How To Test An Electric Hot Water Heater

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.

Tools Required

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.

If your heater is reaching its end of life, it may be more cost-effective to replace it than to repair it.

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.
  • Disconnect the wires from the terminal screws using a wire cutter. Attach the alligator clamp to one of the element screws using a hex key. With the tester probe, make contact with the other screw.
  • 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

Occasionally, both elements will pass the test, but you will still be unable to receive hot water.

Try pressing the “high-temperature cutoff” button, which is situated right above the upper thermostat, to see if that helps. It may temporarily cure the problem, but if the problem recurs, the heating components should be checked. Step number five.

Remove the Bad Element

  • Close the intake valve for cold water
  • Start by turning on the hot water tap in the kitchen. Pour water into the tank by connecting a garden hose to the drain valve and opening it
  • 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 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.


  • Remove the plastic safety cover off the element’s face with your fingers. This cover clicks on and off to allow for easy access to the element and thermostat.


  • 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

Have you noticed a significant reduction in the temperature of the water delivered by your water heater? If so, you’re not alone. Every home need hot water in order to do a variety of household tasks. When your water heater, on the other hand, generates lukewarm water that is incapable of serving the intended function, it may be really annoying. While a variety of factors can influence the efficiency with which your water heater operates, a malfunctioning element is one of the most common reasons of water heater failure.

As a result, it is necessary to understand how to test and replace a water heater element.

Tools Needed

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

The thermostat’s job is to notify the elements when to heat the water at different temperatures depending on the temperature setting. When the temperature rises over a preset threshold, the high limit switch on the thermostat is activated, and the power is turned off as a result. A faulty thermostat will be unable to regulate the amount of heat provided to the water heater element, resulting in the element finally catching fire.

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.

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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

Set the multimeter dial to the lowest setting, which is Rx1k, which is resistances multiplied by 1000. You should pay attention to the base of your water heater tank. You will notice the wattage and ohms that have been imprinted. With a 3500-watt water heater, the multimeter will read 16, whereas a water heater with a 4,500-watt capacity will read between 12 and 13. You will receive between 10 and 11 cents for a water heater with a 5,500-watt element.

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. Click on the link to see the video. You should also double-check the reading for the second water heater element. There are some instances in which both pieces are defective and require replacement.

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 process of replacing a water heater element is rather straightforward. You may learn how to achieve this by watching the video below.


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

Any specific questions you have about how to test the water heater element that have not been addressed in this article should be posted in the comment area below. Thanks for reading! Our team is here to assist you with any inquiry. Also, please feel free to forward this post to your friends on any social networking site you like.

How to Test, Troubleshoot & Repair an Electric Water Heater Thermostat: DIY Guide

Every year in the United States, around 1.5 million water heaters are replaced. That’s a significant amount of money. However, not all water heater issues are severe enough to warrant the purchase of a new heater. Some electric water heater thermostat problems might be resolved by doing a DIY repair at home. And that is exactly what this tutorial is all about. Let’s have a look at how to test and repair an electric water heaterthermostat now, shall we? Before we go any further, what exactly is the purpose of an electric water heater thermostat, and how does it function?

What Is The Purpose of an Electric Water Heater Thermostat?

We wash our clothes, do the dishes, and take a nice shower every day. However, the amount of hot water we consume for these tasks is not the same. Furthermore, the thermostat is essential since it regulates the temperature of the electric heater. An electric water heater is, at its most basic level, a piece of electrical equipment that consists of three components: a heating element, a thermostat, and a switch. Electric water heaters are used to heat water for various purposes. As a result, the thermostat functions as a switch that is actuated when the temperature of the water changes.

  1. When it senses a drop in water temperature, it will activate the elements, causing them to generate heat.
  2. So, how does it determine if the water is cold or hot to drink?
  3. Furthermore, there is no insulator at the point where the tank meets the thermostat.
  4. Having stated that, when electricity is introduced into the device, the heating element becomes extremely hot and begins to convert the power into heat.

This then transforms your cold water into hot water, at a temperature of around 120°F. Finally, the high limit switch keeps the hot water from becoming scorching hot while it is running.

How Does An Electric Water Heater Thermostat Work?

Electric water heaters are classified into two categories:

  • In addition to the single element water heater, there is also a twin element water heater.

The single element type is comprised of a single element thermostat as well as a single element heating element. Tanks are often lower in size since only a single thermostat is required to regulate the temperature. Two thermostats and two heating elements are found in the dual element water heater, on the other hand. The majority of water heaters are dual-element water heaters, which is what we’ll be focusing on throughout the remainder of this article. A single element heater, on the other hand, may be checked and changed in the same manner.

  1. The thermostats for electric water heaters generate heat in the tank by enabling energy to flow into the elements of the water heater.
  2. The top thermostat, which is also the principal thermostat, regulates the heating element in the top part of the unit, as well as having a high limit switch.
  3. Keep in mind that the high limit switch, which is placed in the same region as the higher thermostat, includes a reset button that activates when the water temperature becomes too warm (over 170F).
  4. A 240-volt power supply is used to heat the water, which is subsequently heated by the higher heating element.
  5. The problem is that only the water in the upper part of the tub becomes heated, while the water in the lower half is either chilly or lukewarm at best.
  6. As the bottom heating element gets 240 V, it warms the water in the bottom region to the temperature that has been specified before the process is completed and turned off.

Problems with Electric Water Heaters

Sometimes, when your heating elements or water heater thermostats fail, you will notice a difference in the performance of your device. If the upper element or thermostat in your water heater breaks, the water heater may be unable to provide hot water. And whether it’s the bottom element or the thermostat that’s defective, you’ll find that you’re running out of hot water quite soon as well. These, on the other hand, might be a result of the cold weather or pipes that are not properly insulated.

However, it is possible that this is due to the thermostat being set too high or the changing of the seasons.

A defective electric water heater may also take an excessive amount of time to reheat the water in your water heater. Other issues might arise as a result of improper tank maintenance or excessive water pressure at home.

How to Test an Electric Hot Water Heater Thermostat and Fix it: Step by Step Guide

We’re going to test both the thermostats and the heating components in our unit to be certain that we’re not dealing with a false alarm. It’s important to note that if your elements are open and grounded, the algorithm may produce a misleading result, which is why we’re also evaluating them. It is necessary to have a Flathead and Philips screwdriver, as well as a digital multimeter, in order to carry out the test described in this section. Let’s get this party started.

Step 1: Turn the power source off

Locate the water heater breaker panel on your circuit breaker panel and switch off the water heater or the hot water supply.

Step 2: Remove the outer access panels

With a flathead screwdriver or 1/4-inch nut driver, pry up the top and lower thermostat access panels on the unit’s left and right sides.

Step 3: Remove the insulation

You have two options for removing the insulation: either entirely remove it or fold it over the thermostat. As well as removing the plastic safety barrier that was covering the thermostat and heating element, Also, use tape to hold the insulator in place as you work on this step, and be careful not to yank the wiring out as you work.

Step 4: Check the high limit switch button

Check to see whether the red high limit reset button has been triggered by accident. If it has, you should push it. The red switch button may trip on occasion if the heating components fail, if the connections on the thermostat have fused closed, or if the thermostat is not calibrated properly.

Step 5: Disconnect the wires

Using your Philips screwdriver, disconnect the wires that are entering each terminal on your computer.

Step 6: Turn the temperature setting to the highest

Make sure that the temperature on the top thermostat is set to its maximum level, and that the scale on your multimeter is set to RX1.

Step 7: Check the thermostat and heating element with a multimeter

Set the resistance of your analog or digital meter to the lowest possible value, which should be 200 ohms. You should hear a click sound at this point. Then attach the black probe to the screw terminal on the left side of the screw terminal. In addition, connect the second red probe to the other terminal, which is still on the left side of the board. Then, using your reading, check to see if the thermostat is still operational. As long as the meter shows zero or a reading that is very near to zero, your thermostat is in proper operating order.


Step 8: Repeat the process for the right side

In addition, lower the top thermostat on the right side to its lowest setting and connect the probes to the screw terminals on the left side. This should also return a zero as a result of the condition.

Step 9: Take the meter reading on the lower thermostat

After confirming that the upper thermostat is in proper operating order, repeat the process to ensure that the lower thermostat is in proper working order. Take note that there are only two connections on the bottom thermostat, which is a little number. Check to ensure that the reading is zero before continuing. Assuming that the thermostats are in good working order, you may check the heating components to make sure they are working properly. However, if one or more of the thermostats needs to be replaced, continue reading.

How to Replace A Faulty Thermostat on an Electric Water Heater

It is rather simple to replace a malfunctioning thermostat. Furthermore, purchasing a new one is inexpensive. As a result, even if the problem is with a single thermostat, we’re going to replace both of the thermostats.

Prior to doing so, you’ll need to make sure that all of your thermostats are from the same brand. If you are unable to obtain this product, another one from a reputable brand would suffice. You’ll need a few tools.

  1. A flathead screwdriver, a Philips screwdriver, a digital multimeter or a voltmeter, and a replacement thermostat are all necessary tools.

Now it’s time to get started.

Step 1: Turn off the power supply to the heater

You don’t want to be working with the electricity turned on. So go to the circuit breaker panel and turn off the electricity to the water heater that is currently attached to it.

Step 2: Remove the outer access panel and insulation

Electric water heaters feature access panels on the outside that protect the thermostat and heating components. Remove the insulating pad and plastic covering by unscrewing the nut, taking care not to contact the wires in the process.

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Step 3: Take out the Thermostat

Take a photo of the wiring before you remove the malfunctioning old thermostat so that you can remember which wire goes into which terminal while you’re attaching the new thermostat. Alternatively, you can label the wire. Using your multimeter, you should also check to see if it is turned off. Then, using a Philips screwdriver, remove the screw terminals and separate the wire from the terminals. After that, you may peel the thermostat away from its attachment clamps and bracket. However, proceed with caution so as not to harm the clips.

Step 4: Install the new thermostat

After you’ve successfully removed the broken thermostat from the water heater, you’ll need to fix the new thermostat installed in the water heater. Position it appropriately so that it rests comfortably on the surface of the storage tank, and attach the appropriate clips by referring to the image you captured in the preceding step. In addition, connect the circuit wires to their corresponding screw terminals and tighten the screws on the terminals. In addition, it may be a good idea to examine the heating components, clean them, and replace them.

Step 5: Set the temperature of your new thermostat

When you’re certain that the wires are correctly connected and you’re through setting up your thermostat, use your flathead screwdriver to adjust the temperature to the ideal setting for you. The optimal temperature is 120 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 6: Replace every other thing you took out

Having completed your setup, it is now time to reinstall your insulators as well as the chamber access panel. After that, reconnect the power supply by turning on the water heater breaker on the circuit breaker panel to the water heater.

Step 7: Cycle test your electric water heater

If you want to test if your water heater heated your water sufficiently, you may turn on the hot water faucet for two hours and observe if the heater did a good job. Troubleshooting Other Water Heater Issues and How to Resolve Them Leaks of water: The majority of the time, faulty valves and plumbing connections are to blame for water leaks in the home. However, corrosion in the water heater tank or loose components in the water heater tank might be the source of the problem. If your tank has rusted beyond repair, you will have no choice except to replace it.

  1. Noises coming from the tank: If your tank is making noises such as rumbling, popping, or high-pitched sounds, it might be due to boiling water.
  2. Things’s a simple matter of putting it back together.
  3. If it does not function, the tank should be replaced.
  4. It’s also possible that the corrosion is occurring in your pipes.
  5. If the water flowing through your home smells like rotten eggs, it’s possible that bacteria has accumulated in your hot water tank over time.

It is possible that you may need to replace the anode rod in order to correct this. You, on the other hand, cannot achieve this on your own. In addition, hire the services of a skilled plumber to help you.

Wrapping up

You should now be aware of the measures to take in order to simply test and replace your faulty water heater thermostat. Working with electricity, on the other hand, may be quite dangerous, therefore take steps to ensure that the power supply to your water heater is always turned off. Another thing to keep in mind is that silt that accumulates at the bottom of water heater tanks is the most significant factor in lowering the performance of water heaters over time. It might also lead to the overheating of your heater.

Other options include installing a sediment filter and/or a water softener in your water supply.

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.

Tools Required

  • 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.

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.

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Step 5. Verify the Electricity Is Off

Using a non-contact voltage tester or a multimeter, confirm that the power has been turned off. A non-contact voltage tester is a pen-shaped gadget that illuminates or emits a beep when it comes into close proximity to an electrically charged (“live”) wire or other live wire. In order to identify if the electricity is turned off, it only has to be put near the electrical cables that connect the thermostat and heating element. If it continues to light up or beep, this indicates that the cables are still live and that the energy has not been fully turned off.

Any electrical activity should not be recorded in your logs.

After moving the probes around, repeat the testing. Place the red probe on the screw where the black probe was previously located, and the black probe on the screw where the red probe was previously located. This will assist you in ensuring that you are receiving a trustworthy reading.

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 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. 1 Disconnect the circuit breaker that supplies electricity to the hot water heater. While you’re testing the element, the hot water heater must not be in use (must not be receiving electrical power). 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)
  • 2 Remove the metal cover from the water heater so that you can view the thermostat. There will be a metal plate near the base of the hot water heater that you will need to remove. Remove the screws that hold the metal plate in place with a Philips head screwdriver and set them aside. Located behind the plate, you’ll find the thermostat and heating components for 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.
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  • 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.
  • 4 Check the power using a non-contact voltage detector to ensure that it is turned off. Before you begin working on the hot water heater, double-check that the electric power in the room where the heater is located is turned off and unplugged. To check whether electrical current is flowing to the water heater, place the tip of a voltage detector on the wires heading into the thermostat. If the detector illuminates or beeps, this indicates that the outlet is operational. If the detector does not light up, you have successfully shut off the power
  • Otherwise, try again.
  • 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. 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.
See also:  How To Drain My Hot Water Heater

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Things You’ll Need

  • Small bowl (optional)
  • Needle-nose pliers (optional)
  • Philips head screwdriver
  • Non-contact voltage detector
  • Multimeter
  • 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.

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About This Article

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Electric water heaters have a similar appearance to their gas-fueled counterparts. In order to limit heat loss from the heated water, they both employ an insulated steel storage tank jacket, with insulation between the storage tank and the tank jacket. The primary difference between electric and gas water heaters is the source of heat used to heat the water. Electric upper and lower heating components that extend into the water tank heat the water in an electric water heater, which is powered by electricity.

When it comes to electric water heaters that provide little or no heat, the most common problem is a faulty heating element, which is a pretty affordable component that is quite simple to repair.

Other issues may arise as a result of incorrect settings, excessive household water pressure, or a failure to perform regular tank maintenance.

Watch Now: How to Repair an Electric Water Heater

Limited warranties are provided with both residential and commercial hot water heaters. Every tank is equipped with a rating plate that displays the tank’s model and serial number. These numbers specify the year in which the tank was manufactured, and they will decide if the tank is covered by a prorated warranty, which may include the provision of a new tank or replacement parts at no cost or at a discount. Take a picture or write down the information, then contact the manufacturer if the tank is leaking or the element is not working correctly.

The following is something that you can perform before you start diagnosing the issue.


Working with electric water heaters when the power is on is risky since they are high-voltage (240-volt) equipment that can cause electrocution. Turn off the electricity to the water heater’s circuit by turning off the relevant breaker in your home’s service panel before inspecting any electrical components of the water heater (breaker box). Also, use a non-contact voltage tester to check all of the wires in the water heater to ensure that the power is turned off before touching any of the wires.

How to Fix

The Spruce Tree

No Hot Water

A water heater that does not generate hot water might be due to a lack of electricity, a tripped limit switch, or one or more faulty heating components, to name a few possibilities. As a first step, make sure that the circuit breaker for your water heater is not tripped on your panel of electrical circuit breakers. Switch off the circuit breaker and then turn it back on if it has been tripped. If the heater’s breaker does not trip (i.e., if it is still turned on), attempt the following steps to reset the high-temperature limit:

  1. Turn off the circuit breaker for the water heater’s circuit at the service panel if necessary. Removing the access panel for the water heater’s upper heating element is a good idea. Carefully remove all of the insulation and the plastic safety shield, taking care not to come into contact with any of the wires or electrical connections
  2. To reset the high-temperature cutoff, press the red button above the higher thermostat, which is positioned above the upper thermostat. Reinstall the safety guard, the insulating material, and the access panel. Turn on the circuit breaker for the heater. Test each heating element and replace it if required if this does not resolve the problem

“The Spruce” is a song by Candace Madonna.

Inadequate Hot Water

If your water heater is producing hot water but not enough of it, it is possible that your unit is too small to satisfy the hot water demands of your home. Take precautions to ensure that the water heater’s capacity does not exceed the demand.

How to Fix

The water heater should be able to provide hot water to a capacity of 75% of its total capacity. For example, a 40-gallon water heater is appropriately suited for a 30-gallon demand. If the demand exceeds the capacity of the heater, attempt to restrict the length of showers, install low-flow showerheads, and spread out dishwashing and laundry to different times of the day rather than doing them all at the same time to reduce the strain on the heater. The failure of one or both of your unit’s heating elements, even if your unit is not undersized, might indicate that one or both of its heating elements have failed.

When hot water runs out rapidly during a shower, it is an indication of a faulty bottom heating element in the shower.

Water Temperature Is Too Hot

When there is too much hot water, it may be almost as annoying as when there is not enough hot water.

If you’re encountering this problem, it’s possible that one or both of the thermostats on your water heater are set too high.

How to Fix

To double-check the thermostat settings, do the following:

  1. In the service panel, turn off the electricity to the water heater to conserve energy. The access panel, insulation, and plastic safety shield from each heating element on the water heater should be removed before continuing. Do not come into contact with any wires or electrical terminals. Using a non-contact voltage tester, check the cables to ensure that the power has been turned off. Ensure that the heat is set correctly on both thermostats: Both of them should be at the same temperature as each other. 115 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit is the acceptable temperature range. Make use of a flathead screwdriver to adjust the temperature to the correct level
  2. And Set the other thermostat to the same temperature as the first
  3. For each element, replace the safety guard, insulation, and access panel as needed. Turn on the circuit breaker for the heater.

“The Spruce” is a song by Candace Madonna.

Water Leaks

Water leaks are often caused by leaking valves and plumbing connections, but they can also be caused by difficulties with the tank’s drainage system. Water leaks may cause substantial damage to a property, which is why it is critical to repair the leak as soon as it is discovered.

How to Fix

Leaks from water heater tanks can occur as a result of faulty heating components or corrosion in the tank. Inspect the elements for looseness and, if required, tighten them with an element wrench to prevent them from moving. A rusted tank is unable to be repaired and must be completely replaced instead. Turn off the water heater’s power and water supply, and then totally drain the tank to stop the leaks from occurring. “The Spruce” is a song by Candace Madonna.

Rust-Colored Water or Bad Odor

If your water has a brown, yellow, or red tinge to it as it comes out of the faucet, corrosion might be occuring within your water heater tank or in the pipes in your home. If your water comes out smelling like rotten eggs, it’s possible that bacteria has built up in the tank of your hot water heater. A professional plumber may be required to replace the anode rod in the tank, which is something that you should avoid doing unless absolutely necessary. courtesy of KariHoglund / Getty Images

Tank Making Noises

Is your water heater making noises? If so, what are they? Is there a low rumbling or popping sound when you turn it on? What if it’s a high-pitched whine instead? It’s possible that the sounds you’re hearing is the sound of boiling water. When there is a significant amount of sediment building in the bottom of a tank, it can cause the bottom of the tank to overheat, which can result in the water boiling.

How to Fix

In order to remove the silt from the tank, the first thing to attempt is to empty it. The tank may need to be replaced if this does not alleviate the problem. “The Spruce” is a song by Candace Madonna.

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