Loss of Hot Water

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by reneekat17, May 2, 2012.

  1. reneekat17

    reneekat17 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    California
    Recently, the amount of hot water to my shower/tub has decreased in quantity. Before, my daughter would take an hour shower and still have hot water - now I am running out of hot water in under 10 minutes. No changes have been made to the plumbing or hot water heater. Water heater is gas, holds 40 gallons, is about 1-2 years old, and is turned all the way up to HOT. What could be causing this issue and how would I fix it?:confused:
  2. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,819
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Either someone changed the shower head to one that uses more water. Or the dip tube in the water heater is becoming shorter.
  3. reneekat17

    reneekat17 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    California
    We are using the same shower head that we have been using. The hot water flow has also lessened, even as it does not last as long. If it is the dip tube, what do I need to do to fix it? The heater is only about 2 years old. I am a complete novice when it comes to this stuff, but as a single mom I need to figure it out.
  4. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,078
    Location:
    Maine
    How about the fixtures in the rest of the house? If the heater is only two years old and the other fixtures are not running out (run the kitchen sink for 10 - 20 minutes) then I would be looking at the balancing spool on your tub/shower
  5. reneekat17

    reneekat17 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    California
    Discovered the water heater is actually 5 years old and, of course, two months out of warranty. I drained the tank today and will see if that resolved the issue as someone told me that it could be sediment built up inside reducing amount of hot water. However, I did not see flakes of anything drain out, just a little soapy-looking residue on top of the water. While draining the tank, I ran the hot water in tub and in less than 5 minutes it was cold. If this does not work, I will try to figure out the dip tube. Tom, I have no idea what the balancing spool is or how to fix it.?
  6. Tom Sawyer

    Tom Sawyer In the Trades

    Messages:
    3,078
    Location:
    Maine
    If your tub shower valve is pressure/temperature balanced it has a cartridge in there that may be malfunctioning
  7. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,311
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Checking and replacing the dip stick is quite easy. It is located under the cold water intake. It has a flared end that just hangs under the pipe nipple. You do have to remove the water intake and the nipple on the top of the tank. While this is not a high tech job, you have to have some basic tools like a pipe wrench. Once the nipple is removed, you can fish the dip tube or what's left of it, out with you pinky finger. It should reach to the bottom of the tank. If it has broken, you can get a new one at most any hardware or plumbing shop. You may have to short it. The incoming cold water is directed to the bottom of the tank where it is heated. The heated water rises to the top. If the tube is broken, the cold water never reached the bottom so you only will have a small amount of hot water. Now, this may not be the problem, but it is very quick and easy to check and cheap to fix if it is the problem. If the tube is intact, then plans B and C may have to be implemented.
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,834
    Location:
    New England
    A dip tube is used in a WH to direct the cold water to the bottom of the tank. If it is defective, the incoming water mixes with the hot at the top of the tank (where it goes out to the house), and things cool off very fast.

    A pressure balance spool valve is part of the anti-scald safety part of a shower valve. If it gets stuck partially to one side, it will restrict the volume of hot water available. On some fixtures, this is a separate thing that can be replaced; on some others, it is built into the cartridge.

    If one of the other valves in the house is worn or defective, it could be acting as a cross-over, diluting the hot with the cold. The actual flow depends somewhat on the overall routing of the water pipes - water will flow through the path of least restriction, and if there is a cross-over somewhere, it could be via the cold water path.
  9. reneekat17

    reneekat17 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Location:
    California
    Tom,
    In what area of the fixture would I find the balancing spool? I have three knobs (hot, cold, and shower turn on). The shower walls are lined with old tile and there is no opening with which to get behind the tiles or under the tub, except at the knobs and shower head (2 inch cut outs). The plumbing is probably as old as the house (50 years). How much would it cost to bring in a plumber to do this work, as I am on limited income? Thanks.
  10. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,834
    Location:
    New England
    It sounds like your shower valve was installed prior to any of the safety features being required...so, it is unlikely that it has a spool valve.

    If you just open up the hot valve, is the water hot? Do you have good flow? If not, it could be multiple things:
    - if your supply pipes are galvanized (possible on an older install), they could be all rusted up and restricting the flow
    - if there is an input filter to the valve, it could be clogged up with crud
    - there could be something blocking the flow - maybe a bad washer or some other stuff

    In the long term (maybe short!), you might want to budget to replace the old valve system with a new one that has the anti-scald technology. This can be done by cutting a larger hole from the front, but is easier from the rear if there's access. Then, to cover the larger hole, most companies sell a remodeling or rennovation plate that fits underneath the 'normal' trim to cover the now larger hole. This works for most, unless the existing handles are REALLY far apart, which is not common.
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