Easy Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting

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Use the electric water heater troubleshooting guide to find the causes why an electric unit fails, produce less or no hot water. The troubleshooting guide helps you find the answers about heating elements, thermostats and more.

Electric water heater troubleshooting article will cover problems and causes that are specific for electric units only, while problems such as corrosion, leaking, smelly water, which are common on both electric and gas units, are described in this troubleshooting article.

In this guide it will be assumed that the unit has been properly sized, installed professionally, per codes and manufacturer instructions.

Note: If your water heater doesn't work, needs repair, service, replacement or professional installation always contact a licensed plumber.

Common problems

How to troubleshoot an electric water heater - No hot water

  • The thermostat is broken or out of calibration - replace it.
  • Inspect the fuse, and check the voltage of the heating elements and thermostats and see if there is a short circuit, especially after the lighting or power outage.
  • If the water is leaking around the heating element, tighten the element or replace the gasket.
  • If there is a loose wiring connection, tighten it.
  • Clean the connection that has the build-up accumulation during the oxidation.
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Not enough hot water and slow hot water recovery

  • If the thermostat is set too low, increase the setting, but be careful of the scalding temperatures. The recommended temperature is 120-125 F for warm water or 140 F for bathroom and kitchen applications.
  • Replace the lower thermostat or heating element if you find them faulty. When checking the heating elements, see are they covered with the lime scale and sediment build-up. Clean the deposits to increase the performance and efficiency.
  • Tighten the loose wiring and fix if the ground is poor.
  • If the piping line is too long and exposed to the cold weather, make sure to insulate them.
  • If the dip tube is broken, replace it. Hot water is diluted by the cold water too early.
  • If your hot water faucet, drain or any other connection leaks, fix it.
  • If the thermostat is not flush with the heater's body make the adjustment so it is perfectly in contact.

Water is too hot and the operating costs are high

The following steps in the electric water heater troubleshooting will bring the energy consumption down and save you on energy bills.

  • The thermostat is set too high. Lower the setting to 140 F or to avoid scalding temperature, around 120 F.
  • The thermostat is faulty or out of calibration. Make sure that this element is in contact with and flush to a tank.
  • Thermostat and heating elements are not covered with the insulation.
  • The TPR valve should be operational, if not installed a new one.
  • Grounded element (short circuit to the ground) will cause the heating element to be in constant operation, which will activate the ECO in the thermostat or overheat the water.

The heating element and thermostat failure

  • If there is a wrong wiring connection at the heater's terminal, correct it according to the manufacturer instructions.
  • Check the fuse, thermostat and heating elements for the voltage. They might get burnt during the extreme weather conditions, lighting and during the power outage.
  • Correct the loose wiring and short circuit.
  • Dry firing is the common cause of the heating element failure. The elements should always be fully submerged in water. Sometimes the sediment build-up around the heating element will cause the sizzling noise while the air-pockets will result in the dry fired element.

When talking about the electric water heater troubleshooting you will notice that there is often a number of different causes for one problem and the same symptoms for different problems. This is why you should troubleshoot the electric water heater by taking into account all the symptoms and causes and consult the unit's manual and codes.

Or, contact a licensed plumber to help you repair the water heater.

When replacing the faulty elements try to buy the genuine parts and match the characteristics. If the inspection and maintenance are done periodically and per manufacturer's instructions, you will reduce the danger of heater's failure and problems with the water heating.

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