How to Test a Water Heater Element With a Multimeter
An electric water heater heats the water in the tank by utilizing one or two heating elements, depending on the model. It is possible that the upper element on a two element water heater is to blame for a water heater no longer producing hot water. If your water heater generates some hot water, but not nearly as much as it should, the bottom element is most likely to be the problem. If your water heater’s circuit breaker keeps tripping, it’s possible that the element has grounded and is causing an electrical short.
- To turn off the water heater’s electricity, locate the breaker located within the main electric panel of your home. Typically, a 30-amp double-pole circuit breaker is used in conjunction with an electric water heater.
- On the side of the water heater, look for panels that have been screwed to the wall. A single or two panels will be installed on the water heater, depending on the size of the unit. Remove the screws from the panels to allow them to be released
- Discard the insulation that was exposed when the side panels were taken off. Depending on the age of the water heater, fiberglass or closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam may be used as insulation for the water heater. Use safety goggles and gloves when removing fiberglass insulation from your home.
- The insulation that was exposed when the side panels were taken off must be removed. It is either fiberglass or closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam that is used for water heater insulation, depending on how old the water heater is. Use safety goggles and gloves while removing fiberglass insulation from walls.
- Placing a noncontact voltage detector near the wires attached to the element face, as well as adjacent to each wire linked to the thermostat, will provide the best results. If there is still power present in the water heater, the voltage detector gives an audio alert and its light flashes
- Otherwise, nothing happens.
- Disengage the two element screws by turning them counter-clockwise. Remove the wires from behind the screws by pulling them out. Write down the wattage of the element, which may be found written on the side of the element’s face.
- Set the Rx1k dial on a multimeter to the desired reading (resistance times 1,000 ohms). One of the multimeter probes should be in contact with one of the screws on the front of the element
- The remaining probe should be in contact with the remaining screw. In order to be considered for a 3,500-watt element, the resistance should be between 12 and 13 ohms, and in order to be considered for a 5,500-watt element, the resistance should be between 10 and 11 ohms. If the element does not register on the multimeter, it should be replaced.
- One of the probes should be in contact with one of the screws on the element face. Make contact with any metal portion of the water heater using the other probe. If the needle on the multimeter moves, this indicates that the heater element is grounded and that it must be replaced. Make certain that both screws on the face of the element are tested.
- One of the multimeter probes should be used to check each screw. Set aside the leftover probe against the metal base that is attached to the element where it is introduced into the water heater. If the needle on the front of the multimeter moves, this indicates that the element is defective and must be changed.
Reattach the wires to the rear of the water heater element. Replace the water heater element. Replace the plastic cover over the thermostat and the element with a snap. Reinstall the insulation and attach the panels to the side of the water tank to complete the process of insulating the tank. Turn on the water heater by turning on the circuit breaker.
Things You Will Need
- Screwdriver, safety goggles, gloves, and a noncontact voltage detector are all required.
8 Steps to Test Water Heater Element
Safety goggles; gloves; a noncontact voltage detector; a screwdriver;
When it comes to doing your water heater element testing, the following are some of the instruments you should have on hand:
- Hand gloves, a screwdriver, safety goggles, and a digital multimeter are all required.
Causes of Failure of Water Heater Element
There might be several factors contributing to your water heater element not functioning properly.
a). Accumulation of Mineral
As a result of the numerous procedures that they go through in order to provide hot water, water heater elements have a limited operating life. The deteriorated state of these elements is exacerbated if there are mineral deposits present in the water. The minerals are solidified as a result of the ongoing process. Lower elements may get encircled by mineral deposits in some instances, which may finally lead the element to fail. Turning down your water heater and flushing your water heater once a year is an excellent preventative action you may implement.
If you are able to accomplish this, the sediments will be eliminated and the life of the components will be extended significantly.
b). Trapped Air Pockets
All water heater elements must be operated with their heads submerged in water at all times. If the heat created by an element is not transmitted to the water, it might burn through the copper of the element. A bleed line on the water is required once or twice a year to remove trapped air and sediments from the tank. If this is not done, the trapped air, referred to as “Air Pockets,” will cause the upper element to burn since it is not immersed in water. This has the potential to cause the water heater to fail.
c). Malfunctioning Thermostat
To run a water heater, it is necessary to submerge it completely in water. If the heat created by an element is not transmitted to the water, it has the potential to burn through the copper of that element.
It is necessary to bleed a line in the water to release trapped air and sediments from the tank at least once or twice a year. As a result, the upper element will burn since it is not immersed in water due to the trapped air known as ‘Air Pockets.’ Consequently, the water heater may stop working.
d). Power Surge
A abrupt rise in voltage, such as that induced by a power surge or lightning, can also cause an element to catch fire and burn. Each element has a certain voltage rating, and any voltage that is higher than the appropriate voltage will cause the element to burn.
e). Breakage of Heating Element
When the heating element within the tank of an electric water heater malfunctions, there may be a loss of hot water. Perhaps the element will catch fire, resulting in the water slowly cooling down. If, on the other hand, there is simply cold water, this indicates that the second element has failed. Aside from these three possibilities, a tripped circuit or a blown fuse might also cause the heating element to trip. It is also expected that the fuse box would be checked in this respect.
f). Bad Wire Connection
Electricity is delivered to the elements by high gauge cables. In the event that a wire falls off a terminal as a consequence of a faulty connection, an element may cease to function. Due to the inadequate connection, it is possible that other issues such as arcing will arise as well. You should pay close attention to anything that has the potential to harm your water heater element and take precautions to avoid it if possible.
Steps on How to Test Water Heater Element
The following are the methods to be followed when testing for the water element:
Step 1: Disconnect from the power source
This is an extremely important phase in the testing of the water element. You can find the circuit breaker that links your water heater at the main electrical panel. Most of the time, it is located in the metal box that is fastened to the wall. The majority of electricians label each circuit breaker with the name of the device it powers. You’ve found the one that says “hot water heater” and you’ve turned that one off. If you are unsure of which circuit breaker is responsible for your water heater, simply turn off the entire power supply to safeguard your own safety.
Step 2: Open the metal box cover
To open the box, flip the metal lid to the open position. In this location, you will observe the panels that are secured to the water heater’s side by means of screws. Depending on their size, most water heaters are equipped with one or two panels, respectively. Using a Philips head screwdriver, unscrew the metal plate from the wall. Make certain that the screws do not fall off and land in awkward spots throughout your property.
Step 3: Detach the insulation
Depending on how old your water heater is, a layer of cellulose or fiberglass insulation will be installed behind the metal cover. Disconnect the insulation and place it to one side. While removing the insulation, make use of your safety gloves and goggles. Check to check if the thermostat is protected by a plastic cover. Pulling off the tab on the thermostat plastic cover will also allow you to remove it. However, because some thermostats do not come with a detachable plastic cover, doing this operation is entirely optional.
Step 4: Confirm that the power is off
You should check to make sure that the power has been turned off once more. Install a noncontact voltage detector next to the wire that connects the element to the thermostat to detect voltage fluctuations.
The presence of a beeping sound or flashing lights from the voltage detector shows that the water heater is still connected to the electric source. As a precaution, make sure that the power has been entirely turned off before continuing with the task.
Step 5: Locate the endpoint of the elements in the open panel
A single or two elements will most likely be used in your water heater, depending on the size of your residence. Because they extend deep into the water heater’s open panel, you can’t see the elements themselves. You will be able to observe their endpoints, on the other hand. An element measures around 1 inch in length and is fastened to a plastic plate with the use of screws.
Step 6: Note the reading of your water heater element
Your water heater will most likely contain one or two components, depending on the size of your house. Because they extend deep into the water heater’s open panel, the elements themselves are not visible. It is still possible to observe their ends, though. With the use of screws, an element around one inch in length is mounted to a plastic plate.
Step 7: Use a digital multimeter to read the water heater element
One of the multimeter probes should be placed on a screw that is connected to the face of the element. This can be accomplished by untangling the loose end of the metal component. Because there are no terminals on the water heater element, you won’t have to worry about which one to test first. Make certain, however, that you are just testing the element itself and not any of the other electrical components that are connected to the element. Connect the prongs of the multimeter to the tip of the element screw with a crimping tool.
If they do not, repeat the process.
This video will demonstrate how to use a digital multimeter if you are unfamiliar with the method.
You should also double-check the reading for the second water heater element.
Step 8: Reattach the disconnected parts
Reattach the wire to the surface of the water heater’s heating components. As well as that, cover the exposed panel with plastic and use the plastic to cover the thermostat. Tighten the replacement wire and reinsert the screws that had been loose. Reinstall the insulation and switch on the circuit breaker to complete the repair. If you replace a defective element, you will have to wait a few minutes for the water to get to a boiling temperature.
How to Replace an Electric Water Heater Heating Element
The wire should now be connected to the water heater’s surface. In addition, cover the exposed panel with plastic and use the material to cover the thermostat. Replace the wire and reattach the screws that were previously removed. Make sure all of the insulation is in place before turning on the power. In the event that you replace a defective element, you will have to wait a few minutes for the water to heat up.
Now that you’ve learned how to test the water heater element, you should be able to solve any issues that arise with this important piece of household equipment. Please keep in mind that you simply need to follow the following procedures:
- Turn off the electricity
- To obtain access to the element, remove the metal cover from the element. Remove the insulation from the ducts. Using a multimeter, measure the resistance of the water element
- And If an element is defective, it should be replaced. Assemble all of the pieces that were previously separated
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How to Test a Water Heater Element
An Overview of the Process of Testing a Water Heater Element
- The following tools are required: a screwdriver, a digital multimeter, and a non-contact voltage tester (optional). Step 1: Turn off the power. Step 2: Take off the metal covering. Step 3: Remove the insulation from the house. Step 4: Set the heating element in its proper location. Step 5: Make sure the electricity is turned off. Step 6: Use a multimeter to inspect the element. Step 7: Assemble the water heater again.
One of the most typical reasons for your water heater not to be generating hot water is a defective heating element, which is one of several probable causes. However, checking the heating element is one of the most straightforward diagnostic procedures you can perform on your own. It is not necessary to drain the tank or to interfere with any gas, water, or electrical lines. This Might Also Be of Interest to You: What is the procedure for turning on my water heater? To determine whether the heating element is to blame for your water heater’s problems before spending a lot of money on expert repair — or even complete replacement — follow these simple procedures.
Signs of a Bad Water Heater Element
Even if it is simple to test the element, it is a good idea to be familiar with the most typical indicators of a malfunctioning heater element in order to assess whether or not testing is even necessary. The following are signs of a faulty heating element:
- Water that is lukewarm
- The amount of hot water is little. There is no hot water. The hot water runs out more quickly than normal
- The circuit breaker for the water heater is continually tripping
Although the majority of full-sized home water heaters have two heating elements (one on top and one on the bottom), smaller water heaters may just have one heating element. When there are two elements in a water heater, each one performs a somewhat distinct function. As a result, based on the exact symptoms you’re experiencing, you can typically establish which component has failed.
Symptoms of a Bad Upper Heating Element:
- There is no hot water. The temperature of the hot water does not reach the setting on the thermostat
Symptoms of a Bad Lower Heating Element:
- A small amount of hot water
- The hot water runs out more quickly than normal
Testing the components won’t be a waste of time if you’re suffering any of these symptoms.
- Screwdriver, digital multimeter, non-contact voltage tester (optional), and a pair of safety glasses
How to Test the Element
The fact that testing the heater element entails dealing with electricity means that you must first shut down your water heater to guarantee that you are operating in a safe environment. To accomplish this, you must first turn off the circuit breaker that supplies electricity to the water heater. Circuit breakers are placed in your home’s central breaker box, which is often found in the garage, basement, or beneath a stairwell. It is a 1-foot by 2-foot metal box with a breaker on each side. The electrician who wired your property should have clearly designated the breaker that serves your water heater, which should be located within the breaker box.
If the breaker isn’t labeled, you may either cut off the electricity to your entire house with the main breaker (which is normally placed at the top of the box) or turn off all of the double breakers, which are breakers that are linked together with another breaker.
Step 2. Remove the Metal Covers
On the side of your water heater, there should be one or two metal plate covers to protect it from the elements. They are secured in place by two or more screws with Phillips heads, which are commonly found on these covers. They house the thermostat and heating element. These screws can be removed using a screwdriver or a power drill equipped with the proper bit.
Step 3. Remove the Insulation and Plastic Covers
Most water heaters feature an insulating layer between the metal cover and the heating element, as well as a thin plastic barrier between the two. Rigid foam insulation or flexible fiberglass insulation are also options for insulation. You should be able to remove foam insulation by hand in one piece in most circumstances, but in certain cases it may be necessary to pry or cut it out. With a utility knife, carefully cut away any fiberglass insulation that has been trapped. It is common for the plastic shield to be clipped onto metal tabs on the water heater.
Following light to moderate pressure, it should pop out of the way and be removed. It is important not to damage any of these components, since they will be reinserted when your test has been successfully finished.
Step 4. Locate the Heating Element
The thermostat and heating element should be visible at this point in the process. The thermostat is typically rectangular in shape, with multiple electrical wires running through it and connecting to screws on either side of it. It’s situated just above the heating element, as the name implies. The heating element itself is contained within the tank. The visible piece is the approximately 1-inch square base (or “end point”), which is held together by two screws that are connected to the electrical lines.
Additional Related Articles:
- How to Relight the Pilot Light on Your Water Heater
- Don’t Forget to Flush the System! The following is a 6-Step Guide for Flushing Your Gas or Electric Water Heater: Is it possible to work without a tank? Determine whether or not a tankless water heater is appropriate for your home. What is a Smart Water Heater and how does it work? When your water heater isn’t working, you’ll notice these seven tell-tale signs.
Step 5. Verify the Electricity Is Off
Instructions on how to relight the pilot light on your water heater; remember to flush! The Flushing of a Gas or Electric Water Heater: A 6-Step Guide; An employment opportunity without a tank? Identify whether or not a tankless water heater is a good fit for your household. An explanation of what a Smart Water Heater is; and 7 Tell-Tale Signs That Your Water Heater Isn’t Running;
Step 6. Check the Heater Element With Your Multimeter
Generally speaking, the functioning of a heating element is governed by the resistance present in the circuit, which is measured in ohms (). Adjust the ohms setting on your multimeter to the lowest possible value. Touch the center of one of the heating element screws with the red probe, and the center of the other screw with the black probe. When measuring resistance, it makes no difference which probe is in contact with which screw. In order to determine whether or not the heating element is functioning properly, your multimeter should read anywhere between 10 and 30.
If your water heater has two heating elements, repeat this procedure on the other heating element.
Step 7. Reassemble the Water Heater
Irrespective of whether or not your heating elements are in excellent operating order, it’s time to reassemble your water heater. Replace the plastic cover over the heating element (if one is present), as well as the insulation, if necessary. Finally, re-energize the circuit breaker for the water heater. Depending on whether you changed a heater element or not, you may have to wait a few hours for the water to heat up before determining whether your repair was effective.
How to test water heater element
|Buy multimeter Install battery.Setting 1: Rotate dial to 240-250Vac to test for electricity. Setting 2: Rotate dial to Ohms to test element as shown on this page.(upside down horseshoe symbol is ohms)1) Use multimeter to test element 2) Do not drain water heater3) Power is OFF during this test.Buy:Analog multimeterMultimeters at AmazonKlein multimeterElectric testers at AmazonClampmeter for testing amp flow on lineResource:How to troubleshoot electric water heater|
|See cold resistance ohm chart||Test for ohm. Ohms is resistance Volts squared divided by watts = ohmsWatts and volts are printed on end of each element.240 volt water heater, 4500 watt elements: 57600 divided by 4500 = 12.8 ohmsHowever,there are a wide range of results and element can still be good.Applies to cold element, and not hot.Cold resistance: measuring ohms across both screw when no wires are attached to element and element is not heated.Hot water in tank raises resistance on element.Let element cool before doing ohm test so you are measuring cold resistance.|
|Turn off circuit breakerTurn off 30 amp double breaker to 240Volt heaterTurn off 20 Amp single breaker to 110 Volt heater|
|Test for voltage using non-contact voltage tester. Advantage of non-contact voltage tester: ease and safety since wire nuts are not removed.Never assume power is OFF.Touch end of tester to each black, white, and red wire. Press button. If tester flashes repeatedly like alarm, then voltage is present. if tester flashes once, then that says no voltage is present.Buy:Non-contact voltage tester|
|Larger image||Test for voltage using voltage tester. Remove wire nuts. Applies to120V and 240V.Test Black to Ground, test Black to White, test White to Ground. If tester light comes on with any test, electricity is present.See basic water heater circuit|
|Open panels on side of water heaterDo not drain water heater to test elements.Remove insulationOlder water heaters have fiberglass insulation covering element and thermostat. Newer water heaters have tight-fitting foam insulation.Newest tanks have thicker foam insulation.Foam insulation is not easy to work around. You may need to cut back the foam to work on parts. Remove as much foam as needed to access parts.Insulation must be put back when finished. When finished, thermostats and elements must be covered by insulation again or thermostats become exposed to cool air and will misread tank temperature.Always best to put safety cover back into place when finished.|
|Remove plastic safety covers that sits over element. Pull off tab at top then pull off or unhook sidesReplace covers when finished.Buy:Upper element terminal protectorLower element terminal protector|
|Larger image||Which element do you test? If water heater makes some hot water, then lower element is suspect. If upper element is burned out, water heater will have no hot water. Test both elements.If water heater is tripping circuit breaker, then test both elements and look for burned and melted wire.Resources:What to do if melted/burned wire is foundWater heater is tripping breakerTroubleshoot electric water heaterHow water heater worksHow to wire thermostatsTest electricity to water heater|
|Tank must be full of water or elements burn out.; called Dry Fire.If you replaced either element and water heater is still not working . test upper element|
|Take wires off elementUse nose and eyes to inspect for burned/ melted parts and wires.If wires are burned/ melted then replace part and test wire for continuity.Resource:Test water heater wiresBuy:Shop Amazon Tools – DEWALTShop Amazon Tools – Black and DeckerShop Amazon Tools – Stanley|
|Bolt-in and screw-type elementsWater heater come standard with high density elements.Foldback elements, or low density elements spread the heat across more square inches of surface space, and perform better in circumstances of very hard water, and some other water conditions.If elements burn out frequently, use low density, or substitute lower wattage. Lower wattage means slower heating and slightly less first hour delivery.Buy:Water heater elements Low density elementResourceCalculate first hour|
|Test elementSet multimeter to read ohms||Good element passes 3 tests: Test 1: Element shows correct ohm readingTest 2: No reading on multimeterTest 3: No reading on multimeterRotate dial to Ohms to test element Ohms is upside down horseshoe symbolBuy:Multimeters|
|Larger image||Watt and Volt rating printed on end of each element Important: Ohm test varies by watt and volt rating of each element.Resource: See ohm chart|
|Test 1: Test across both screwsTest across both element screws and resistance should read about 12.8 Ohms for 240-Volt 4500-Watt element. For 30 gallon tank with 3500-Watt elements, reading is about 16 Ohms. Open reading means element is bad. No reading means element is bad.Check watt and volt rating printed on each elementApplies to COLD element. Water heater with warm water will change reading.Element wattagevoltsohms3500 watt 240164500 watt 24012-135500 watt 24010-11Ranges can vary widely, even with good multimeter.’Volts squared’ divided by watts = ohms Volts x volts is ‘volts squared’ 240 volts x 240 volts = 57,600 volts squared 57,600 volts squared divided by 4500 watt = 12.8 ohmsResource: See ohm chart|
|Test 2: Test screws to metal shellTest each screw to bare metal part of water heater. Test both screws.If multimeter reads any Ohms at all, or if needle moves even tiny bit, then element is shorted and needs replacementsee how|
|Test 3: Test screw to elementTest each screw to metal base of element. If multimeter reads any Ohms at all, or if needle moves even tiny bit, then element is shorted and needs replacement|
|– Results –|
|If element passes all 3 tests Elements are good and passes all 3 tests Double-check results before putting wires back on elements.If elements burn out frequently, then install lower wattage element.Elements passes all 3 test but water heater still not working Push breaker fully off and then fully onTank heats 21-40 gallons per hourResource:Troubleshoot walk-thru|
|Element has burned wireResource:Replace elementTest wire for continuity|
|Element is bad How to replace element Full efficiency can be restored to electric heaterWater heater must be full to loosen element, but must be empty before element is removedBuy:Water heater elements Low density element|
|Element wrench Leave water heater full of water to loosen elementThen drain water heater and remove elementBuy:Water heater element socket 1-1/2″Camco heavy duty element socket Marathon elements are 1-7/8″|
DIY Water Heater Testing and Repair
Occasionally, the heating elements on electric water heaters break long before the water heater itself fails, but changing them in a hot water heater is a simple Do It Yourself repair.
The majority of the time, replacing one or both of the heating elements will address the problem if your electric hot water heater is taking a long time to heat up, running out of hot water more quickly than it used to, or not delivering any hot water. Water heater repairs are simple, and replacement components are affordable ($8 to $20), and they are easily accessible at home centers, hardware shops, and appliance parts dealers across the country. How to test the heating elements, remove one if it’s defective, and replace it with a new one will be demonstrated.
Maintaining a realistic expectation of their lifespan of 10 to 15 years is all that is required. If your heater is reaching its end of life, it may be more cost-effective to replace it than to repair it. Find out how to adjust your water heater in this article.
Other Causes of Water Not Getting Hot
Of course, there are a variety of additional factors that might contribute to a shortage of hot water. Before you begin testing the elements, double-check that the circuit breaker is not tripped and that it is in the on position. Press the reset button on the high-temperature cutoff, which is positioned slightly above the top thermostat, at the same time. Although resetting either the circuit breaker or the high-temperature cutoff may remedy the problem, the fact that they were tripped in the first place may suggest that there is an electrical fault with the system in the first place.
Assuming that the heating components are working properly, the thermostats or cutoff switch may be defective.
Video: How to Test Your Water Heater Element
- Power should be turned off at the circuit breaker. Remove the metal covers from the thermostats and heating components to reveal them.
- Pro tip: Check that the power has been turned off by tapping the electrical connections with a noncontact voltage detector.
Test the Wires
- Please keep in mind that if the wires are covered by metal conduit, the tester will not read the voltage. Take off the metal thermostat cover that is mounted on the side of the water heater, peel out all of the insulation, and place the tester in close proximity to the wires that go up to the top of the high-temperature cutoff switch.
- Placing the tester against the metal water heater shell will get the following results:
- Note: If the tester does not light up, it is okay to proceed with the testing of the components.
What’s Inside a Water Heater and How It Works
The vast majority of domestic electric water heaters feature two heating elements: one near the top of the tank and another towards the bottom of the tank. After entering the top, power travels to the high-temperature cutoff switch, and then to the thermostats and elements on each side of the unit. The temperature of the top and bottom components is regulated by two different thermostats. When the water at the top of the tank becomes too hot, the top element goes off and the bottom element takes over to heat the water.
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Test Continuity for a Burned-Out Element
- Please keep in mind that you will need a continuity tester ($5 to $10) for this stage.
- A continuity tester (about $5 to $10) will be required for this procedure.
- Note: If the tester does not illuminate, the element should be replaced.
Test for a Short Circuit
- The alligator clip should be attached to one of the element screws. Touch the tester probe to the mounting bracket for the element
- Repeat the process on the other screw.
- It is important to note that if the tester light illuminates either time, there is a short. Replace the element with a new one
The Secret of the Red Button
The tester light should be on in either case if there is a short in the circuit. Replace the element with something else.
Remove the Bad Element
- It should be noted that if the tester light illuminates at either moment, there is a short. Replace the element with a new one.
- Note: A water heater element wrench (available for $5 at home centers and hardware stores) is required for thread-in–type elements such as those shown below.
- Remove the old heating element by unscrewing it using a heating element wrench.
- Pro tip: To spin the socket, you’ll need a long, robust Phillips screwdriver with a flat blade. To free the threads that have become stuck, use a cold chisel and a hammer to loosen the threads that have become stuck.
Install the New Element
- Insert the replacement element into the water heater and tighten it down with the heating element wrench if necessary. Reconnect the wires, checking to see that the connections are secure. Remove the insulation and metal covers and replace them.
Buying Heating Elements
Replace your heating element with one that has the same wattage as your existing one. For information on wattage if your old element isn’t labeled, look at the nameplate on the water heater, your instruction manual, or search online using the model number found on the nameplate. Heating elements are secured to the water heater with either a big thread and nut, as illustrated below, or with four bolts and nuts, as indicated in the diagram below. Most home centers carry the type we’ve shown, but if you’re replacing the four-bolt version, you may purchase an adaptor kit.
Low-density parts that are more costly are typically folded back.
Replacement of your old element with a low-density element will result in more efficient functioning and a longer service life.
How to Test a Hot Water Heater Element
Documentation Download Documentation Download Documentation Hot water heaters are essential household appliances because they heat water for use in sinks, dishwashers, washing machines, and showers, among other things. If the water in your house doesn’t heat up to anything more than a tepid degree, try increasing the heat setting. However, if this does not resolve your problem, it is probable that one of the water heater’s heating components is defective or damaged.
Before changing the heater elements, it is necessary to test them using a multimeter, which is a compact instrument that measures the electrical current flowing through metal.
- 1 Disconnect the circuit breaker that supplies electricity to the hot water heater. The hot water heater must not be operating (have electrical power) while you’re testing the element. The electric breaker is a metal box that is around 1 ft 2 ft (30 cm 61 cm) in size and is mounted to a wall. Try looking for it in your home’s basement, laundry room, or huge storage closet, for example. Turn “off” the breaker that is labeled “hot water heater” or that controls electricity to the room in which the heater is located.
- If you’re not sure which breaker controls the water heater’s electricity, just turn off all of the double breakers (which are groups of two breakers that are linked together)
- Turn off all of the double breakers (sets of two breakers that are linked together) if you are unsure which breaker controls electricity to the water heater.
- Place the metal cover and screws in a convenient location. To prevent the screws from rolling beneath an appliance, put them in a shallow bowl.
- s3 If your heater is equipped with insulation and a plastic cover, remove them. Many hot water heaters feature a layer of fiberglass or cellulose insulation behind the metal cover, which helps to keep the water warm. Take that out of the bag and put it away. Many heaters also feature a plastic cover over the thermostat to protect it from damage. This type of plastic cover is held in place by friction, and it usually has a tab on the top that you may pull to remove it from its position. Extend your fingertip upwards and you will be able to loosen the plastic cover and remove it from the thermostat
- Not all water heaters are equipped with a protective cover made of plastic and insulation. If yours does not, proceed to the next step.
- There are certain water heaters that do not have a safety cover made of plastic, nor do they have insulation. Please skip this step if yours does not.
- A non-contact voltage detector can be purchased at any hardware or home improvement store if you do not already have one. The gadget is approximately 5 inches (13 cm) in length and has the appearance of a giant plastic pen. It comes to a climax with a metal prong at the end
- 5 Identify the ends of the two metal parts that are located inside the open panel on the right. Because they extend several inches into the hot water heater’s interior, the elements themselves are difficult to see. If you peek inside the open panel, though, you’ll notice that the base ends of the two metal parts have been exposed. a little plastic plate is screwed into the center of each metal base, which is approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
- The vast majority of hot water heaters for houses are equipped with two heating components. If you live in an apartment or a tiny house and have a small hot water heater, it is possible that it just has one element.
- 1 Set the ohms of resistance on your multimeter to the lowest possible level. A multimeter is a gadget that is used to measure electrical current and voltage. It will tell you whether or not current can flow through the elements of your water heater. Multimeters feature a plastic body that is 2 in x 4 in (5.1 cm x 10.2 cm) in size and two metal prongs that are joined to the body of the multimeter via wires. Multimeters are used to measure voltage and current. You should be able to see a dial on the body of the multimeter that regulates the amount of voltage the gadget is working at. Set the ohms meter to the lowest possible level. Diverse models may have a variety of lowest settings.
- Check if the tool is operational by tapping the two metal prongs. The gadget should be calibrated by holding the prongs together and moving the needle until it points to “0.” If you don’t already have a multimeter, you can pick one up at a local hardware or home improvement store for a reasonable price.
- 2 Disconnect one of the cables from the water heater element. Electricity is provided by two wires that travel from each element of a hot water heater to screws that secure the element to the heater’s base. Select the heating element that you’d want to put through its paces first. By finding its loose end and unwinding it from around the metal piece, you may easily remove one wire (it doesn’t matter which one).
- It is vital to do this in order to ensure that you are just evaluating the conductivity of the element itself and not any other connected portions of the water heater element
- Otherwise, the results will be inaccurate. The removal of the wire, which may be difficult if it is firmly wrapped around the water-heating element, may necessitate the use of a pair of needle-nose pliers.
- 3 To check for flow, place the prongs of the multimeter against the element screws. Placing the multimeter’s body on the ground at the foot of the water heater is recommended. Set the tip of one prong in the center of one of the screws holding the water heater element in place. Similar to the first prong, take the second prong and secure it the center of the second screw on the water heater element.
- The fact that you have shut off the power to the hot water heater eliminates any danger of electrocution.
- 4 Check the resistance reading on the multimeter to see how many ohms it is. In both digital and analog multimeters, there should be a dial or a digital panel that depicts the amount of resistance being measured. A well functioning element will provide resistance readings between 10 and 30 ohms on a micrometer, indicating that the element is functioning properly. Alternatively, if the needle does not move (or if the digital display displays “0”), the water heater element is not functioning properly and must be replaced
- Even if the digital multimeter displays a very low value (for example, “1”), this still indicates that the element is not functioning properly.
- 5 If the first water heater element is not functioning properly, test the second water heater element. If you have tested the first element and it appears to be functioning properly, you should attempt testing the second element with the multimeter. It’s possible that this is the problematic component. It is possible to replace a damaged part once you have discovered which one is faulty.
- Alternatively, you may call the water heater’s manufacturer and ask if they will be able to send a repair service to your location.
- 6 Reattach the wire to the water heater and cover the exposed panel on the back. As soon as you’re through testing or replacing the components, use your needle-nose pliers to tighten the wire that you removed back around the screw that it was originally attached to. Snap the plastic cover over the thermostat back into place, then gently push the insulation into place around the thermostat to complete the installation. Replace the metal panel in its original location and reinstall the screws that were previously removed. Using your fingers, tighten the screws in their holes until they are securely holding the metal panel in place.
- In order to restore the flow of electricity to the room where your hot water heater is installed, you must first turn off the power breaker.
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Things You’ll Need
- Small bowl (optional)
- Needle-nose pliers (optional)
- Philips head screwdriver
- Non-contact voltage detector
- During the heating process, the elements of a water heater are thick metal loops that get incredibly hot when electricity is passed through them. They’re not different to the heating elements on your cooktop, in that they generate heat.
During the heating process, the elements of a water heater are thick metal loops that get incredibly hot when electricity is passed through them. Compared to the heating components on your cooktop, they’re not too dissimilar.
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When you discover that you have no hot water in your house, it may be really annoying. Despite the fact that hot water is a crucial component of our everyday life, we sometimes take for granted that it will always be available. In the event that a water heater’s heating element or thermostat fails, the most likely reason is a faulty heating element or thermostat. So, what is the best way to test a faulty heating element? Turn off the water heater’s electricity and take off the covers over the heating components before continuing.
Continuity refers to the fact that there is no interruption in the flow of electricity between two connecting points.
Let us first explain how the heating components function, as well as some other possible causes of your lack of hot water, as well as how water heaters are designed to work.
How Dual Heating Elements Work
When it comes to electric water heaters, there are normally two heating elements: the bottom heating element and the higher heating element. Each heating element is equipped with a thermostat, which regulates the temperature of the heating element. When the water heater is sluggish to heat up or runs out of hot water more quickly than normal, the bottom element is almost often the cause of the problem. If, on the other hand, the water heater is not producing any hot water, the fault is most likely with the higher element.
The reason for this is that the thermostat linked to the top element also regulates electricity to the lower thermostat and heating element on the lower end of the heating system.
How to test water heater elements with a multimeter and a continuity tester will be covered in the remainder of this article.
Troubleshooting the Water Heater
Consider some of the other typical reasons of water heater malfunction before concluding that one of the heating components is to blame for your water heater’s inability to provide hot water. For starters, check to determine whether any circuit breakers in the electrical panel box have been triggered. It is possible for a water heater’s breaker to trip for a variety of reasons.
If your water heater’s circuit breaker has tripped, try turning it to the OFF position and then back to the ON position to see if it can be reset. There are a variety of reasons why your water heater may trip a circuit breaker, including:
- A heating element that has failed
- A thermostat that is not working properly
- A short circuit in the electrical wire circuit
It is necessary to inspect both parts of the heater if the circuit breaker is constantly tripped. Electrical connections that are loose or broken can also cause a breaker to trip; in this case, search for burned or melted wires at the circuit breaker or the electrical connections at the top of the water heater. Resetting the water heater is an alternative approach. How to go about it is as follows:
- Circuit breakers should be used to turn off electricity to the water heater. Remove the upper element’s top cover by lifting it up. This is positioned on the top side of the water heater tank
- It is a cylinder-shaped piece of metal. To reset the top thermostat, press the red reset button situated above it. Replace the cover panel and re-energize the circuit breaker if necessary.
It is possible that the thermostat in either the top or lower element is malfunctioning if the reset button trips and won’t return to its original position.
How an Electric Water Heater Works
Electric water heaters are deceptively easy appliances to operate. A conventional electric heater control circuit consists of two heating elements, an upper thermostat, a lower thermostat, wires, and a high-limit switch with a reset button. Other components include an upper thermostat and a lower thermostat. The thermostats, to which each element is attached, are in charge of controlling the two components. Depending on the kind of water heater, the temperature of thethermostats can be adjusted by the user manually.
- And, of course, the higher the temperature is set, the more electricity is consumed by the system.
- Running both elements at the same time may void any warranty that may have been provided by the water heater manufacturer.
- If the components are not entirely submerged in water, they are at risk of catching fire.
- The higher thermostat, when the top of the tank reaches a certain temperature, shuts down the upper element and sends power to the lower thermostat, which in turn switches on the bottom element.
- The lower element regulates the temperature of the tank by cycling on and off at regular intervals throughout the day and night.
- Cold water quickly fills the bottom of the tank when hot water is pulled from the tank through the dip tube.
- It is only when it reaches the top third that the bottom element is turned off and the upper element is activated.
- Modern water heaters will automatically switch to standby mode after the temperature of the water has been reached.
This is done to preserve electricity. Modern water heaters only need to be used for roughly 2 hours every day on average. Keep in mind that water heaters use more power during the winter months since the components must heat for a longer period of time in order to reach the desired temperature.
How to Test Water Heater Elements
You can use a non-contact voltage tester or a multimeter to assess whether or not the heating elements have failed in your vehicle. When working with a multimeter, you must understand how to interpret the results. Tools You’ll need the following supplies:
- A non-contact voltage tester, a screwdriver, a multimeter, and a continuity tester are all useful tools.
Step 1: Disconnect the electricity from the circuit breaker. It is positioned within the main electrical panel, near the circuit breaker. Electric water heaters are commonly equipped with a double breaker rated at 30 amps. See if there is a breaker labeled “Water Heater.” If your circuit breakers are not correctly labeled, you may need to hire an electrician to properly label the circuit breakers for you. The top and lower side panels of the water heater should be opened in step two. Two panels can be installed on the side of a normal 40-gallon or larger water heater tank to provide additional protection from the elements.
- Remove the screws that are holding the panels in place and lay them away in a secure location until the job is finished.
- It is dependent on the age of the water heater that the insulating material used varies from one water heater to another.
- Dealing with foam can be difficult, thus it will almost certainly be essential to reduce its thickness.
- You will see a plastic cover over the thermostat and heating element after the insulation has been removed.
- Remove the plastic covering in order to reveal the thermostats and heating components beneath it.
- This step is required for safety reasons in order to establish that there is no electricity to the heating components (if you turned off the wrong breaker).
- If the tester flashes frequently, as if it were an alarm, this indicates that voltage is present.
- Step 6: Disconnect the element wiresCheck to verify if any of the wires are charred or melted before proceeding forward.
- When a burnt or melted wire is discovered, the component should be replaced.
- To check for continuity, you may use either a continuity tester or a multimeter.
- There are three major methods in which you may make use of a continuity tester:
- Connect the alligator clip to one of the element screws and the probe to the other screw using the alligator clip. A malfunctioning element is indicated by a tester that does not light up, buzzes, or reacts just minimally. Touch each screw to the bare metal section of the water heater, following the same process as before. Touch each screw to the metal base of the element, following the same process as before.
If the elements fail to pass all three tests, they are deemed defective and must be replaced with new ones. As opposed to the continuity tester, a multimeter is more difficult to use. It consists of two wire leads with metal probes attached to them, one of which is red and the other black. The first step is to turn the dial on the multimeter to Rx1k (resistance times 1000 ohms). Follow the instructions above to complete all three tests. The tool should detect about 16 ohms for a 3500-watt element when testing both element screws, as stated in test 1, 12-13 ohms for a 4500-watt element, and 10-11 ohms for a 5500-watt element when testing both element screws.
It is necessary to replace the element if you repeat tests 2 and 3 and notice that the multimeter needle moves. If the elements pass all three tests, it is possible that the thermostat is the source of the problem.
How to Replace Water Heater Elements
It is far simpler to replace a heating element than it is to test one. Check to ensure that the replacement has the same voltage as the original. When it comes to wattage, it might either be the same or lower than before. The lower-wattage element tends to survive longer, but it also produces significantly less heat. You’ll require the following tools: You’ll need to empty the water heater before you can replace the heating components. Please refer to our article, Water Heater Maintenance Tips – Gas and Electric Tank Water Heaters, for a detailed step-by-step instruction to draining your water heater.
Some YouTube videos demonstrate how to change the heating element without having to empty the water heater.
Draining and cleaning the water heater is another something you should perform once a year to remove sediment from the water heater’s internal tank.
Take advantage of this chance to do a comprehensive service on your water heating system.
To loosen the heating element, crank it in a counter-clockwise manner with the heating element wrench until it becomes loose.
Make certain that the previous seal has been thoroughly removed.
Examine the sort of heating element that is installed in your water heater.
To determine the heating element you have, take the old heating element to a home improvement store for comparison.
Inspect and tighten the new seal that comes with the replacement heating element with the heating element wrench to ensure that it is properly sealed.
Make sure that all of the wires are properly connected and that they are snugly secured with the screwdriver.
It is advised that both heating components be replaced at the same time, even if one of them is still in good operating condition.
Step 4: Refill the water heater with fresh water.
The faucet should be closed once the water has been drawn through it.
Step 5: Tighten the panel covers in place.
If the thermostat is exposed to cool air, it has the potential to interfere with the temperature readings on the display screen.
Step 6: Reconnect the electricity to the system.
Do not switch on the electricity until the tank is completely filled with water.
It will take roughly one hour to recover.
Before beginning any job, you should contact with a competent expert and verify that all necessary permits have been obtained.
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