Why does your water heater keep turning off? If you stand at the bathroom sink and hot water never arrives for you to wash your hands, your water heater has probably turned itself off. There are a few problems that can cause your water heater to shut off. You can investigate this yourself, but you’ll want to confirm your findings with a plumber and let them fix it.

If you want to start troubleshooting yourself, first check if you have a gas or an electric water heater. An electric water heater will be plugged into an outlet. A gas water heater will have intake and exhaust pipes for gas.

Gas Water Heater Keeps Turning Off

Gas water heaters may turn off due to a problem with their pilot light, thermocouple or gas supply.

1. Pilot Light Burner

When a gas water heater’s pilot light goes out, it’ll shut down. You can check to see if your pilot light is still lit by opening up its compartment. If it has gone out, the most likely culprit is simply dirt and dust build-up that is restricting airflow to the pilot light. Without air, it’ll go out.

Don’t re-light the pilot light, as the problem will just happen again. Call your plumber to have them clean out the dust and debris.

2. Thermocouple

Another reason the pilot light may go out is that the thermocouple has worn out. Thankfully this is a relatively simple and inexpensive fix for your plumber.

If your gas water heater doesn’t have either of these problems, the next most likely cause is a gas supply problem. This is definitely a problem you don’t want to try to tackle yourself, as gas can be dangerous.

Electric Water Heater Keeps Turning Off

Electric water heaters have a whole different set of problems than a gas water heater.

1. Water is Too Hot

Did you recently turn up your hot water heater? You may have turned it too high. Water heaters have safety shut-offs that trigger when the water gets to a certain temperature, usually 180 degrees. Turn down the temperature a bit (if you set it higher recently) and see if that fixes the problem.

If the temperature is that high and you didn’t set it, the problem may be that the heating element is running constantly. This overheating could be the result of a few different problems, but a plumber can sort it out.

2. Other Electrical Issues

A part of your electric water heater or something connected to it (like a smart thermostat) may be broken somehow and triggering the electrical water heater to turn off. The problem could be the heating coil, your thermostat, the thermometer, or various other parts of the system. Ultimately, you’ll need a plumber to help you sort it out.

There are lots of other reasons a hot water heater keeps turning off. Don’t ignore this problem, as the longer the problem continues, the more likely it is to do more damage to the heater or the rest of your home.