prevent corrosion within the tank. Inspect it annually and replace it if it’s heavily corroded to extend the tank’s lifespan.

Monitor the T&P Valve

Test the temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve every six months by lifting its lever to release some water. This helps prevent pressure buildup and ensures the valve’s proper functioning.

Adjust the Thermostat Mindfully

While higher temperatures can scald and waste energy, excessively low settings can lead to lukewarm water. Keep the thermostat between 49 to 60°C for safe and efficient water heating.

Inspect for Leaks and Drips

Regularly check for any signs of leaks or drips around your water heater. Addressing these issues promptly can prevent more extensive problems and water temperature fluctuations.

Keep the Area Clear

Ensure the space around your water heater is free from clutter. Proper ventilation and clearance help your heater operate efficiently and prevent overheating.

Get Professional Tune-Ups

Schedule annual professional maintenance checks. Experienced technicians can identify and address potential issues before they escalate, ensuring optimal performance.

Address Water Quality

Hard water can lead to mineral buildup in your heater. Consider using a water softener or installing a water treatment system to improve water quality and extend your heater’s life.

When to Seek Professional Help

While you can quickly resolve many of the lukewarm water issues through the troubleshooting steps above, there are instances when it’s better to call an expert. These include:

No Improvement After DIY Efforts

If you’ve followed troubleshooting steps like adjusting the thermostat, flushing the tank, and inspecting components, yet the water temperature remains lukewarm, it’s time to call a professional. Persistent issues indicate underlying problems that require specialised knowledge to diagnose and fix.

Fluctuating Water Temperatures

Inconsistent water temperatures – hot one moment and lukewarm the next – can signify complex internal issues. Professional technicians have the expertise to identify and address these fluctuations, restoring your water heater’s optimal performance.

Unusual Noises and Odours

Strange sounds like popping, hissing, or rumbling, coupled with foul odours from your water heater, suggest potential problems such as sediment buildup, mineral deposits, or even gas leaks (in gas heaters). These issues demand immediate professional attention to prevent safety hazards and restore efficient heating.

Leaking or Pooling Water

Water leakage around your water heater is a serious concern that requires urgent professional intervention. Leaks can lead to water damage, mould growth, and compromised heater functionality. A technician can identify the source of the leak and take appropriate measures.

Gas Heater Issues

If you have a gas water heater and encounter lukewarm water problems, consulting a professional is especially important. Gas heaters involve combustion processes and potential gas leaks, which can be dangerous if mishandled. Professionals are trained to handle gas heater repairs safely.

Limited Hot Water Supply

When your water heater provides insufficient hot water, it might indicate issues with the heating element, thermostat, or other components. A professional can diagnose the root cause and recommend necessary repairs or replacements.

Old or Outdated Systems

A water heater has an average lifespan of 8 to 12 years. Past this threshold, you might experience lukewarm water issues. A professional can guide you in choosing a suitable and energy-efficient replacement.