Possible Plumbing Issues Causing Cold Showers

There are a few water-related events that no homeowner ever wants to deal with, and one of these is the occurrence of cold showers. Have you or anyone else in your home recently begun to experience showers that either are cold from the start or quickly become cold after very little hot water has come out? You’re surely looking for ways to remedy this situation, and looking at a few plumbing areas is often one of the simplest ways to do so.

At My Buddy the Plumber, we’re here to help with numerous plumbing services, from simple jobs like maintenance and upkeep through major projects like sewer line repair, tankless water heater installation and several others. We’ve assisted many clients who are dealing with cold shower water, an issue that might trace back to a few different concerns taking place somewhere within your plumbing system. What are some of the most common culprits in cold showers, and how can you remove these risks? Here’s a primer.

plumbing issues causing cold showers

Simple Capacity Issues

In many cases, the simple reality is that your home’s system does not have enough hot water present to service all your appliances that require it. This might be the case if you have several guests staying over, for instance, or in other situations where you’ve recently installed a new dishwasher or washing machine that also uses hot water.

Especially if you’re trying to run more than one major hot water appliance at once, or at times near one another, these issues could arise. For instance, if you’re running a full load of dishes plus a laundry run while someone is attempting to take a hot shower, your hot water capacity may not be high enough to meet all these needs, and the shower may suffer first. While tankless water heaters come with higher capacities than water heater tanks, even these may struggle if too much hot water is being demanded at once.

If you have guests over or are using hot water in greater amounts than you would normally, you will simply have to take care in terms of timing your usage. If these issues are taking place during your normal day-to-day life, however, you should consider a new water heater with a greater capacity.

Water Heater Settings

In other cases, your hot water heater might not be tuned properly. One of the most common issues in this realm is a heater that isn’t set to a high enough temperature – the standard temperature for water heaters is around 120 degrees Fahrenheit, but some may be accidentally set significantly below this.

This is especially common for older water heaters, where temperature controls may be hidden behind a panel. You might have to unscrew the panel housing to adjust the dial, a process that might require the assistance of our plumbers in some cases. Many water heaters today, however, have a digital interface or a dial directly on the outside that you can easily adjust. If the dial in question doesn’t have actual numbers on it, contact either a plumber or the manufacturer to determine the ideal setting.

Water Heater Defects

Now, there are other situations where even properly-tuned water heaters won’t work properly, generally due to defects that have built up over time. For gas water heaters, these issues include:

  • Pilot light: If your pilot light has burned out in a gas water heater, ignition will not be possible and warming will not take place. The pilot light needs to be re-lit in this case.
  • Burner: The burner may have worn down or stopped working over time, and will require replacement or repair.
  • Gas supply: Check all gas lines and valves to ensure they’re open and allowing gas in.
  • Gas leak: In other cases, you may have a gas leak. If you smell gas or see any other indicators of this event, shut off your gas line right away, leave the home and contact professionals for assistance.

If you have an electric water heater, the issues that cause defects are a bit different:

  • Circuit breaker: Like other electrical appliances, your water heater’s circuit breaker may have been tripped. Check your electrical panel and, if the breaker has indeed tripped, reset it back to the ON position. If this issue happens repeatedly, however, it’s a sight of a faulty or poorly-installed water heater.
  • Cutoff switch: Electric heaters also have high-temperature cutoff switches that stop them from making water too hot and risking burns. These switches can become defective.
  • Leaking tank: This will cause a shorting of electronics in the compartment.
  • Heating element damage: Often due to wear-and-tear over time, the actual heating elements themselves may become damaged and require replacement.

Shower Valve Concerns

There are two shower valve types that also could be contributing to cold water:

  • Basic shower valve: Your shower valve contains a plastic piece that’s meant to stop water from getting too hot and scalding you – this piece will normally be adjusted to the proper level automatically. However, in some showers it will be set too low, stopping enough hot water from reaching the actual showerhead. Tweaking this requires removing the handle from the faucet, a job that some DIY homeowners will be comfortable with – but if you’re not, call our plumbers, who will be happy to help.
  • Mixing valve: Another important valve is the mixing valve, which is responsible for combining hot and cold water to create the desired temperature. These valves, however, may wear out or break over time, especially if one of their o-rings fails. Luckily, these valves are cheap – though they’ll require a plumber’s expertise for replacement.

For more on how to solve issues of a cold shower, or to learn about any of our plumbing or HVAC services, speak to the staff at My Buddy the Plumber today.