There is no doubt that water heaters make our lives far more convenient by ensuring that we always have access to hot water whenever we need it. The only issue is that traditional water heaters have a limited storage capacity, which means you will need to wait some time for the unit to reheat should you ever use up all of the hot water. The amount of time it takes for a water heater to reheat is known as its recovery time, and here is everything you need to know about average recovery times for gas and electric units and what factors can influence this.

Average Recovery Time for Gas and Electric Water Heaters

Gas water heaters typically heat more quickly than electric units. If you have a gas unit and use up all of the hot water in the tank, it will usually take somewhere between 20 to 40 minutes before the water is heated back up to the set temperature. However, if your water heater has a 50-gallon tank or larger, it could take up to an hour or more before you have hot water again.

The recovery times with electric water heaters are often at least double what they are with the same-sized gas unit. Smaller electric water heaters will typically take at least 40 minutes to fully reheat, while larger units can potentially take up to two hours.

Factors That Influence Water Heater Recovery Times

The exact amount of time it will take for a water heater to reheat fully depends on a number of factors, including the temperature of the cold water coming into the tank and how many gallons the tank holds. The larger the tank is, the longer it will take for the unit to reheat completely.

How many BTUs of heat the unit produces will also impact its recovery rate. More basic units tend to have a longer recovery time. If you frequently use lots of hot water and recovery time is something that you’re concerned about, you will want to purchase a unit that has a higher BTU capacity, as it will heat much more quickly.

Another factor is whether or not you have fully depleted all of the hot water in the tank. If you use more than half of the hot water in the tank, it can result in your water starting to be not as hot. This happens because there is so much cold water coming into the bottom of the tank that it begins to mix with and cool off the hot water in the upper part of the tank. In this situation, the recovery time will be shorter than if you had completely used up all the hot water.

Issues That Can Lead to Longer Recovery Times

There are many different issues that can affect how well your water heater works and thus lead to longer recovery times. If you ever notice that your water heater suddenly takes much longer to reheat than it used to, you will want to have it inspected to determine what the problem is and how it can be repaired.


Age is one of the biggest factors that can affect recovery time. The older your water heater is, the less effectively it heats and the longer the recovery time will be. If the issue is simply due to age and wear and tear, then your only real options are to either deal with the longer recovery time or have your water heater replaced. If you have an electric unit that is 12 or more years old or your gas water heater is more than eight years old, there isn’t much sense in trying to repair it since it is likely already on its last legs.

Faulty Heating Element

If you have an electric water heater that isn’t all that old but is experiencing a much longer recovery time, it usually means that one of the unit’s heating elements is broken or beginning to fail. All electric water heaters have one heating element located near the bottom of the tank and a second element near the middle. The lower element is the one that most commonly fails. Luckily, replacing a broken heating element isn’t all that difficult. Unfortunately, it isn’t something you can really do on your own, as there is no way for you to test if the heating element is actually bad or if the issue is related to something else.


If you don’t have your water heater flushed every year, sediment will build up in the bottom of the tank and can damage the lower heating element and cause it to fail. Water naturally contains many dissolved minerals, and the harder your water is, the more minerals there are in it. As the water is heated inside the tank, it causes many of the minerals to harden and form sediment that collects inside the bottom of the tank. Flushing works to remove the sediment to ensure that the water heater still works correctly and prevents damage to the lower heating element.

Gas water heaters can experience longer recovery times for a few different reasons, most of which can be prevented with annual maintenance. As with electric units, sediment build-up is the most common issue that leads to a longer recovery time, but for a different reason. The heating elements in an electric unit are located directly inside the tank, whereas gas water heaters heat from the bottom.

When there is little to no sediment present, the burners directly transfer heat to the water at the bottom of the tank. If there is a thick layer of sediment at the bottom of the tank, it basically acts as a layer of insulation that absorbs much of the heat created by the unit’s burner. This can drastically reduce the unit’s effectiveness and lead to far longer recovery times.

Sediment is also one of the main reasons that gas units fail, as it can lead to hot spots forming at the bottom of the tank and weakening the metal or speeding up the rate of corrosion. Again, the solution to this problem is to have your water heater flushed at least once a year.

Condition of the Gas Burners

The condition of the gas burners can also affect how long it takes for a water heater to reheat. If you don’t have your water heater professionally maintained every year, dust, soot, and grime will gradually accumulate on the burners to the point where they become overly dirt and clogged. This can result in there not being the proper mixture of air and gas flowing through the burners.

If this mixture isn’t correct, the gas won’t fully combust, and the unit will produce much less heat at a time. Incomplete combustion results in the burner producing weak, flickering, and cooler orange or red flames instead of the strong, extremely hot blue flames you get when the gas burns completely. Not only will dirty gas burners lead to longer recovery times, but they will also drastically decrease the efficiency of the unit and lead to an increase in your energy costs. As with most other water heater issues, the only real way to avoid this problem and keep your unit working as it should is to have it professionally maintained regularly.

Contact Us

If you need any water heater services in the Vancouver area, Western Pacific Heating, Cooling & Airflow has you covered. We install and repair all types of water heaters and can also help with preventative maintenance. We also offer the full range of heating, cooling and indoor air quality services for both residential and commercial customers, and our team installs, repairs and maintains air conditioners, furnaces, heat pumps and HVAC systems for new construction projects. If you have any questions about your water heater or need any water heater or HVAC service, give us a call today.

Western Pacific Heating, Cooling & Airflow

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