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Why Does My Hot Water Heater Keep Turning Off?


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Water heater issues can be highly problematic for property owners who are in need of a consistent hot water supply.

One of the common issues that often occurs involves the water heater turning off unexpectedly and inconveniently. There are a number of reasons why this could be happening.

Why does my hot water heater keep turning off? Let’s discuss some of the common causes, and how they can be remedied.

Gas Supply

water heater gas flow

If you have a gas powered water heater, this means that there needs to be a consistent flow of gas to the water heater’s pilot in order for it to stay lit and heat the water supply.

If the pilot is not being fed a steady supply of gas, it will not stay lit and not function properly, which can cause the water heater to turn off.

In order to fix this issue, there are a few things you should check:

  • Every gas powered water heater will be equipped with a safety shutoff that is designed to trigger and shut off the gas supply when the internal temperature becomes too high.
  • A faulty gas safety shutoff mechanism can start to function improperly and as a result can turn off your hot water heater at inappropriate times. This could be the culprit for your hot water heater issues!
  • The problem with a gas water heater’s shutoff mechanism is that once it becomes faulty, they are not repairable and need to be replaced.

Dirty/Faulty Thermocouple

  • A thermocouple is a thermoelectric mechanism that connects to the gas control valve on the outside of a gas powered water heater. It is designed to convert the heat from a flame into an electrical current. 
  • The thermocouple works as a switch that controls the flow of gas being delivered by the gas supply valve. This mechanism will assume the pilot light is off and shut down the gas supply to the burners - effectively turning your water heater off.
  • If the thermocouple gets dirty or is otherwise damaged to the point of malfunctioning, this will likely cause your water heater to turn off unexpectedly. The best way to avoid having these problems is to clean and maintain your water heater’s thermocouple regularly.

Dirty Pilot Tube

Dirty Pilot tube inside water heater
  • A water heater’s pilot light is designed to emit a small flame that ignites the gas coming out of the burner.
  • There are a number of reasons why a pilot light could be malfunctioning, which would lead to the water heater turning off when it shouldn’t be.
  • One of those reasons is a dirty pilot tube, which is actually a common problem among a lot of gas-style water heaters. The pilot tube supplies gas to the pilot light, and if it becomes clogged, the pilot light will not function.
  • This will lead to your water heater turning off at inopportune and unwanted times. In order to remedy this issue, give the pilot tube a thorough cleaning using a skinny brush of some sort that can gently unclog the tube without causing damage.

Clogged Air Inlet

  • All liquid propane or gas powered water heaters require an air inlet. This serves as a ventilation system for expelling gas, heat and moisture, and also provides an air supply that is necessary for combustion.
  • As a result, a water heater’s air inlet provides an element of safety, and also facilitates proper functioning.
  • A clogged air inlet can result in a lack of air supply that is necessary for combustion, and in turn is necessary for the water heater to stay lit and heat water consistently.
  • In order to avoid or remedy this issue, be sure to check your air inlet for any clogs or blockages created by dirt or other debris build ups. Use a wire brush to give it a thorough cleaning and remove any blockages - this should fix the problem and stop your water heater from turning off unexpectedly.

Bad Electrical

Bad electrical wiring

Not all water heaters are gas powered appliances that run on liquid propane or natural gas. Actually, a large part of the newer models are designed and built to be fully electric powered.

  • These electric models do not have a gas supply, pilot light or thermocouple to worry about. Instead, they are built with a variety of electrical components.
  • Electrical components are also prone to malfunctioning, becoming faulty or simply losing function. From the thermocouple to the heating elements to the circuit breaker itself, there are a number of mechanisms that are crucial to proper functioning.
  • One of the symptoms associated with electrical problems involves the water heater shutting off at inappropriate times.
  • Most commonly, this issue is caused by an issue with the water heater’s thermostat or heating element. This can be checked by using a voltage tester.
  • Another common trigger for unwanted water heater shut offs is issues with the circuit breaker. If the unit seems to shut off every time hot water is called for by an appliance or faucet, the breaker itself could be tripping.
  • This can be caused by a short circuit, or potentially by a current overload. A certified electrician can run some diagnostic tests and determine what electrical issues are causing the water heater to shut off at the wrong times.


Understanding the intricacies of your water heater, and how the different parts can affect its overall ability to function effectively is very important.

Whether your water heater is gas powered or electrically powered, there are a number of issues that can arise when components break down or malfunction.

In this article, we discussed the common issue that many property owners encounter and answered the question - why does my water heater keep turning off?

We covered a variety of the more common problems that cause water heaters to shut off at inopportune moments. These included issues regarding gas supply, issues with the water heater’s thermocouple, pilot light tube problems, dirty pilot tube, a clogged or blocked air inlet, and issues involving electrical components in electric units.

We have also provided tips for how to avoid and remedy these problems so that property owners can be prepared to identify and solve them as they occur.

We hope you have learned everything you need to know about why your water heater is shutting off unfavorably, and how to go about fixing this issue.


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