A lack of hot water isn't necessarily a plumbing emergency, but not having hot water is extremely inconvenient and it can get your morning off to a bad start. Multiple things can cause your water heater to quit heating the water. Here's a look at some of them.
The Circuit Breaker Tripped
Your water heater probably has its own circuit and breaker. The rest of the house might have power, but there may be no power going to the water heater. Check the electrical panel and reset the circuit breaker to see if that fixes the problem.
In addition, you can remove the small panel on the side of the water heater and push the reset button to see if your water heater will start working again. However, if the reset button goes off again or if the circuit breaker flips back off, there could be a wiring problem with your heater and you should leave the heater off until a water heater repair service can check the heater and make repairs.
The Dip Tube Is Broken
A dip tube connects to the cold water inlet on the water heater. The tube goes down the inside of the tank almost to the bottom so cold water will fill the tank near the bottom where there are heating elements. This gives the water time to get hot before it rises to the top of the tank to flow through your plumbing.
If the dip tube breaks, cold water leaks out near the top of the tank. The top has a heating element too, but it may not be able to heat the water before it flows out of the tank. If the dip tube is bad, the water might be cold or lukewarm. The warm water might also run out much quicker than normal. A plumber can fix this problem by putting in a new dip tube.
A Heating Element Is Bad
An electric water heater relies on heating elements to make the water hot. If the top or bottom element goes bad, it has to be replaced so the water can get heated up again. Each heating element has a thermostat, and if the thermostat goes bad, the element may not heat properly. The upper heating element also has a limit switch that keeps the water from getting too hot. If this switch malfunctions, it can trigger the reset button and keep your water from getting hot.
A water heater repair service can test the heating elements, wiring, thermostats, and limit switch with a multi-meter to see if one of the parts is malfunctioning. If so, the plumber can replace the malfunctioning part. This is usually possible so you won't have to replace the entire water heater unless it exhibits other more serious problems.