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Test circuit breaker and electricity to water heater
This information is for residential tank-type electric water heater.
Troubleshoot gas water heater
SAFETY FIRST INSTEAD OF LAST Steps assume you have electric wiring knowledge and can safeguard from electric shock.
Do not stand on bare ground (soil, earth), do not stand on damp or wet surface, put down dry boards, do not lean into metal or touch metal, do not touch water heater that is wet or was wet unless power is confirmed OFF. Flooded water heater
Tape tester leads to wood sticks to keep hands away from power, wear dry clothes, do not sweat.

I have to read  ??
 
Use 6 wraps teflon tape
? White for water lines
? Yellow for gas lines

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Inspect anode each 2-5 years
Anode rod prevents tank from rusting
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Pressure over 80 psi can damage water heater and household plumbing
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COLD side Sharkbite flexible water heater connector
COLD side Sharkbite flexible water heater connector

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HOT side Sharkbite flexible water heater connector
HOT side Sharkbite flexible water heater connector

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Electric water heater thermostats
Thermostats stick, melt and come out of calibration... replace thermostat
Symptoms: Cold water, uneven temperatures, reset tripping, TP releasing water
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Gas water heater thermostats
If tank is overheating or not heating correctly, replace thermostat
Symptoms: Cold water, uneven temperatures, TP releasing water
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Add another thermostat to water heater
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Residential water heater: 240 Volt 4500 watt:
Black and White wires are hot > bare copper is ground
240 volt water heater circuit
       
Add tape to white wire on 240V circuit.
This will note that white wire carries power
Match wire and breaker size
Figure volts amps watts


Breaker box
Element burns out1) Check that water heater is completely full of water, and tub faucet runs full stream with no air gaps.
Air coming out of faucet can be caused by variety of plumbing issues, including tank that is not full of water.
Note: If tank is not full of water, or elements are not fully immersed in water, the upper element will instantly burn out.
          Typically, only the upper element burns out if no water is inside tank.
          If upper element is burned out, then tank will have NO hot water.
          If lower element is burned out, but upper element is good, then tank will have some hot water.
             How-to-test-water-heater-elements
             How to replace element
             
How-electric-water-heater-works
             How-to-troubleshoot-electric-water-heater
             How to wire thermostats

3) Open tank drain valve and see if bottom of tank has Hot water, then open TP valve momentarily and see if top of tank has hot water. If drain valve will not shut off completely, than use garden hose cap to seal drip. If TP will not shut off, then open fully and slowly close.
Troubleshoot drain valve
Troubleshoot TP valve

4) If tank has hot water, but hot never arrives at faucet, that indicates a plumbing problem: Check for crossover.
Cross connection

5) If tank is full of water but not hot water , that leaves ELECTRICITY as next suspect, which is covered on this page.
Other main suspects include bad thermostat, and burned out element
How to replace thermostat
How to test and replace element
Thermostat ECO reset button
Push in ECO reset

2-element tank is 240Volts
Top screws test 240Volts

Test Black to ground 120V
Test White to ground 120V
Test Black to White 240V


240 Volt breaker


How to test circuit breaker and electricity to water heater:

1) Open cover(s) located on side of tank: Remove insulation and plastic insulators. Look for loose and burned wires that indicate location of problem. What to do if wires are burned/ melted
Push in ECO red reset button on upper thermostat. Push very firmly.
If ECO is tripped out, then that cuts power to water heater and heater will not work.
If ECO will not reset and stay pushed-in, then replace upper thermostat.         
After pushing in reset, put ear against tank to hear if tank is heating. If no sound, move to next step.
If ECO is not tripped, move to next step.
          How water heater thermostats work
          How-to-replace-thermostats

2)    -Buy cheap multimeter from Home Center and set dial to 240-250 VAC
      -Tape tester leads to woods sticks to keep hands away from power.
      -Stand on dry boards, touch no metal, wear dry clothes.
      -Power is ON
Test across top two screws on upper thermostat: Should read 240Volts.
If test does not show 240Volt, then check wiring connections at top of tank.
Test each screw to bare metal part of tank. Test should show 0 volts.
If this test shows 240Volts, then circuit to water heater is good:  Troubleshoot tank electricity
If test does not show 240Volts, then move to next step

3) Test wiring connections at top of tank: Test across both insulated wires: should read 240Volts.
Test Black to bare ground: should read 120Volts
Test Red (or white) to bare ground: should read 120Volts See basic water heater circuit
Re-install wire connectors very tight, and close cover. Make sure bare ground wire is connected to green ground screw.
Wire connector basics
If test does not show power, then circuit breaker is bad or wire between water heater and circuit breaker are bad.

4) Test circuit breaker
If breaker is tripped off on one leg, then water heater can receive 120 Volts and appear to have electricity, but water heater will not work. Ground wire is not needed for 240Volt circuit to work, but is required for electrical safety. How 120 Volt and 240 Volt circuits work
To test circuit breaker, push circuit breaker lever all the way one direction and then back other direction to make sure breaker is latched. Listen for crackling sounds and smell of burning that indicate location of problem.
Jiggle breaker around and listen for crackling or fizzing sound that indicates breaker is shorting.
Check if breaker feels warm.
Check for smell of burning that indicates breaker has overheated or shorted.
If breaker next to water heater breaker has overheated, that can cause water heater breaker to fail. Touch other breakers and check for hot or warm breaker.
Hot breakers indicate that circuit is overdrawn or that breaker is failing, or both.

5) Mark breaker for identification, and remove panel cover.
Stand on dry boards. Never stand on bare soil. Do not lean into or touch metal. Do not hold metal object in mouth. Wear dry clothes and dry shoes. Never touch wires that enter main breaker.
Stay away from main breaker no matter if main is ON or OFF <> live power at main breaker
Turn off main breaker or, if main breaker cannot be shut off,  turn off breakers on both sides on water heater breaker for safety.
Turn Off water heater breaker and tighten each wire on water heater breaker using insulated screwdriver.
Turn breaker ON and test across both wires on breaker for 240Volts.
If breaker tests for 240Volts, but top of tank is still not receiving 240Volts, then inspect wire between breaker and water heater for damage. This can indicate fire hazard caused by rat gnaws on wire, or nail/staple that was accidently put into wire during construction, or loose connection inside a junction box located between breaker box and water heater.
If breaker does not test for 240Volts across both wires, then replace breaker. How to replace circuit breaker
For temporary fix, move wires to another same-size breaker until water heater breaker can be replaced. For example, the clothes dryer usually has 240 volt 30 amp breaker.
If breaker checks out, and suddenly water heater heater has 240Volts and is working, then breaker is still suspect. Move wires to another same-size 240Volt breaker and see if problems continue.
If breaker will not reset: disconnect wires from top of tank and see if see if breaker resets. This will confim if there is a short condition. Disconnect wires from breaker and see if breaker resets. If breaker does not reset, then replace breaker. If breaker resets after disconnecting water heater, then tank has a short: Remove all wires from thermostats and elements. 1) Test elements 2) Test wires  3) Re-inspect for burned parts and wet tank. 4) Replace thermostats, replace any burned part

6) If you are getting 240 to water heater, but heater is not working, then wire inside tank could be loose.
How to test water heater wires
      -Do 30 minute troubleshoot:
      How-to-troubleshoot-electric-water-heater
water heater circuit breaker
Use 30 amp breaker and 10 gauge wire on 240Volt water heaters
Undersized breaker and wire can cause water heater problems.
Overheating can damage main panel busbar, requiring new subpanel or replacement of main panel.   See breaker/ wire size chart    How to install subpanel      Figure volts amps watts for water heater

What is total amp draw of your house.
Add up total amp usage of everything in house. Volts x amps = watts. or Watts divided by volts = amps.
If appliances are gas, then they do not count.
Add up peak usage for 120Volt. Each electric appliance has rating label.  For example microwave 1500 watts + big screen TV 500 watts + computer 300 watts + refrigerator 700 watts + lights 240 watts + dishwasher 800 watts + 1 Hp hot tub pump 750 watts + washing machine 350 watts etc = 5320 watts divided by 120 volts = 44 amps.
Add up peak usage of 240Volt. For example water heater 4500 watts + heat/ac 5000 watts + clothes dryer 1800 watts + 1 Hp water well pump 750 watts + ? = 12,050 watts divided by 240 volt = 50 amps.
If you are overamping, then turn off swimming pool pump and other main electric consumers to draw back until main panel can be upgraded.
Failing main breaker can also cause water heater failure. With cover over breaker so hands cannot possibly touch wires, and never on bare main breaker, put hand on main breaker and see if it feels warm or hot.
Wire size chart
Larger image
Check label on side of tank for volts and watts
Every appliance, switch, outlet and bulb has a label

Residential water heaters with 2 elements are 240Volts
Residential water heaters are non-simultaneous
    This means both elements are never ON at same time.
Element wattage is tank wattage
If tank has 4500 watt elements, then tank wattage is 4500W

Recommend 30 amp breaker and 10 gauge wire for all 240Volt water heaters

Figure volts amps watts for water heater
How to wire thermostats and elements
How to wire off-peak water heater
Replace circuit breaker How to replace circuit breaker
Match breaker and wire size
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