Electric Hot Water Systems

electrichotwaterTroubleshooting Electric Water Heaters

When an electric heater has problems, suspect the heating elements, their thermostats, and the high-temperature cutoff. The two heating elements (upper and lower), immersed in water, are controlled by thermostats which, along with the high-temperature cutoff, are concealed behind a panel on the side (insulation must be cut away for access after removing the panel).  If the high-temperature cutoff has tripped due to water that’s too hot, the solution may be as easy as pushing the reset button. High voltage and inaccessibility warrant a service call to adjust the thermostats, reset the high-temperature cutoff, or to replace any of these components of the heating elements themselves.

There is no hot water.

Check for:

  • The heater has no power.
  • The safety thermostat has quit working.
  • Defective heating thermostat.
  • Defective heating elements.
  • Accumulation of rust, scale, or sediment in the tank or pipes.

Remedies:

  • Check the fuse box/ circuit breaker.
  • If the heater repeatedly blows fuses call your plumber.
  • Push the reset button.
  • Test the heating thermostats and elements.
  • Test the thermostats and replace if necessary.
  • Test the elements and replace if necessary.
  • Drain and flush the tank and pipes.

The hot water supply is too low.

Check for:

  • Thermostat is set wrong.
  • The tank is too small.
  • Heat is getting loose in the pipes.
  • Defective heating element.
  • Leaking hot water faucets.

Remedies:

  • Turn the thermostat to a higher temperature.
  • Install a larger heater.
  • Move the heater nearer to the point of use if possible.
  • Insulate the hot water pipes.
  • Test the element then replace it.
  • Repair or replace the faucets.

The water temperature is too high.

Check for:

  • Thermostat is on the wrong setting.
  • Inadequate insulation around the thermostats.

Remedies:

  • Turn up the thermostat.
  • Add insulation around the thermostats.
  • Test the thermostat and replace if necessary.

There is a water leak.

Check for:

  • Defective gasket or seal on the element.
  • Defective safety valve.
  • The tank is rusted through.
  • Leaking plumbing connections.

Remedies:

  • Check and replace gasket or seal.
  • Check and replace the safety valve.
  • Consider replacing water heater.
  • Call a qualified plumbing contractor.

The heater becomes unusually noisy.

Check for:

  • Accumulation of rust, scale or sediment in the tank.
  • Scale has formed on the elements.

Remedies:

  • Drain the tank and flush it out.
  • Remove the elements, soak with vinegar and then scrape off the scale.

Your hot water pipe is rusty or discolored.

Check for:

  • Accumulation of rust or sediment in the tank.
  • Scale has formed on the elements.
  • Corroded water pipe.

Remedies:

  • Drain the tank.
  • Remove the elements, soak them in vinegar and then scrape off the scale.
  • Have a plumber inspect for necessary repairs.