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Hello...I have an electric water heater that was put in new around 2007-2008.  I replaced the upper thermostat in the last few years. I haven't had to replace anything else since then.  I have flushed the tank once a year for the last few years.  Lately, I've noticed that first thing in the morning when I take a shower, the water is lukewarm and stays lukewarm for the whole shower...warm enough to get by but definitely not hot.  Then, a few hours later, the shower water is hot like normal but runs cold before being able to finish the shower...definitely doesn't last as long as it used to.  And later on in the day, the hot water from any sink or shower seems to be too hot and requires running more cold at the same time to get the temp to an acceptable level.

I have thought about replacing the lower thermostat but didn't want to do that until I was confident that this would fix the problem.  What should I do?  Thanks in advance.

Answer
Hello Charles,
There are a number of different things that could cause the scenario.

To test the elements "non-electrically"...

A quick and easy way to check to see if one or both of your elements are bad is to turn on the hot tap water at a faucet in a sink at your home. If the water is hot for a short period of time and then becomes cold, you likely have a burned-out bottom element and need to replace it. You see, with only a top element heating, the water will heat hot on top, but the thermostat will turn off the element before the water in the bottom can be heated.
If water out of the faucet is only warm and not hot, it is likely that the top element needs to be changed. One heater cannot handle the heating demand of the volume of water in the tank, thus warm water.

If you actually want to test the individual elements with a meter, follow the instructions here;
http://homerepair.about.com/od/plumbingrepair/ss/element_replace_2.htm

Another thing to consider is a broken "dip tube". A dip tube is a plastic pipe extension of the cold water inlet that injects the cold water at the bottom of the tank rather than at the top. Since the hot water system is a closed system, whatever you draw off hot water, cold water automatically replaces it. If this water dumped right in the top of the tank (where you would typically find the hottest water you to convection) it would dilute that hot water and make it come out just warm. Hence the dip tube. Sometimes these dip tubes just deteriorate and fall off. The way to check is to turn off the valve on the cold water inlet side, open a faucet somewhere and bleed off any residual pressure and the disconnect the feedline on the cold waterside at the top of the tank. The dip tube is a three or 4 foot long plastic pipe with a flared end at the top of her and so it will not fall through. You should be able to stick your finger down inside the dip tube, crook your finger a bit and lift the tube up and out. Depending on the clearance overhead, you may be able to lift it all of the way out. If it "comes up short so to speak", that is a problem and it should be replaced.
Good luck,
Dana

Plumbing in the Home

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Dana Bostick

Expertise

Pretty much any residential plumbing questions. For "item specific" details such as a specific model of fixture, I will need to research and there may not be any useful information available. Note: I live and work in Southern California. We do not, as a rule, use hot water or steam heating systems, oil fired boilers or private water wells so my knowledge in those areas is pretty limited. There are others here on AllExerts that can probably answer those questions better.

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Retired, Licensed General Contractor with Plumbing license. Active Home Inspector, Litigation Consultant and Infrared Thermographer, Online Marketing specialist.

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30+ years in the building trades, Licensed General Contractor (Retired), Certified Infrared Thermographer Internet Entrepreneur, Amazon & eBay Merchant (deals-by-dana)

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Listed FHA Fee Inspector, FHA 203(k)Consultant, HUD Mobile Home Inspector

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