She has an electric water heather. There IS hot water in the tank. When we open a faucet it acts normal, gradually getting hot, but that only lasts for a couple of minutes, then it gets cold. A friend thinks there is a crossed pipe, but I can't get my head around that. Any ideas?

The tank is new, and she had the same problem with the old tank. I replaced the elements and thermostats on the old one before I replaced it, same result.

  • 1
  • Is this the shower valve doing this?
    – ArchonOSX
    Mar 18, 2016 at 9:44
  • 2
    Is there a thermostatic mixing valve near the water heater? Does this happen when water is drawn from any faucet, or only one particular faucet?
    – Tester101
    Mar 18, 2016 at 12:12
  • Are all of the hot water pipes coming out of the top of the water heater? I had the same issue because someone renovating the house added a new connection to the drain valve instead of hooking it up properly to the rest of the plumbing. Mar 18, 2016 at 12:54
  • Does this happen the same way at every faucet in the house?
    – Mysterfxit
    Mar 19, 2016 at 3:52

4 Answers 4


Regarding the crossed pipe, I think that your friend meant the hot pipe is connected to the cold port (and cold to hot) on the water heater. As Madura commented above, this question sounds similar to, "Why is my hot water running out quickly regardless of other household water usage?" Essentially, if the cold and hot are reversed at the tank, or if the dip tube has been lost, that could explain things. I'm not actually suggesting that this is your problem (it sounds like you know better than to connect the pipes backward); I just think that this could be what your friend meant. enter image description here

  • Yeah, we double checked that, even removed the insulation and the out pipe was hot the in pipe was cold. Mar 18, 2016 at 23:30

Just a shot in the dark, but what about a pump tying the hot and cold together? It'd be at the last item on the hot line. This would be my only guess for why the lines might be tied together, unless accidentally somehow. If she's lived here for a while and it hasn't had this problem until recently, then it shouldn't be any sort of accidental tied pipe.

Water circulating system

  • Fairly new house, to her, house and it has been a problem from the git go. Previous owner is out of reach, so we can't ask her. Thanks though. Mar 18, 2016 at 23:28

I got under the house and spent awhile tracing the hot water, I found a hot water line that went in a direction that led away from the bathrooms,laundry and kitchen. Eventually it led back to where the supply line came into the house. There were three valves with the hot joining the cold with a valve in between, making a loop with one leading to the hose bib on the outside of the house. I closed the valve and bingo, hot water. It was as if a previous owner wanted warm water to the hose bib, perhaps to wash his car with warm water? Anyway, It is fixed, thanks for all the ideas.

  • Great job! I'm glad it got figured out after all of that nonsense of sensible actions.
    – Iggy
    Mar 27, 2016 at 0:49
  • They were good suggestions, and I appreciated the help, no accounting sometimes for what made sense to someone else, but not to anyone else. We were recently thinking about the former owner who lived there for over a year and never raised the question and had no hot water. Apr 8, 2016 at 6:27
  • Thank you. Yep, there's no telling what someone else could've done to any place. People do strange & illegal things like your situation. At no point "should" warm water to an outdoor spigot ever interfere with the rest of the plumbing...it should be just like any other faucet.
    – Iggy
    Apr 9, 2016 at 23:46

In light of your game changing information. Then, I'd have to say the primary suspect would be the circuit & maybe wires. Check & tighten any loose connections at both ends. Use a cheap Multi-meter to read if you're getting 110 to 120 out of each hot wire & then also at the Double Circuit Breaker.

If not, then replace the Wire Cable with the suggested size or bigger &/or Double Breaker & even relocate the breaker if there's any Bus Bars or Circuit Breaker damage or corrosion. Do not try to clean, sand or file anything off & leave the Bus Bars to worsen as they may have been contaminated or un-pure during their manufacturing.

  • 2
    The tank is new, and she had the same problem with the old tank. I replaced the elements and thermostats on the old one before i replaced it, same result. Mar 18, 2016 at 6:25
  • Thank you for that extremely pertinent information. I've updated my answer.
    – Iggy
    Mar 18, 2016 at 15:26
  • I'm pretty good with electricity, but it has been awhile since my contractor days. Going to have an electrician check the set-up for us. Thanks. Mar 18, 2016 at 23:31
  • I'm sure you'd get back on the bicycle no problem, but good call. It doesn't sound like a leak situation, but if things don't work out electrically here's some methods for discovering a concealed leak diy.stackexchange.com/questions/85379/…
    – Iggy
    Mar 18, 2016 at 23:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.