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How to test if water heater electricity is off <> 3 methods

How to test electricity between circuit breaker and water heater
Electrocution warning
Do NOT touch wet water heater or water heater that was flooded.
Put down dry boards. Do not touch metal objects.


Never assume power is OFF

Use non-contact voltage tester on timer, on wire, on outlet to see if power is present.
Press button on tester, if single beep then no power is present. If continuous beep then power is present.
Never stand on bare ground, always stand on dry boards, do not hold or touch anything metal when working on timer or water heater that has power, tape tester leads to wood sticks, never touch wet water heater, or flooded water heater, or timer that had a short or fire without turning power OFF.


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Test water heater
Larger image

Use ordinary tester or multimeter
1. Test black wire to ground screw > and then
2. Test black wire to white wire > and then
3. Test white wire to ground screw
>> if no power shows with these 3 tests, then electricity is off


ground screw
tester and green ground screw



Method #2: Test where wire arrives at water heater

> Turn off electricity at circuit breaker box
          > 120 Volt water heater will have 20Amp breaker
          > 240 Volt water heater will have 30 Amp breaker
          > Read information on side of tank to see appliance voltage [or read owner's manual]

> Electricity arrives at water heater in wire coming from circuit breaker box
> Wire is held to water heater with a clamp > leave clamp alone

> Look for metal plate (next to wire) > under metal plate are wiring connections
> Remove screw or screws so the metal plate comes loose

> Inside there are 3 sets of wires: > a bare copper usually attached to green ground screw > 2 white wires covered by wire nut > 2 black wires covered by a wire nut

> 240 Volt or 120 Volt there will be 3 wires
          review basic circuit
> The white and black wires are covered with wire nuts
> Leave bare copper wire attached to water heater

> Remove wire nuts that cover black & white wires (while doing this, do not touch any bare wire, do not touch metal water heater, do not lean against water heater, do not touch metal pipes or metal ductwork, always wear dry clothes and dry shoes and never stand on bare soil or damp floor, put down dry boards or plywood)

> So now, the wire nuts are off black & white wires
Test black wire to bare copper wire > if light shows on tester, then electricity is present > solve problem: try turning off another breaker

> Must double-check result > test black wire to white wire -and- finally test white wire to ground
If no light shows with these 3 tests, then electricity is off.
Top thermostat
See larger
Example of upper thermostat
Method #3 for checking water heater: Test upper thermostat

> Read label on side of tank to see appliance voltage 120V or 240V [or read owner's manual]

> Remove cover from side of water heater to reveal thermostat see image
> Thermostat is 1-1/2" wide x 4" tall and has red reset button

> Use flashlight and look closely at markings on thermostat
> Topmost 2 screws are labeled L1 and L3 -or- they are labeled 1 and 3

> Test across L1 to L3 > test light will come on if electricity is present see diagram
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