Solved: Why Your Water Heater Stopped Working | Ep. 83

Man, on his knees, examining water heater before attempting a repair
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A water heater is a necessity in any home. You need hot water to wash clothes, dishes, and of course to bathe and shower. But what do you do when the appliance stops working?

That’s what happened to Keith in Ocala, Florida, who said, “A couple of months ago, our electric water heater stopped making hot water, but several hours later, it started working again and was fine for more than a week.”

Then, something puzzling happened. “Now it has stopped making hot water altogether,” Keith says. “What could be wrong, and can I fix it myself?”

An electric water heater — which a lot of people call a hot water heater — can malfunction for all kinds of reasons.

For instance, check the circuit breaker to make sure it hasn’t tripped. Then, check the emergency cutoff switch near the appliance’s thermostat. Press it back in, if it’s popped out, to reset functionality.

Next, check the appliance’s heating element to make sure it hasn’t burned out. To do that, cut off power to the water heater, unscrew the access panel to expose the end of the heating element. Then, use a continuity tester on each terminal to make sure the heating element is working. (Listen to the podcast for more details on this process.)

If the water heater’s heating element needs replacement, then it’s time to call in an electrician or plumber.

Listen to the Today’s Homeowner Podcast for more home improvement tips!

  • [1:57] “We removed carpeting in our house and found the oak floor we had hoped for. The flooring is covered with a compound. I’m not sure if it’s a leveling or adhesive. Can you help?”
  • [7:21] Best New Product: DeWalt ATOMIC 20-Volt MAX Brushless Compact Reciprocating Saw
  • [9:04] Danny and Joe discuss lawn care and attacking weeds.
  • [11:02] “I converted a small grassy area into a decorative patio with bricks and large pavers filled in between with loose small river stone. Over the years the area accumulated silt in the river stone and weeds started to grow. Is there an outdoor material that I would be able to pour into the current patio stone design that would bond the river stone in between the larger stone?”
  • [14:15] “I have a deck at the New Jersey Shore, right near the water, and we have stainless steel nails which were put down and they became rusty. Is there anything I can do to clear up the rust?”
  • [16:21] “I want to put stone in my front flowerbed and I was wondering, should I put mulch or a material blocker under it first before I put the stone on it, to help keep the weeds out, or just put the stone in and then spray it every year if I get weeds?”
  • [17:13] “We’re having a lot of air conditioning hot spots on our second level. Wanting to know what you think about duct booster fans and what you would recommend for one.”
  • [18:54] “My family and I are moving into a new house in a few weeks. One of the things I want to do is seal the garage floor before we move in all of our stuff. Our last house had a stained garage floor, but it started peeling where we parked the cars. What can I do differently to prevent that from happening this time?”
  • [22:15] “A couple of months ago, our electric water heater stopped making hot water, but several hours later, it started working again and was fine for more than a week. But now it has stopped making hot water altogether. What could be wrong, and can I fix it myself?”
  • [24:31] Simple Solution: Four ways to keep window-box plants happy and healthy
  • [26:14] Question of the Week: “We had a leak in our family room a few weeks ago. The roof was repaired, and I decided to Kilz the watermark before painting. I used the water-based Kilz Premium Primer/Sealer/Stainblocker, and waited a day before painting with flat ceiling paint. The water stain is gone, but all I see is a shiny area where I put the Kilz. What can I do to fix the shine?”

Simple Solutions

4 Flowerbox Tips: Here are four ways to keep plants in your flowerbox or window box healthy and happy:

• Drill 3/8-inch-diameter drainage holes in the box bottom so the soil doesn’t stay soggy. Space the holes about 8 inches apart.

• To stop soil from washing through the drainage holes, cover the box bottom with an inch of gravel. Or, if you’re concerned about the added weight of the gravel, line the bottom with empty 12-ounce water bottles instead.

• Plant a variety of flowering species of different colors: put flowing vines in front, short plants in the middle and tall plants toward the rear to create an attractive tiered presentation.

• At the end of the season, remove the boxes, empty the soil, and store the boxes indoors until next spring.

White-Ring Remover — When a damp glass is left for too long on a table, it’ll often leave behind a white ring. In some cases, the ring will disappear on its own within 24 hours, as the surface dries out.

However, if the ring doesn’t disappear, try this: Mix equal parts of white vinegar and vegetable oil in a small bowl. Then, use your fingers or soft cloth to rub the solution into the table, working in the direction of the wood grain.

Dry the table with paper towels. If any of the white ring remains, repeat the process.


Question of the Week

Q: “We had a leak in our family room a few weeks ago. The roof was repaired and I decided to Kilz the watermark before painting. I used the water-based Kilz Premium Primer / Sealer / Stainblocker, and waited a day before painting with flat ceiling paint.

The water stain mark is gone, but all I see is a shiny area where I put the Kilz.

I have painted it three times now. What can I do to fix the shine?”

A: We’re not sure why a stainblocker with a flat finish would appear shiny, especially under three coats of flat ceiling paint. But if you repaired the ceiling with joint compound, sometimes that has a sheen to it. What may be shining through is that repaired area.

You may need to repaint the whole ceiling, and maybe try an eggshell or semi-gloss finish. Test this solution in one spot and see if it helps! If it does, then paint the whole ceiling.

In addition, try a middle-of-the-road or premium paint, because sometimes the cheapest one is cheap for a reason.  


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