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Hoping someone can give me some thoughts on what might be going on here so I can be a bit more informed when I call a plumber.

Situation is, we got our water heater replaced a few years back and ever since this has been an issue. It's more noticeable when it's cold outside it seems, but still seems to be a year round problem. Whenever we use hot water, we basically run out of it within minutes. In order to get an acceptable amount of hot water (enough to take a 10 minute shower), we literally have to prime the water first. By that I mean I have to turn on the hot water, let it run for a couple of minutes, then turn it off and wait 20 minutes. Then when we go to use the hot water again we'll get hot water for a respectable amount of time. Now I am fairly ignorant to all this, but it seems a 71 gallon hot water heater should be capable of holding enough water to not need to be primed like this. I should be able to take a 30 minute shower, let alone 10 without running out. My shower this morning was decently warm for maybe 2 minutes before it was just warm-ish.

So if anyone can give me some ideas on what might be going on I would appreciate it. We've just put up with this for some years assuming perhaps it was some eco friendly thing. Like the system doesn't maintain much hot water in the tank so it's not always running and only heats water up when you start to use it? I hope that isn't the case though and even so, I should be able to get more hot water out of it. Any help?

UPDATE Sorry everyone, I meant to tell you all that the water heater was gas. The pilot light is lit. I don't recall the specific model though I can look that up if people think it will help. I have actually turned up the thermostat on it above the default and when the water heater is putting out hot water, it can be very hot. Too hot. But again, that requires us to prime it before we get any decent amount of hot water out.

UPDATE 2 Looked it up, I believe this is the model info if that helps anyone: State Select: High Output. Model number: GS675XRRS 300

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    Gas or Electric? – brhans Feb 6 '18 at 18:03
  • Sounds like the thermostat has too much "swing", and running the water triggers the heat cycle. We'd have to know more about your specific model and type. You've left us mostly in the dark. – isherwood Feb 6 '18 at 18:29
  • What is the temperature dial on the tank set at? Try setting it higher. First set it to the maximum temperature and see if this remedies the problem. If it does, and you want lower temperature water in the tank, then try lower setting in steps. – Jim Stewart Feb 6 '18 at 22:24
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    If it's electric, I bet it's dual element and I bet one isn't working. – Tyson Feb 7 '18 at 1:10
  • Make sure your hot water piping are well insulated all the way through from heater to points of use.. something like your experience may happen if the the run is very long. – 0tyranny 0poverty Feb 9 '18 at 3:30
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This happened to me when the water heater in a rental house was replaced by the landlord's "handyman". Check that the cold inlet and hot outlet pipes on the heater weren't installed backwards.

The inlet should have a tube so that the cold water enters at the bottom of the heater. The outlet should pull from the top. That way the cold water pushes most of the 71 gallons of hot water out of the heater. If you hook it up backwards, the cold and hot mixes immediately, and quickly becomes lukewarm.

  • This sounds like an idea. I did have plumbers do the job, but I guess that doesn't really mean anything in reality. I will try to check on this. – cardician Feb 7 '18 at 18:17
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Does your water heater make any gurgling or pinging sounds? Have you flushed it recently, or checked the anode rod?

It's unlikely for a newer heater, but an older one may be full of sediment, reducing its effective capacity. Even at half or a quarter capacity, though, you should still have enough hot water for a 10 minute shower, so again very unlikely but still something to investigate if mmackenzie's answer isn't the solution.

  • No, I don't believe it makes any noise other than the sound of the gas flame when it's heating up. The water heater is only a few years old so hopefully it's not a sediment issue. Thank you for the suggestion. – cardician Feb 7 '18 at 18:18
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All the pipe fittings are on the top near each other. What keeps water from short-circuiting from the cold water inlet straight over to the hot water outlet just a few inches away?

The cold line has a dip tube, which runs to the bottom of the heater to assure cold water fills from the bottom. Thus, hot water rises like a tube of toothpaste giving you a nice long run. If the dip tube has a problem, this will happen.

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