Electric hot water heater not staying as hot

debo_2006November 27, 2010

Our 80 gallon A.O. Smith electric hot water heater was install in 1990 when the ex-owners lived here with 4 people. We have a 4 BR, 2.5 bath, plus another powder room in basement. There have been 2 of us living here since 7/1993.

Last week I couldn't get hot water from the kitchen faucet. We found the breaker has tripped. We replaced it and that hasn't happened again since. But, I'm finding the hot water doesn't stay as hot for as long. I take long showers (15-20 mins - I'm a girl). Yesterday, I noticed toward the end of the shower, I could turn the cold off and the hot water was fine on my skin when rinsing - I like it hot - but, usually, it would burn me if cold wasn't on too. On a different day, my husband took a short showers and noticed the water wasn't staying as hot either. No other water was running when he showered. In the kitchen, it seems like it doesn't get as hot as it used to.

So, we're looking into replacing our tank with a Bradford White 80 gal. But, it makes me wonder if the current one just needs a minor fix (with the help of a plumber it see what it could be). I'd hate to spend $$ on a plumber just to possibly find we need a new one after all. The current one is 20 yrs old which is old for a heater.

Thoughts. Thanks in advance.

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20 years is very old, but the fix could be as simple as one of the heating elements has failed.

They are relatively easy to replace, but do require a large socket to unscrew the element.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 2:35PM
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I also suspect one element has failed and also agree 20 years is very old, it's really a flood waiting to happen.

New HW heaters are also much better insulated so if you chose to replace it, you might find a lower power bill.

I would stick with the 80 gal heater size, it's good for resale and you're right, potentially, there could be a lot of water use in your house. I know there's a table/formula for calculating heater size based on bedroom numbers. My wife and I can use enough out of our 40 gal has heater to require you to turn the cold off at the end of the second shower.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 4:56PM
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Thank you. We've decided it's best to get the new heater being this one is so OLD. Better safe than sorry, and why wait till it stops working, right. Maybe the tripped breaker was a sign.

    Bookmark   November 27, 2010 at 9:59PM
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be subsidies for the more efficient models

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 3:27PM
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I'll probably be going with a Bradford White model, either:

M-20h380R60s EF of 91, 1st hour rating 92 or
M-280-r6ds EF of 88, 1st hour rating 92

I didn't see a BW model with an EF of 95+ electric that would qualify for the tax credit.

Both have 2" insulation.

Here is a link that might be useful: BW electric heaters

    Bookmark   November 28, 2010 at 3:44PM
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Hi, I have a very similar problem as the OP. I have similar usage pattern as OP and almost identical symtoms as the OP described.

The only differences are my water heater is Bradford White using propane gas and only 12 yrs old, and breaker never tripped. Any suggestions what I can do? Is there a simple routine I can perform to diagnose where the problem is?

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 10:04AM
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Gas fueled water heaters (propane or NG) us a burner and flue pipe that runs up the middle of the tank.

Short output form them is more likely the dip tube that is used to inject new cold water at the bottom of the tank.

If the dip tube breaks off the cold water is introduced higher up in the tank.

The hot water at the bottom (below the break) get mixed with the incoming cold water.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 10:27AM
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Hi Sara in philly.....I'm just outside Philly - Chester County.

If you search on "water heater forum" you will find some great forums with lots of info including some on how to self-diagnose things with your heater. I'm assuming some here will feel it's best to get a plumber to do this, BUT, from reading what the pros suggest, some things can be self-diagnosed with the proper tool - a measuring device of some sort, I think, that measures the junk in the tank....There's also a step-by-step site on things to check out with problem water heaters, but unfortunately, I didn't save the site.

There's a wealth of info to learn on those sites.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 1, 2010 at 11:56AM
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Hi Debi, we are neighbors!

Thanks for the info.

I like to self-diagnose a little bit to get a feeling of what's wrong first. Your info is very helpful. I am heading to the "water heater forum".

Have you installed the new water heater yet? Hope it works out well for you.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   December 2, 2010 at 12:12PM
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