It’s early morning. You crawl out of your warm bed. It’s time for a shower before work. You crank the taps, undress, and hop in, only to be struck with an ice-cold deluge. Something is wrong and your water won’t get hot, but why?
Your shower water is cold because you’re out of hot water, the temperature gauge is turned down, or the water heater needs to be fixed. Other reasons could be a malfunctioning shower mixing valve, a faulty anti-scalding valve, or a faulty dip tube.
This article will explore 5 reasons why your shower water is cold, plus how to fix it. I will also include an expert opinion, average repair costs, and info about tankless water heaters.
5 Reasons Your Shower Water Is Cold + Fixes
There are a variety of reasons that you get only cold shower water. Some don’t require a professional plumber. You may have just run out of hot water due to overuse, your water heater’s temperature gauge may have been turned down, or you might have a faulty dip tube. However, there are many other possible culprits.
Drew Peacock, a professional plumber and owner of Drew Peacock Plumbing, explains:
“The pressure balance could be stuck to the cold side, the integral stop could be shut off, the water heater may not be working, the [faucet] cartridge could be upside-down… the anti-scald limiting device may be set to low, [the] tempering valve may have [gone] bad and defaulted to cold, etc.”
In short, there are many potential reasons you’re not getting hot water in your shower. I will explore these problems below in layperson’s terms. Provided your issue is one of the five listed in this article, you may be able to figure out which problem is the culprit yourself. Still, you’ll need to troubleshoot and likely rely on a professional for repairs.
To start, check that your water heater is on and functioning correctly. Check the temperature setting, too. Your water heater may be in the basement, garage, attic, or an out-of-the-way closet. Next, check your other faucets and see if they produce hot water. This will help you narrow down the possible sources of your cold water issue.
1. Your Hot Water Has Been Used Up
If your water heater seems to be on and functioning correctly, but none of your faucets produce hot water, it may be that you’ve exhausted the hot water supply. Has anyone taken a hot bath or a long shower today? Have you been washing clothes and dishes?
Hot water tanks can only hold so much water! Once it’s gone, you’ll have to let the hot water heater refill.
How To Fix
Wait for the hot water to be replenished. This usually takes only 30 minutes to an hour. However, this depends upon the size of your tank and how much water is being used throughout the house. If someone is washing dishes or doing laundry, it may take longer.
2. Your Water Heater Temperature Is Turned Down
Before assuming something is wrong with the heater or the plumbing, check the temperature gauge on your water heater. Suppose someone has been working on or near the water heater recently. In that case, it’s possible they turned the temperature down or even bumped the knob accidentally.
How To Fix
Turn the temperature on the water heater gauge up. Wait at least thirty minutes to an hour for the water to heat. If the water isn’t hot after an hour, there is some other problem going on without shower or your water heater.
Checking the temperature can also help you suss out another possible reason for cold water. If the heater is on and the temperature is set correctly, you may need a new dip tube. Check #4 on this list for more info.
3. Your Dip Tube Is Faulty
Water heaters have a dip tube, where cold water enters and fills the storage and heating chamber of your heater. Dips tubes can crack or fall apart over time, causing cold water to mix with your hot water. It then flows into the hot water feeding pipe, which takes it directly to your faucets. This can result in water that never quite gets hot.
How To Fix
Replace the dip tube. This can be a DIY fix. If so, the part will cost around $10. If you want to try doing the repair yourself, check out this YouTube tutorial:
If you’re not comfortable doing the repair yourself, a professional plumber will charge you around $150.
4. Your Water Heater Is Malfunctioning
There are two leading causes of malfunction in electric water heaters: one is a faulty thermostat and the other is a burnt-out heating element. If one of these issues is your culprit, the water heater may heat only for short periods, or it may not turn on.
The two leading causes of malfunction in gas water heaters are a faulty thermocouple and a faulty gas control valve. A faulty thermocouple is often the reason your pilot light has gone out.
A faulty gas valve is often the problem when the thermocouple and pilot light are functioning correctly, but you still don’t get heat. This is a more serious issue as it makes operating the water heater unsafe.
How To Fix
For electric water heaters, you will need a professional plumber to replace your heating element and/or thermostat, costing $150-$300.
For gas-powered water heaters, you will need a replacement thermocouple or gas control valve. Thermocouples usually cost around $20, but professional repairs cost around $150. Gas control valve replacement requires a professional plumber because of the dangers of gas leakage. It can cost up to $500.
5. A Valve Is Malfunctioning
Suppose your water heater works correctly, and you get hot water from all the other faucets in your house. In that case, the problem is likely one of your temperature mixing valves. The shower’s mixing valve allows you to adjust the mix of cold and hot water to get the desired temperature in your shower. If this valve fails, it may allow only cold water to come through.
Another temperature valve, the anti-scalding valve, can malfunction as well. As the name suggests, it adds enough cold water to your hot water to prevent scalding even if you turn the hot water tap all the way up. If faulty, it could get stuck in the cold position and prevent hot water from reaching the faucet.
Finally, the shower cartridge is a type of valve that controls water flow from your faucet to your showerhead. If this is malfunctioning or is installed improperly (i.e., backward), you may only get cold water.
How To Fix
Replace the malfunctioning valve(s). This repair is best done by a professional because it often requires going through the wall or floor to access the necessary valve. Valve repair costs around $300 but may cost as much as $500, depending on which valve needs replacing and how difficult it is to access.
Tankless Water Heaters – The Ultimate Solution
Suppose you’re tired of running out of hot water and dealing with annoying water heater repairs. In that case, tankless water heaters are an excellent solution that could save you time, money, and a lot of frustration. These heaters are great because they take up less space, use less electricity, are more environmentally friendly, and you never run out of hot water!
To learn more about them, check out my other article on the pros and cons of tankless water heaters.
The most common reasons for cold shower water include the tank being exhausted, the temperature being turned down, or the thermostat being broken. The heating elements or mixing valves could also be broken, or your dip tube could be the issue. Whatever the case, a professional plumber is your best option for repairs.
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