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Why Does My Water Heater Keep Turning Off? – 6 Reasons

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

why does my water heater keep turning off

Do you find yourself asking, “why does my water heater keep turning off?” Many reasons can shut off a water heater by itself, undermining your hot water enjoyment and increasing the risk of damaging the appliance.

Determining why the water heater shuts off by itself can help you address the issue effectively. Doing so lets you safeguard the water heater’s integrity and enable your family to enjoy the many benefits of hot water.

Table of Contents

What Causes a Gas Water Heater to Turn Off All the Time?


The following reasons might help explain why your gas water heater keeps turning off.

Insufficient Gas Supply

Like your gas stove, a gas water heater relies on an adequate gas supply to maintain the burner’s operation. It would be impossible for your water heater to heat the water without fuel.

There might also be a defective gas valve. The valve regulates gas flow to the water heater’s burner – a function it cannot efficiently perform if damaged.

That is why it would be best to check the gas supply valve to see if it is open and has no leaks. You can test for leaks by applying soapy water to the connections. Bubble formation almost always indicates a leak.

If unsure, it would be best to ask a plumber to assess your water heater.

Bad or Dirty Thermocouple

If your gas valve is open and there are no leaks, it would be wise to check the thermocouple. This component is a safety device that stops gas flow to the burner if it does not sense heat from the pilot light.

When you turn on your gas water heater, the pilot light ignites the gas burner to initiate the water heating process. The pilot light generates heat that the thermocouple senses to maintain gas flow to the pilot light. It ensures proper water heater functioning.

A defective, damaged, or dirty thermocouple can explain why your gas-powered hot water heater keep turning off. Look at the thermocouple next to the pilot light and check if it is dirty, bent, or damaged.

If the thermocouple is dirty, you might want to clean it. With the water heater turned off and the thermocouple allowed to cool, you can sand the thermocouple’s dirty surface with fine-grit sandpaper. In case it needs to be replaced, check out this detailed guide.

Unfortunately, a damaged or bent thermocouple requires replacement. You can do this yourself or call a plumber.

Dirty Pilot Light or Tube

While checking the thermocouple, it might be a good idea to assess the pilot tube as well. After all, these components lie close to each other.

You can also assess the pilot light while your water heater is on. Look for an intense and steady blue flame with a flame height of about 3/8 to ½ inch. If you see a weak and flickering yellow flame, there is a good chance the pilot tube is dirty or clogged.

You can access the pilot tube and clean the tip by inserting a needle. It should remove soot and other debris clogging the pipe. However, if your water heater keeps turning off, it would be wise to get a professional.

Clogged or Dirty Air Inlet

Fire requires three essential ingredients: heat, fuel, and oxygen. That is why gas water heaters have an air inlet near the tank’s bottom. Unfortunately, air inlet screens can clog with lint, soot, dirt, dust, and pet hair.

You can try removing these particles to improve airflow to the burners.

Why Electric Water Heater Keeps Turning Off


Water Temperature’s Too High

Water heaters have a safety mechanism that shuts the unit off if it senses a water temperature higher than the appliance’s rated capacity.

For example, if the water heater can only accommodate up to 180 degrees Fahrenheit, setting the thermostat to 185 degrees can cause the water heater to shut itself off.

A defective thermostat can also lead to excessive water temperatures. The thermostat regulates heat going to the heating elements, allowing the water heater to heat the water to the ideal temperature.

A broken thermostat cannot perform this function. It cannot regulate the water temperature, leading to dangerous increases in water temperature levels.

If you suspect your water heater to have a defective thermostat, it would be best to call a professional.

Electrical Issues

Issues with the thermometer, heating coil, and other electrical components can also explain why your electric water heater keeps turning off. Unfortunately, determining the exact cause involves trial-and-error if you do not know how to use a multimeter.

That is why it would be best to leave the electrical assessment and troubleshooting to a professional.

How a Water Heater Works

Water heaters with storage tanks receive cold water from the water supply line. The tank has two heating elements controlled by thermostats, which regulate the water heater’s operating temperature and water temperature. Electricity heats these elements to raise the water temperature level.

Gas-powered water heaters do not have heating elements. You can think of these water heaters as gigantic kettles on your stove. There is a gas burner at the bottom, heating the water ready for use.

Tankless water heaters do not have storage tanks. Instead, cold water passes through a heat exchanger heated by electricity or gas.

Hence, any component in the water heating process can make a water heater keep shutting off.


If you find yourself asking, why does my water heater keep turning off, it could be due to various reasons.

If you have a gas water heater, the persistent shut-offs could be due to:

  • Problematic gas valve
  • Dirty or damaged thermocouple
  • Dirty pilot tube
  • Clogged air intake

If the problem occurs in an electric water heater, it could be because of:

  • Higher water temperature than the water heater’s rated capacity
  • Electrical issues

If you remain unsure or the problem persists, I recommend calling a plumber to check your water heater.

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