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“Water heater element troubleshooting”, is the first in a series of residential/commercial water heater troubleshooting blogs.

Water Heater element

Our purpose is to benefit home owners and plumbers alike with basic troubleshooting skills to ascertain the problem and the steps to solve it.
Have you ever turned on a faucet or shower only to find lukewarm water? Frustrating, isn’t it?
What could the problem be?

A water heater consists of many parts including the tank, thermostats, high limit switch, T & P valve (temperature & pressure relief valve), drain valve and of course the water heater element. Though not enough or no hot water could be caused by different water heater components or an undersized water heater, today we will discuss the water heater element.
There are basically 4 causes why a water heater element would not function properly if electricity is powering the water heater:
1. an open element
2. a grounded element
3. scale build up on the element
4. improper wattage of element

1. OPEN WATER HEATER ELEMENT

Water heater elements have a filament located on the inside that conducts electrical current. When that filament if broken, current cannot flow so you have an open circuit. Unfortunately you cannot tell an open circuit merely by looking at the element.

Here are the steps to check for an open element:

1. Turn off the power to the water heater.
2. Remove both wires from the screw lug terminals on the water heater element.
3. With your OHM meter place one test probe on one screw terminal and the other probe on the other screw terminal of the element.
If your OHM meter does not show a resistance reading, the element is open and should be replaced.

2. GROUNDED WATER HEATER ELEMENT

Here are the steps to check for a grounded element:

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater
  2. Remove both wires from the screw lug terminals on the water heater element.
  3. With your OHM meter place one test probe on one screw terminal of the element and the other probe to the steel inner tank. If you meter registers any resistance the element is grounded and must be replaced.

3. SCALE BUILDUP ON WATER HEATER ELEMENT

If you notice that your water heater is not recovering as fast as it used to, you could have scale formation on your element. Once scale begins to form on the water heater element, the element has to heat the scale formation in addition to the water. Scale formation acts somewhat like an insulator.

Here are the steps to check for scale formation:

  1. Turn off the power to the water heater
  2. You will need to drain the water level of the heater below that of the element you want to visually inspect.
  3. Remove both wires from the screw lug terminals
  4. Now remove the suspect element from the heater and visually inspect. If your element is the screw-in type, you will need a 1-1/2″ hex socket wrench.
  5. If you see scale formation, the best is to replace the element. Make sure that the replacement element is rated for the same wattage and voltage.

4. IMPROPER WATTAGE OF WATER HEATER ELEMENT

Here are the steps to ensure your water heater elements are of the proper wattage:

  1. On all water heaters, whether residential or commercial, there is a label called the rating plate. The rating plate for an electric water heater contains information such as, manufacturers name, model number, serial number and the proper element wattage and voltage.
  2. With the power turned off to your heater, compare the information contained on the visible end of your water heater element with the information on the rating plate. If the element shows different wattage, have the element replaced

Doug Wallingford
www.wallingfordsales.com
www.waterheaterstore.co

“Keeping you in hot water…so you stay out of hot water!”