What Does A Bad Water Heater Element Look Like

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.

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

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.

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 Determine Which Water Heater Element Is Bad?

A frustrating sensation is turning on the faucets for a nice shower only to discover that the water is either lukewarm or cold. When the components of an electric hot water heater short out or burn out, the outcome is chilly water. Most of the time, the lowest element is placed first, however this is not always the case. The good news is that a few short electrical tests will disclose which part has to be replaced in order to bring hot water back into your house.


  • The electricity to the electric hot water heater should be turned off. Some devices are wired to connect into a wall socket, and power may be turned off by simply unplugging them from the wall socket. Due to the fact that most units are hard wired directly into the home’s electrical circuitry, switch off the breaker for the hot water heater at the home’s main electrical panel.


  • Remove the two wires that are linked to the water heater element and push them to the side of the water heater. Using a screwdriver, remove the mounting hardware and bend the wires so that they are no longer in your way.


  • Set the multitester to measure ohms, which is the unit of measure for resistance. When it comes to resistance testers, the ohm key is often printed in green and denoted by an omega symbol. Set the scale to the lowest possible values, which are often “RX1K” or “RX1.”


  • The probe on the multitester should be touched to each screw on the element. A poor element is one in which you receive no reading or only the maximum reading. Element resistance varies depending on their size and power, therefore it is common to get a reading between 10 and 16 ohms, with higher readings for 3,500 watt elements and lower readings for 5,500 watt elements. This is printed on the plastic block between the two screws where the wires were joined, indicating the wattage of your element.


  • Touch one probe to a screw on the element and the other probe to bare metal on the water heater to determine the temperature of the water. Any ohm reading or minor movement of the needle on the multitester indicates that an element has shorted out and has to be replaced. Check each screw on both pieces to ensure it is in proper working order.


To test the element, place one probe on its screw and another on the metal frame that surrounds it (but not to the other screw). Any movement or reading of the needle shows the presence of a shorted out element. Each screw on both components should be checked in the same way.

Things You Will Need

An electrical multiteter can be purchased from the electrical section of a home center. The instrument is affordable, and in addition to measuring resistance, it also monitors voltage, amperage, and does battery inspections.


  1. A 240 volt current is typically used by hot water heaters, and it is possible to receive unpleasant electrical shocks or even worse. Before doing any resistance testing, make certain that the unit’s power has been turned off.

How to Diagnose a Water Heater Problem

Plumbers are often the best choice when it comes to repairing or replacing a water heater element. With a new element installed, the heater is back in operation, and you can resume taking warm, steamy showers. So, if your water heater isn’t generating hot water, how can you determine if the problem is with the electric element or with the water heater itself? It could be less difficult than you think. Before we proceed with the diagnosis, let’s take a closer look at the water heater elements themselves.

How a Water Heater Element Works

Each element is controlled by a thermostat that has been specified. The temperature of the water is controlled by altering the thermostat. In most circumstances, a temperature between 120 and 125 degrees Fahrenheit is both safe and pleasant. The element will then be activated or deactivated in order to maintain the desired temperature of the water. In most cases, a standard-sized water heater stores around 40 gallons of water at a given time. There are smaller and bigger tanks available, with sizes ranging from around 30 to 65 gallons.

When one part fails, the other element is forced to work longer hours to compensate.

It is possible that the thermostat will stop operating in conjunction with the element.

How to Diagnose a Water Heater Element Problem

A leaky water heater element may frequently be detected by turning on a sink’s faucet and observing the flow of water. There are no extra tools needed! Activate a hot water faucet at a sink and look for any of the following scenarios: The water is heated for a brief period of time before becoming cool. This is an indicator that the bottom element has failed to perform its function. During the time that the upper unit is operational, water in the reservoir at the top of the heater will be heated.

Is the water just warm enough?

The only thing you will receive is cold water if both elements or thermostats have failed. There might be a variety of additional factors contributing to a lack of hot water. Before deciding that the water heater has failed, make sure the circuit breaker box is working properly.

Other Reasons Your Water Might Not be Hot

It is possible for the heating elements within an electric water heater tank to fail, resulting in a lack of hot water if you have one. Occasionally, your water may slowly begin to cool down, and this might be due to the element becoming damaged or failing. If the second part fails, you’ll be left with only cold water to clean your hands. Even if the heating element is not burned out, it might have been turned off by an energized circuit or a blown fuse, so make sure to check the fuse box as well.

Cause2: Faulty gas control valve

If the gas control valve is not functioning correctly, it will cut off the gas supply to the burner, which will prevent the burner from being able to heat the water.

Cause3: Broken burner

It is possible to use a natural gas water heater; however, the burner unit beneath the tank has gas jets that will ignite and transmit heat to any water in the tank. If the burner is unclean or begins to corrode, it will have a difficult time igniting and will eventually fail. Eventually, the gas jets will be unable to operate, and the water in the tank will cease to heat.

Cause4: Pilot light

It is the pilot light that will start the burner of your water heater, and if it goes out, there will be nothing to heat the water. Remove the lid from the water heater and look inside to determine whether the pilot light is out. Instructions on how to relight your water heater are normally included with the unit. Once it’s turned on, you’ll need to wait around 30 minutes for the burners to begin heating the water. If you’ve tried this a few times and the light continues to go out, you should contact a plumbing specialist to get it looked at right away.

See also:  What To Do When Water Heater Is Leaking

Even if the water is just slightly warm, it should not be disregarded, especially if it persists in this state for an extended length of time.

Water Heater Repair: When to Contact a Portland Plumber

It is possible that minerals will accumulate in your tank over time, clogging plumbing lines and overall shortening the life of your unit. If your water heater is more than a decade old and you are aware that your area has hard water, you may want to consider hiring a plumbing specialist to install a new one in your home. Fortunately, the Portland region has reasonably soft water, so if you reside in or around the metro area, hard water will not be a problem for your household.

If Your Water Heater is Over 15 Years Old

The majority of residential water heaters are covered by a 5-year or 10-year guarantee; a new water heater should last at least as long as the warranty period. If your water heater is more than 15 years old and is having difficulties such as sounds, inability to produce hot water, or inability to keep a steady temperature, it is time to consider replacing the device.

If Your Water Heater is Leaking

The problem of a leaky water tank cannot be solved overnight, unfortunately. Any leakage or standing water around the unit should be reported to a professional as soon as it is discovered.

You do not want to be confronted with a potential flooding situation, which might exacerbate the situation. To have a professional water heater installed, contact a licensed and insured plumber.

Portland water heater repair and installation

If you believe you have a problem with a water heater element, please contact us right once. We’ll have you back in your warm and cozy showers in no time!

Test & Replace a Bad Water Heating Element: DIY Guide

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:

  1. 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
  2. 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.

  1. And, of course, the higher the temperature is set, the more electricity is consumed by the system.
  2. Running both elements at the same time may void any warranty that may have been provided by the water heater manufacturer.
  3. If the components are not entirely submerged in water, they are at risk of catching fire.
  4. 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.
  5. The lower element regulates the temperature of the tank by cycling on and off at regular intervals throughout the day and night.
  6. Cold water quickly fills the bottom of the tank when hot water is pulled from the tank through the dip tube.
  7. It is only when it reaches the top third that the bottom element is turned off and the upper element is activated.
  8. 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:
  1. 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.

As an affiliate, HomeInspectionInsider.com participates in a variety of affiliate programs with other websites. Hubert Miles receives a commission for recommending visitors and commerce to these businesses.

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.

See also:  How To Know When To Replace Water Heater

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 the heating elements or electrodes

  • POSTING a QUESTION or COMMENT about how to test the heating components on an electric water heater is encouraged.

InspectAPedia does not allow any form of conflict of interest. The sponsors, goods, and services described on this website are not affiliated with us in any way. Testing an electric water heater heating element: This article discusses how to test an electric water heater heating element and what readings to anticipate if you are using an ohmmeter to do so. A guide to replacing a defective heating element in an electric hot water heater is provided in this article, which covers the measures to take while checking the heating elements.

The pages on this website will address the vast majority of your queries concerning electrical water heaters, as well as many other issues related to the inspection and repair of building plumbing systems.

For this topic, we also have anARTICLE INDEX available, or you may check the top or bottom of the page.

How to Test Electric Water Heater Heating Elements

Note: Once you have determined which heating element is faulty, you should also refer to REPLACEMENT OF ELECTRIC WATER HEATER ELEMENT. Because the electric water heater may be unable to function owing to a loss of electrical power to the device or a faulty high-temperature cutoff switch, you should also review the test procedures at the bottom of this page. CUTOFF TEST FOR ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS AT HIGH TEMPERATURESThe electric water heater drawing (left), which illustrates the sequencing technique for electric water heater elements, is courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates and is used with permission.

  1. Electric water heaters contain two heating elements – thick metal loops that become hot when electricity goes through them.
  2. A dip tube is used to supply cold water to the bottom of the tank when it is filled with hot water.
  3. When there is a significant demand for hot water, the higher heating element functions as a “booster” to provide more heat.
  4. As we said before, if there is some hot water available but it is restricted in quantity or temperature, it is possible that one of the heating components has failed and the other has not.
  5. However, while the bottom element is capable of heating the entire tank, it is not capable of heating the water to the same high temperature as if both elements were in operation at the same time.
  6. If the electric water heater continues to generate hot water at the same temperature as before, but the quantity produced appears to be significantly reduced, we think that the bottom water heater element has burned out.
  7. Cold water enters and stays at the bottom of the water heater.
  8. A faulty bottom water heater element results in a short hot shower.

See HOW TO USE A DIGITAL MULTIMETER (DMM) for more information. For further information on how to safely use electrical test equipment, read SAFE USE OF DMMS AND VOMS and VOLTS / AMPS MEASUREMENT EQUIPMENT.

Steps in Testing an Electric Water Heater Heating Element – Good Method

When I switch on the hot water in the house, the water does not get hot – Claude 11/29/12


The components in your water heater could need to be replaced, Claude. See the following article for the steps to do the test:

  1. You should have done this earlier if you followed the steps above. Turn off the electricity to the water heater. Power should be turned off at the water heater circuit at the main electrical panel. Heater water should be lukewarm or cooler than the rest of the house. If the water heater is hot, run hot water throughout the building (without turning off the electrical power to the water heater) until the water is lukewarm or cooler. Removing the electrical wires from the heating element terminals is a good idea. (This is true whether the top or lower heating element is being tested.) To check for current flow, do the following: Use a voltage-ohmmeter, digital multimeter, or Ohmmeter or multimeter configured to read “resistance” or “ohms” in the following ways: Link one alligator clip or one probe of the VOM to each terminal on the water heater element, or use a VOM probe to connect them. One probe makes contact with one terminal, while the second probe makes contact with the other terminal. If the Ohmmeter needle does not move (or if no reading is displayed on the DMM), this indicates that the electric water heater heating element is faulty and must be repaired or replaced immediately. if the ohmmeter needle moves, or if you receive an Ohm value (other than infinity), then the heating element is in good working order, and you are ready to proceed to testing the other heating element on the heater. Briefly stated, if there is “continuity” through the heating element, it is functioning correctly. If there is no continuity (i.e., no electrical current can flow), the element is said to be faulty.

Testing an Electric Water Heating Element for a Short Circuit – Crude MethodOHM Table for Water Heater Elements

Although we do not do this test on a regular basis, we have included it here because it appears in several diagnostic methods for electric water heaters. OHMS charts for water heater elements are available on the internet. The chart on the left (courtesy of A.O. Smith) describes the real ohm reading you’d anticipate when testing an original OEM heater element of the wattage displayed. Even if you don’t have that level of information, there is a simple test you can run to determine whether or not the heating element in an electric water heater is in excellent operating order:

  1. Turn off the electrical power to the water heater—if you followed the directions above, you should have done this earlier. Power should be turned off at the water heater circuit at the main electrical panel. As previously mentioned, remove the access panel lid and insulation from the top or bottom water heater element (as applicable). Connect one of the heating element’s terminals to the alligator clip or test terminal of your continuity tester using an alligator clip or test terminal. You can see it right there on the heating element itself: a wire and a screw. A bolt or bracket that keeps the heating element in place should be connected to another probe of the continuity tester (also known as a VOM). A short circuit in the heating element will result in the test light turning on, the buzzer sounding, or your VOM (set to Ohms) indicating continuity
  2. The heating element will need to be replaced.

In addition, the Residential Gas and Electric Water Heater Handbookprovided by A.O. Smith and linked-to atREFERENCES has further water heater element testing guidelines.

Causes of Heating Element Failure on Electric Water Heaters

Water heater components can fail due to a variety of factors, including age and usage. If your building’s water source is hard water (rich in mineral content), scale buildup on the elements can hasten their mortality. For more information on how to remove scale from a water heater, see WATER HEATER NOISE DIAGNOSIS, CURE.

Reader Q A – also see the FAQs series linked-to below

John Are you checking the water heater element with:- all power to the heater turned off (so you don’t get electrocuted)and- all cables attached to the heating element removed from each other? If it doesn’t work, let’s try something else. If you continue to experience infinite resistance or zero resistance, it is likely that the heating element is blown out. When I try to use my multiple on ohms x 1k, it only works on the highest scale, and I’m reading continuity through the element. Was there a possibility that the components were being read via the water due of the high scale and by element was bad?

  1. Briefly stated, if there is “continuity” through the heating element, it is functioning correctly.
  2. Thank you for your inquiry.
  3. It should be replaced.
  4. When testing the terminal of an element and the body of the element, what is an acceptable resistance reading?
  5. It’s possible that we might begin by clarifying the question.
  6. When doing an insulation resistance test on a water heater circuit, there are two concerns to take into consideration.
  7. “Best grade thermo stant” is a phrase that I am not familiar with.
  8. Wishing you the best of luck on your test.
  9. Replace the element in your electric water heater by continuing to read.

Alternatively, choose a topic from the closely related articles listed below, or browse the entireARTICLE INDEX. For further information, visit the ELECTRIC WATER HEATER ELEMENT TEST FAQs- questions and answers originally provided on this page. Alternatively, consider the following:

Recommended Articles

  • WATER HEATER NOISE DIAGNOSIS, CURE- remove scale from loud water heater

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Why Does My Water Heater Element Keep Going Bad?

A broken or malfunctioning water heater is an unpleasant experience, especially when you’re in the middle of getting ready to take a shower or make a dinner. When the water pouring out of your faucets is chilly, the water heater is almost always to blame, according to the experts. It’s possible that the heating element in the unit has failed and will need to be replaced; this is something to look into. However, if your water heater element continues to malfunction, it’s critical to determine what could be causing the problem.

What Causes a Heating Element to Burn Out?

Electric water heaters are the only ones that rely on heating elements to warm the water in the tank. A burner is located at the bottom of a gas-powered device. As a result, if your water heater is electric, the element will come into direct touch with the water, which implies that any foreign objects in your water might be the source of the problem. However, it is possible that the wiring to your electric water heater is the source of the problem. Because power is supplied to the components of your unit via heavy gauge wires, a bad connection between the cables and the water heater might result in the element failing to function properly.

A hot wire might pose a safety danger, especially if it connects to the earth via the tank’s metal surface.

Power surges can occur during electrical storms or if the power provider encounters a surge on the opposite end of the line at the same time as the storm.

It is possible to avoid this from occurring in your house by having surge protection installed by a professional electrician.

When certain types of plugs are used, power surges can be prevented from causing harm to the goods that are connected into them. If your heating element continues to burn out after a sudden and unexpected surge of power, you may want to explore one of the solutions listed above.

It is not possible for a water heater element to function until it is completely submerged in water. Suppose it were to function without any water in the tank, it would be able to generate enough heat to completely burn up its core in a short amount of time. In order to avoid major damage, the element must be surrounded by water in order to transfer the heat. If air pockets develop in the tank, which is frequently the result of a failure to thoroughly bleed out the tank before filling it up, the element may be burning itself out owing to a lack of sufficient water.

  1. A plumber may inspect inside the tank to see if there are any air pockets that are creating the problem, and they can also check to see that the element is completely immersed in the water.
  2. In fact, the presence of mineral deposits in the water accelerates the death of this component since the process of heating the water leads the dissolved minerals to revert to their solid states, which speeds up the decay.
  3. A layer of silt can also form at the bottom of the tank due to the build-up of minerals in the water.
  4. As a result, it frequently fails sooner than expected, necessitating the need for replacement.
  5. This aids in the removal of the silt layer and the extension of the life of the various components, including the heating element, in the system.

Need to Replace Your Hot Water Heater Element?

You should leave the process of replacing the heating element in your electric water heater to an experienced water heater repair professional if you suspect that your water heater’s heating element needs to be changed. We at Arctic Air Home Services provide high-quality plumbing services and can diagnose and repair problems with your water heater, particularly if you are experiencing problems with the heating element. Contact us now to learn more. We may be reached at (941) 757-8282 if you’re in the Bradenton, Florida region and would want to schedule service.

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. With the help of a digital multimeter, we will demonstrate step-by-step how to test water elements without the need for any prior experience in electrical work in this article.

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.

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.

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