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Why Does Water in My Shower Take So Long to Get Hot?

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Alright. Now we’ve got Daniel in Washington on the line.  Daniel, welcome to The Money Pit. What can we do for you today?

    DANIEL: Well, you can help me figure out why my wife takes a cold shower and I take a hot shower.

    TOM: I bet she’s not too happy about that, either.

    DANIEL: She’s very unhappy and she seems to think it’s my fault.

    TOM: So, who goes in the shower first? She goes in first?

    DANIEL: She does.

    TOM: And then what? It takes a long time for the water to get hot?

    DANIEL: Well, she turns it on. Our bathroom shower is about, I guess, when I added up all the pipes, maybe 30 feet from the water heater. So it’s not very far. We’ve lived in the house for 12 years, so we can usually count on hot water coming about four seconds after we turn on the water. And it’s not happening this time. She’ll leave it on for a minute or so, it’s still cold. And she says, “What the heck, I need to get going.” So she takes a shower and then she screams and yells at me.

    LESLIE: And then it’s all your fault.

    DANIEL: Twenty minutes later, after she clears out of there, I get in there and the shower is nice and warm.

    TOM: Well, that’s an odd problem because certainly, it’s not the distance; that’s very, very short.

    Now, as far as you know, is your water heater working normally? So if you go to your kitchen sink, does it deliver hot water pretty quickly?

    DANIEL: When we turn it to the left, it’s hot, and when we turn it to the right, it’s cold.

    TOM: Right. So the kitchen sink is fine.

    DANIEL: And the kids’ bathroom is fine.

    TOM: OK. So, it’s not the water heater, it’s not the pipes. What’s left here? The shower valve. You’ve got a bad shower valve.

    DANIEL: You came to the conclusion pretty quickly that it’s not the hot-water heater. Somebody suggested that it’s some deely bopper inside the hot-water heater that has to kick over.

    TOM: By virtue of the fact that your water heater delivers hot water to your kitchen sink and delivers hot water to your kids’ sink, it’s only not delivering hot water to your master-bath sink or shower, right?

    DANIEL: It does deliver hot water to the master bathroom and the master bathroom shower, but it takes – I don’t know – 10 minutes or so after my wife goes in there. So, one theory is that we’re – by her taking a cold shower but having the nozzle turned to the right – to the left – where it would give hot water, it activates something.

    TOM: OK. So, let me ask you one more question. In your master bathroom, you have a sink correct?

    DANIEL: Yep.

    TOM: And does that sink get hot quickly?

    DANIEL: Sure. But maybe not first thing in the morning.

    TOM: Well, does it take as long as the shower to get hot?

    DANIEL: I haven’t tested that.

    TOM: Alright. So test that. If the sink gets hot quickly and the only plumbing fixture in the house that’s not getting hot quickly is that shower, then you’ve got a problem with the shower valve. And that could happen. Something could break down inside the shower valve. And it might be that it takes so long to run before it finally lets some of that hot water in, because maybe you’re waiting for one of the pipes to – one of the valve parts to expand and just something to jam shut and it’s just not letting the hot water out.

    So I suspect that you’ve eliminated – everything else is normal; it’s just that shower that’s not. I’d replace the water valve. It’ll probably save your marriage. Think about it.

    DANIEL: Well, at least my hearing.

    TOM: There you go. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.

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