A shower should be counted on to be good and hot when you need it to be. But keep in mind that the hot water coming from a shower is coming from your hot water heater tank. The water has to start out hot there to supply you with hot water at the showerhead. Although the hot water heater is where you begin to find out why your shower water isn’t getting hot, there may be other causes that limit or deny you a hot shower when you want it.
Make sure the water heater temperature is set correctly. If the water in the shower never gets hot, the problem may be with the temperature control on the water heater. If you have an electric water heater, one of the elements may have burned out and the water either gets hot for only a short length of time, or it never gets hot at all. On older water heaters, the cold water supply dip tube may have deteriorated. Instead of the incoming cold water going straight to the burner for heating, a compromised dip tube may send cold water directly up to the hot water feed pipe. When that happens, you won’t get any hot water. A quick check for that malady is to examine faucet strainers for any bits of plastic pieces that have been caught. Plastic bits caught by a faucet strainer is a sure sign your dip tube has deteriorated and is beginning to break apart.
Determine if the problem is whole-house related or just affecting the shower. Turn on every hot water faucet and check the temperature of the hot water. If they all start out hot but cool quickly, a burner in the water heater may be the cause. If they never get hot, a faulty dip tube may be the problem. But if every faucet produces a decent stream of hot water, then a shower component is the culprit.
The shower valve mixes hot and cold water to give you the perfect temperature shower water. In many cases, the O-rings or washers have worn out, and the valve no longer properly mixes. Turning the valve to “hot” may bring on a flow of cold water. This generally is a do-it-yourself repair, and home supply stores carry the needed parts, washers and other supplies necessary for a successful shower valve repair.
Cross-connected pipes were installed to balance the hot and cold water flow. This generally was done in older homes. With the advent of modern shower valve mixers, cross-connecting was no longer needed. If you have a hand sprayer in the shower, and if it gets hot when the regular shower is turned off, a cross-connection may be an issue. Unless you have access to the shower plumbing behind the wall, this is a difficult do-it-yourself remedy, and a professional plumber is recommended to fix this problem.
Time of Use
Consider your time of use. If the kids are taking showers right before you do, they may have used up all of the hot water. The washing machine also uses up a lot of hot water and taking a shower during a wash load results in a cold shower. Some hot water heaters have specific on and off-cycle times, and if you routinely shower at an off-cycle time, the shower does not get hot. Always allow 30 minutes after the last shower or wash load to allow the water heater to heat up the incoming cold water.