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Figure volts amps watts for water heater 9 Ways to save with a water heater How to wire water heater thermostats Do-it-yourself Off peak water heater ideas
2014

How to troubleshoot electric water heater

Emergency leak

Emergency steps: how to turn off water heater

1) Turn power off

Safety first: Do not touch wet water heater or flooded water heater or heater with evidence of burning without turning power off.
Amost all steps on this page are done with power OFF
How to test if power is off

2) Word-search this page 

Use Ctrl+F feature on browser
Go to Edit, and select Find
If you have phone, then I don't know how to word-search pages.

3) Read pdf service manual

Electric water heater service manual /pdf
Electric troubleshooting manual/ .pdf by Camco products
Point of use service manual/ pdf
Water heater formulas and terminology/ pdf
Marathon troubleshoot walk-thru/ pdf
Bradford White commercial electric water heater troubleshoot/ pdf
Water heater manufacturers
Energy Smart troubleshoot manual

4) email question

e-mail question: geno03245w@gmail.com
My response might end up in spam folder, check email folders
usually answered same day, after 5 pm CST

5) EZ repair for do it yourselfer

Power is OFF
EZ electric water heater repair will fix 95% of problems:
Reset circuit breaker. Turn power OFF when doing steps listed in this section  How to test water heater electricity is OFF
Inspect for leaks. Use nose and eyes to inspect tank parts for loose wires and burning. Push reset button located upper thermostat.  Test both elements. Adjust thermostat temperature. Replace both thermostats. Clean sediment out of tank  Replace anode rod  Check faucets for crossover.
Read below for troubleshoot by symptom.

6) Forums

Also visit water heater forum: 1 2 3 4

7) Other types electric water heater

GE heat pump
Whirlpool/ Craftmaster Energy Smart
How to wire tankless electric
Water heater innovations

8) GAS water heaters

Troubleshoot Rheem tankless
Troubleshoot Bosch tankless
How to wire tankless electric water heater
Troubleshoot gas water heater
How to install gas water heater

Troubleshoot starts here 

Cirtcuit breaker

Push circuit breaker fully OFF, and then fully ON

Identify correct 2-pole breaker
Circuit breaker can look ok, but still be tripped on one leg (one side).
Push circuit breaker all the way OFF, and then all the way back ON.
How to replace circuit breaker
Choose correct wire and breaker size
See inside main breaker box
Reset button

Reset button on electric water heater located on upper thermostat

Remove upper cover and insulation.
Firmly push in thermal reset button. If reset is not tripped out, then reset is not problem. If reset will not stay pushed in, then replace thermostat
Use nose and eyes to inspect for signs of high heat and burning. Replace burned thermostat or element.
Inspect for water seep, water leak, and signs of rusted parts. Tank may be leaking, or element is leaking. Leaking water heater
Must Re-install insulation and cover for thermostat to function correctly

Why does reset button trip? Bad themostat usually, replace thermostat, then if problem continues then test or replace both elements.
How-to replace thermostats
How-to test elements
Other causes: Stacking, missing insulation and cover over thermostat, loose wire on upper thermostat, burned thermostat.
Stacking

Emergency

 Emergency steps: how to turn off water heater
                  Flooded water heater
                  Connect water heater to any voltage generator
                   Leaking water heater
                   Low water pressure
                   Remove water heater from attic
                   Water heater safety precautions/ gas and electric
e-mail question: geno03245w@gmail.com
My response might end up in spam folder, so check e-mail folders.

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Basic parts: Part replacement and wiring diagrams

1: Elements and wiring
Test water heater elements

   How to replace element and clean tank
   How to remove stuck, rusted element
   Wiring diagrams for elements/ residential single-phase, commercial 3-phase
   Wiring diagrams
   Figure volts anps watts for water heater

2: Thermostats and wiring
How to replace thermostats

   Test thermostats
   Wire water heater thermostats
   Change temperature
   Test wires

3: Anode rod and dip tube
Anode rod/ replacement, odor etc
Dip tube

Resources:
How electric water heater works
Water heater manufacturers
Find age of water heater

AO Smith parts sheet/ pdf
Bradford White generic parts
Rheem parts/ pdf
Electric water heater


Test water heater
Test electricity to water heater

Element burns out
Tank must be full of water
Test elements

New water heater not working/ or repaired water heater not working

Press reset button firmly on all new upper thermostats, and new tanks. See image
Reset button not pushed in. Action: Open top cover and push red reset button firmly. Put insulation back over parts.
Thermostats were replaced. Check if wire insulation is under screw plate. only copper wire should be under screw plate.
Check that wires are tight, and not burned on thermostats, or elements.
Thermostat loose and not sitting flat against tank. Wiggle each thermostat. Look for rusted clip that might not hold thermostat tight against metal tank.
Insulation was not put over thermostats, so thermostat exposed to cool air and not reading tank temperature How electic heater works
Thermostats were replaced, but wires might not be right: See non-simultaneous wiring
New thermostat is bad.

Elements were not tested or replaced  Test element    How to replace element and clean tank
Elements were replaced, and wires are tight under screws, but thermostats were not replaced  Replace thermostats
Tank not full of water when power tuner ON will burn out element.
Element burned out because tank was not full of water when power turned on. Action: Test element
New element is bad.

Wire connections at top of tank are loose. Actions: Check wire nuts at top of water heater. Twist wire together.
Make sure ground wire attached to green screw. Test for 240Volts across wires from breaker.

Inspect wires inside tank carefully. Look for wire insulation under screw plate, loose wires on each element and thermostat.
Use nose and eyes to find burned parts.
Bad wire. Wire melted or partially melted. Shorted wire between parts  Test wires

Circuit breaker tripped or tripped on one leg. Action: Move breaker switch fully off, and then fully on
Water heater not receiving 240V, yet appears to have voltage: Test across top two screws on upper thermostat for 240V. Stand on dry boards. tape tester leads to wood sticks. See image
Water heater is tripping breaker. Read steps
Use nose to see if circuit breaker smealls burned. Use hand to see if breaker is warm.
Check wires are connected tight on breaker. See images
Move wires to another same-size breaker Read testing steps

Tank not heated yet. 240V 4500 watt Electric water heater heats 21 gallons per hour, 3500 watt heats 17 gallons. Example chart
Leak is causing hot water to run out of tank. Turn off taps. Put ear against pipe and listen for running water.
Open TP valve and see if tank has hot water at top of tank. How to adjust temperature
Open drain valve and see if lower part of tank is heated, if tank has hot water, pipes may be reversed.

Cold and hot water lines are reversed. Action: Look at markings on top of tank to identify cold and hot inlets. Run hot water for a moment and see which pipe feels warm: that will be hot pipe.

Household pipes are clogged with sediment. Factory-installed heat traps at top of tank are clogged.
Action Read Low hot water pressure
Action: Read new water heater making noise
Single handle faucet cartridge bad, check valve bad not letting water flow correctly. Action: Read about crossover  Install dual handled faucets   Check valve
Water heater was dropped. Action

Tank must be full of water -or- element burns out
Fill water heater tank before turning circuit breaker ON, .
Turn water ON. Open bathtub spout. Wait for full stream of water. Turn bathtub OFF. Lift TP lever for moment to bleed last of air from tank. Tank is full of water. Turn circuit breaker ON.
How to test element

sediment in water heater
Gradually/ suddenly less hot water can be caused by sediment in bottom of tank

Gradually less hot water:

Upper element is good if you have some hot water
Quick answer
: Adjust temperature up on thermostats. Check circuit breaker is good, open tank covers inspect for burned wire, replace both thermostats.
Adjust thermostat temperature  How to replace thermostats 

Causes:
1) Sediment inside tank. Action: How to clean sediment out of tank and replace element
2) Check for under-voltage. Action: Test across top two screws on upper thermostat for 220-240Volts  How to test water heater circuit
3) Hot water slow to arrive: Read about crossover
4) Thermostat going bad. Action: Test thermostats. Replace both thermostats
5)Temperature needs to be set higher. Action: Adjust temperature
6) Loose wire on lower thermostat or lower element. Action: Look for burned wires and overheated parts. Replace part that wire is connected to. How to replace thermostat  How to replace element
7) Broken dip tube letting cold water enter upper tank. Actions: Remove cold water nipple and pull out dip tube for inspection. Look for bits of plastic in areator. Read broken dip tube
8) Other possible causes: Shorting wire, shorting breaker, bad lower element. Test electricity
TP valve running, leaking faucet, broken pipe. How to replace TP valve
9) Bad single-handled faucet cartridge or check valve  Test for crossover
10) Family consumption is higher than before  Ways to increase amount of hot water

Bad Smell

Rotten eggs

Bad smell, rotten egg smell:

Quick answer: Harmless bacteria reacts with anode rod to produce rotten egg smell. Replace anode rod
 Remove anode rod prevents odor but tank rusts out quickly
Other causes: Dirt got into line when repairs were made and bacteria entered tank; Garden hose left in standing water so water got sucked into household water heater where bacteria has multiplied. New water heater was installed in place of old water heater that had depleted anode rod.
Water heater sulfer smell
Water chemistry and water heater/ pdf

Action: Have well service shock-treat water well. Drain and flush water heater with hydrogen peroxide (not clorox since clorox is not potable), replace anode rod. Best: reconfigure pipes above water heater so hydrogen peroxide can be added frequently. Install power anode rod. Replace anode rod  Flush water heater to remove smell  Buy powered anode rod for permanent solution

Rumbling/ 

popping/ 

whistling sounds


Sounds from water heater:

Rumbling, popping, whistling sounds are generally not a problem, and are caused by air pockets trapped in sediment, or element covered by deposits.
Sediment reduces efficiency. Read
1) Cause: Sediment inside tank. Action: How to clean sediment out of tank and replace element
2) Heat pump electric water heater has fan and compressor and will make sound when operating Read
3) Clean elements with white vinegar, which is natural organic product and very effective.
Use white vinegar to clean faucets, shower heads, tub surrounds, hard water, and pet odors on tile ... and add to beans for seasoning
4) Recirculation system motor causes sound: Action: turn off recir pump and listen for sound  Recirculation system
5) Read long list of possible causes for water heater makes sound

Pipes bang when water turned OFF

Water hammer  

Pipes bang

Pipes bang because water does not compress.
Water is moving through pipes and around elbows. Turn tap off, and sudden stop of moving water causes pipes to shake, and bang into boards and drywall inside wall, causing sound. This can loosen pipe joints, and damage water heater, etc.
Action: Turn water taps off slowly, add air chambers at each facucet (or buy water hammer arrestor), lower water pressure to less than 80 psi, add pressure reducing valve on cold water line before water heater.
Household Air chamber is usually 18" tall and located behind walls on both Hot and Cold water lines at each faucet, and washing machine, etc. Or install larger diameter pipe for air chamber, and make it shorter.
Water hammer
Water hammer arrestors at Amazon
air chamber
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Water hammer arrestors at Amazon
Air bubbles come out of faucet

✔ Air bubbles come out of faucet

Air sputters out of faucet
1) Water well... inspect air volume control
Air volume control at Amazon
Water heater valves

2) City water .... Add air vent
Air vent at Amazon
Air vent at Amazon

Air vent
Heat trap inserts
Remove Heat trap inserts and nipples

Water heater noise (sometimes with low water pressure)

Whistle, hum, vibration can be caused by factory-installed heat traps.
Clogged heat trap nipples at top of tank cause sounds and low pressure.
Remove heat traps. Install di-electric nipples without heat-trap constrictor. Up to 6 wraps teflon tape.
Water heater companies install heat-traps so their product can report more energy efficiency.
Factory-installed heat traps can clog and cause noise and low pressure problems.
Read about low hot water pressure
Make your own heat traps and save $9 per year. Illustration 1   Illustration 2
If heat trap nipple is connected to dip tube. Buy curved dip tube from Tank forum. Curved dip tube
Di electric nipples at Amazon

Install di-electric nipples
Dielectric nipples at Amazon
water flow rate
30 seconds

Hot water is slow or cold

Hot water is cool or never arrives:

Quick answer: Open TP valve briefly and see if water is hot inside tank, check for crossover, inspect for leaks.

Causes:
1) Water leak is running hot water out of tank: Action: turn off all water and listen for sound of running water.
3) Leaking TP valve: How to check & replace TP valve
4) Crossover: Read about crossover
5) Bad check valve causing cold to enter hot pipe. Action: replace check valve
6) Broken dip tube letting cold water enter upper tank. Actions: Remove cold water nipple and pull out dip tube for inspection. Look for bits of plastic in areator. Read broken dip tube
7) Faulty recirculation system;: Clean recirculation system check valve with white vinegar Recirculation system
low water pressure

Low pressure

Low water pressure & clogged pipes: Low water pressure
Test hot water volume /pdf
Rusty water

Rusty water

Quick answer:  Tank is rusted and needs to be replaced. Replace anode rod.
Well water has high iron content, flush tank periodically

Rusty water can indicate rusted water heater.
Replace anode rod and rusting will stop.
Check and replace water heater anode rod
If tank hull is rusted and ready to rupture, it is time to shop for a new heater before rupture causes massive damage.
Inspect water heater for leak
sludge in bottom of heater

Sludge

Open drain valve and water is white, gray, brown, black, etc.
Checmicals can distill out of water if temperature is set over 140 degrees F  How to adjust water heater temperature
Chemicals can settle in bottom of heater.
DO NOT STIR up sludge so it enters pipes.
Action: Turn off electric power. Turn off incoming water. Open bathtub spout. Open drain at bottom of heater and let water drain.
When tank is empty, open incoming water and begin flushing heater. Keep flushing until water is clean.
Open access to tank by removing TP valve or Cold water inlet. Pour in 2 pints hydrogen peroxide, and fill tank with water.
Do not use clorox or it will be difficult to flush out when finished. Use hydrogen peroxide. Repeat treatment as needed.
Hydrogen peroxide is simple hydrogen and oxygen and non-harmful when used as debriding agent or mouthwash. Clorox is harmful.
How to replace drain valve
Water heater will not drain
For odors, also read about anode rod

Very hot water

Very hot water

Quick answers: Stacking; / Bad thermostat: How to replace thermostats  / Cracked element: Test elements

Causes:
1) Bad thermostat causing runaway heating. Action: Replace thermostats How to replace thermostats
2) Many short draws of hot water can cause tank to overheat. Action: Read about Stacking
3) Missing insulation. Action: Check that factory insulation is installed over thermostats, and has not been removed
4) Look that thermostat is sitting flat against tank. Action: wiggle thermostat back and forth.
5) Bad upper or lower element can continue heating even if thermostat is OFF. Action: Test elements for short through center of element. How to test elements
6) Thermostat set too high. Thermostats are calibrated for approximate temperature, and can change over time. Action: Check temperature setting on thermostat
TP valve leaking How to check & replace TP valve
 

less hot water

Suddenly LESS hot water: Tank has some hot water

a) If tank has some hot water, then following suspects are eliminated:
Red reset button is good, upper element is good, Circuit breaker is not tripped on one leg.

Quick answer: Power is OFF: Test/replace lower element:  How to test element   Replace element
Power is OFF: Replace both thermostats How to replace thermostats

Causes include:
1) Check for under-voltage. Action: Test across top two screws on upper thermostat for 208-240Volts  How to test water heater circuit
Water heater will work with any voltage, but will heat slower with undervoltage. Read more   See recovery chart
2) Temperature needs to be set higher, especially on lower thermostat. Action: Adjust temperature
3) Bad upper or lower thermostat. Actions: Replace both thermostats
4) Leaking tank has caused rusted parts. Inspect elements. Check for leaking. Leaking water heater
5) Water leak running hot out of tank. Turn off all taps and put ear against hot pipe
6) Bad lower element and sediment build-up. Action: How to test element. How to replace element and clean out sediment.
7) Loose wires. Action: Look for signs of burning and high heat. Cut back wire & Test wire for continuity as shown in next step. Replace part connected to burned wire.
8) Defective wire between upper and lower parts of tank. Action. Replace both wires from top of tank. How to wire thermostats
9) Broken dip tube letting cold water enter upper tank. Actions: Remove cold water nipple and pull out dip tube for inspection. Look for bits of plastic in areator. Read broken dip tube
10) TP valve is running hot water out of tank, leaking faucet, broken pipe. Action: Turn off all water. Listen for sound of running water. How to test and replace TP valve
11) Bad single-handled faucet cartridge or check valve  Test for crossover
12) Family consumption is higher than before  Ways to increase amount of hot water
Elements burn out frequently
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Elements burn out frequently:

Causes include:
a) Sediment in bottom of tank   How to replace element and clean out sediment.
b) Very hard water. Install softener. Read about softener and anode depletion
c) Watt densitiy of element too high. Change element. Install element with less than 3800 watt See image  Read pdf
d) Agressive high pH water. Test water.
e) Loose wire on element. Open covers and inspect all wires for loose connections and signs of burning.

Water heater formulas and terminology pdf
not enough hot water

Not enough hot water

Ways to increase amount of hot water
No Hot after 1 bath, then review 'suddenly less hot water' directly above, Click
And review 'sound of running water' directly below. Put ear against pipe and listen for running water.
No Hot after several baths, then water heater may be too small. Set temperature higher. Clean out sediment. Size chart. Clean out sediment. Turn up thermostats

Oversized garden tub or whirlpool bath requires 80 gallon first hour delivery.
65 gallon electric or 50 gallon gas can meet demand of oversized bathtub
Electric water heater must be at least 60 gallon, and set thermostat higher
How to select correct size water heater
See first hour chart
Ear on pipe

Sound of running water/ High electric bill

Water leak can run hot water out of tank.
Steps below might not be conclusive if pipes are plastic, and you cannot hear water moving past in pipe.

1) Turn off all faucets inside house, and outdoor spigots
2) Put ear against hot-side pipe
3) Listen for sound of running water
4) Look for signs of water around tank  Leaking water heater
4) Fix drips and leaks Crossover
5) Clean sediment out of tank  How to clean sediment
6) Look at TP overflow tube to see if TP is leaking water  Test and replace TP valve
How to Maintain water heater
How to Increase amount of hot water
TP valve
Test and replace TP valve
Troubleshoot Leaking water heater
How to replace drain valve
Identify water heater valves
Melted wire
Look for burned or melted wire
Replace part
Cut back wire
Test continuity of wire/ or replace wire

Burned wire/ Burned thermostat

Action: Look for burned or melted wire connections. Replace part that burned wire is connected to. Test continuity of wire that has been burned. Replace wire that has no continuity.
Burned thermostat
Burned thermostat
Replace part
Test wires

How to replace thermostats
How to test continuity of wire: When burned wire is discovered/ or suspect
Set multimeter to read ohms.
Ohms is upside down horseshoe symbol
Disconnect wires from each tank part.
Test #1: Put tester leads on both ends of wire.
If test reads ohms, then wire is good.

Test #2: Test each end of wire to bare metal part of tank.
If test reads ohms, then wire is shorted and must be replaced.
Bad wire: Tanks with foam insulation may need to be replaced

Test wire continuity with Multimeter
Buy:
Buy non-contact voltage tester at Amazon
Multimeters at Amazon
Electric testers at Amazon
Shop Amazon - Industrial and scientific
Shop Amazon - Industrial Electric Products

No hot water

Suddenly NO hot water

Quick answer: Check circuit breaker. Push red reset button firmly. Test for 240Volt across top two screws on upper thermostat. Check for burned and melted parts at breaker box, top of heater, and at thermostats and elements. Replace both thermostats How to replace thermostats

Causes:
1) Water leak can short-out water heater parts. Always stand on dry boards when working with electric heater.
Actions: Check for evidence of leaks and rust around elements that can short parts: Action: Replace shorted parts. Check for leak top of tank, bottom of tank. Actions: Replace rusted water heater: Read leaking water heater

2) Red reset button tripped. Action: Push ECO reset button firmly.
If ECO 'high limit' doesn't reset, replace upper thermostat. How to replace thermostats

3) Bad upper thermostat: Action: Replace both thermostats.  How to replace thermostats

4) Loose/burned wiring: Action: Check all connections for signs of burning. Cut back or replace wire. Replace element or thermostat that burtned wire is connected to. How to replace thermostats  How to replace element

5) Burned/ melted wire at upper part of tank. Action: Open top cover and use nose and eyes to inspect.  Read more

6) Bad upper element. Actions: How to test elements. How to replace elements.

7) Under-voltage. Action: Test across top two screws on upper thermostat for 220-240Volts. How to test water heater circuit

8) Circuit breaker tripped, or tripped on one leg: Actions: Flip breaker all the way one direction and then back again. Listen for crackling sound and smell of burning.
Move wires to another same-size breaker How to test water heater circuit. How to replace circuit breaker

9) TP valve is running hot water out of tank, leaking faucet, broken pipe. Action: Turn off all water. Put ear on pipe. Listen for sound of running water. How to test and replace TP valve

10) Faulty check valve on recirculation system, or plumbing pipes. Bad single-handle faucet cartridge.
Read about Crossover

11) Clog in water line. Read about Low hot water pressure

12) Melted wire nut or burned part Read list of actions

Upper thermostat: ECO reset button



240Volts arrive at upper thermostat

ECO reset tripped

Information
Red reset button or 'high limit control' or Energy Cut Off or ECO will cut off electric power to entire water heater.

ECO shuts off both hot wires in the 240V circuit. 
Diagram on left: 240V arrives at L1 and L3 screws of upper thermostat <> when ECO is tripped, L1 and L3 screws are hot but electricity stops there.

Push reset button firmly. If ECO resets and water heater turns ON and works, then watch over next few days if ECO reset trips again.

Causes: ECO tripped

Check if wire is 10 gauge and breaker is 30 amp.

1. ECO will trip when either upper or lower thermostat sticks in ‘on’ position causing continuous heating. Once water reaches 150-180 F, the ECO trips and turns off electricity to water heater.

2. Loose wire or electrical connection inside thermostat -or- between parts can trip ECO.
Loose wires generate heat, causing high resistance. ECO senses heat from bad connection and trips. Loose wires cause burning and melting and should be visible on inspection, and/or cause burned smell. Not every loose wire will cause ECO to trip, only those that cause upper thermostat to overheat. Action: Replace part connected to burned wire.Test thermostats  How to replace thermostats  How to replace element  Use multimeter to test wire for continuity

3. Bad element shorted to ground near center of element will trip ECO.
When element is shorted to ground near center of element, the short does not draw enough current to trip circuit breaker. By design, a thermostat only turns off 1 hot wire, but a 240V water heater has 2 hot wires. If short does NOT trip breaker, then 120-volts flows to ground through half of element, continuing to heat water until ECO trips. Actions: How to test elements. How to replace elements

4. ECO can trip if factory-installed insulation and cover have been removed. Result: Thermostat exposed to cooler temperatures and misreads temp inside tank. Elements overheat tank. Action: re-install insulation

5: ECO can trip if water heater has stacking event where repeated short draws of hot water can overheat tank.

6. ECO can trip if water heater is wet from flood, leak or tank failure. Look for signs of rust and dampness. The spring holding thermostat flat against the tank will rust so thermostat is not held tight against tank wall, and then tank overheats.
Thermostat must sit flat against tank.

7. Factory insulation that ordinarily covers thermostat is missing.

Other link: Test electricity to water heater

Water heater cover
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ECO reset keeps tripping

Quick answer: Replace both thermostats, test elements. Check for loose wires.
How to replace thermostats
How to test elements

Causes:
1) Make sure thermostats are covered with insulation, protector, and cover. See image
Without insulation, Thermostat exposed to room temperature will misread temperature and cause overheating.
2) Make sure thermostat sits flat against tank wall. Wiggle thermostat. Check that bracket is not rusted and loose.
3) Bad upper or lower thermostat. Action: Replace both upper and lower thermostats. How to replace thermostats
3a) Upper thermostat wired wrong during replacement  See residential thermostat wiring  Wire colors vary
4) Bad element causes run-away heating. Action: Test elements. How to test elements
5) Many short draws of hot water can cause tank to overheat. Action: Read about Stacking
6) Make sure watt rating printed on end of element matches watt rating showing on label located on side of tank.
7) Use nose and eyes to inspect for burned parts and melted wire.
How to test wires
8) Loose, partially-melted wire will cause overheated wire. Overheated wire will cause ECO to trip. Inspect wires. Make sure wires are firmly under screw plate. Check that no wire insulation is under screw plate.
9) Label on side of tank will show 240Volt Non-simultaneous for residential dual-element water heater. Make sure water heater is wired correctly. Check water heater wiring
10) If water heater was flooded, then all parts must be dry. Flooded water heater
11) Undersized wire from breaker can cause overheated wire, but should trip breaker instead of tank ECO. For 240Volt: If breaker is 20 amp, wire must be 12 gauge, and maximum 3800 watt elements. If breaker is 30 amp, then wire must be 10 gauge, and 4500 or 5500 watts elements.  Match breaker and wire size
Intermatic CA3750

Water heater timers

Compare timers
Control water heater with phone

Either wiring diagram for non-suimultaneous
 Larger image
Wire colors vary

Thermostats and tank wiring

How to test thermostats
How to replace thermostats
How thermostats work
Off peak thermostats and timers
How to wire thermostats
   Simultaneous, non-simultaneous, redundant, single-element, off-peak, two water heaters
   Household water heater = Non-simultaneous thermostat operation
How to control water temperature with timer


Upper thermostats
3 phase water heater

What is 3-phase

3-phase water heater

Unbalanced 3-phase simultaneous, non-simultaneous will troubleshoot nearly same as shown on this page
Lower thermostat will be ECO protected.
Wiring at top of tank will vary by brand.
See 3-phase non-balance wiring
Bradford White 9000 watt light commerical water heater

Heavy-duty commercial 3-phase balanced electric water heater is different.
3-phase balanced troubleshoot:
Commercial electric water heater troubleshoot
Commercial electric water heater part diagnosis

How to wire 3-phase timer
Shorted element
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Element shorted to ground across steel tank

What happens: Elements work on either 120Volt and 240Volt
- 240Volt water heaters have 2 Hot wires. Each hot wire is called a leg. Each leg is 120Volts with 240Volt potential when both legs are connected together. Difference between 120Volts and 240V
- Thermostats turn off one leg in the 240Volt circuit. The other leg puts live power at element at all times.
- Each element will test for live120Volts between the element and steel tank at all times.
- When thermostat turns ON, that event connects the second leg to the first leg, and element turns ON.

- In some cases, the element can crack or short. In most cases, the short will trip circuit breaker.
- If the crack or short is far enough along in the element, the resistance will not cause breaker to trip. The short travels across steel tank hull to the ground wire at top of tank.
- The ground wire will complete 120Volt circuit. Element continues heating, and will not turn off. This causes runaway heating, and TP valve will release water or ECO reset will trip, or water will be hotter than usual.
Action:  How to test elements

-Note:
Choose wiring diagram illustration on right to avoid runaway heating caused by cracked lower element.
See wiring illustration
Wiring diagram illustrated on right will NOT prevent cracked element. It will only mask problem of cracked element on lower element, and prevent cracked lower element from causing run away heating. The element will still be cracked.
Wiring diagram illustrated on right does not change upper element from causing runaway heating due to cracked element.

Electric shock

Call electrician immediately. This must be solved professionally. There are too many possible causes to list.
There is a dangerous short, and the short is not being properly grounded.
Possible causes at water heater:
Cracked element shorted to ground as described above. Action:  How to test elements
Shorted wire between elements or thermostats. Action Test wires.
Ground wire is not connected to tank. Action: connect ground wire to ground screw at top of tank.
Hot and Cold water pipes are not bonded. Action: add #6 copper jumper wire between hot and cold pipes.
Ground wire has come loose from ground rod. Action: Turn power off and reconnect ground wire.

Maintain water heater

Save $5 to $10 per month by doubling life of water heater

Maintain water heater/ pays $5-10 per month replacement cost

Flush each 6 months
Inspect for leaks each 6 months
Check and replace anode rod each 1-3 years
Troubleshoot resources for electric
Troubleshoot resources for gas
Safety precautions
Read and save product manual
9 ways to save with water heater
More Do-it-yourself resources

  Understand safety features:

Residential electric water heaters have 3 critical safety features: <>
1. Circuit breaker that cuts power at service panel <>
2. TP valve see image that releases water if pressure builds inside tank <>
3. ECO red reset button, or high limit, that turns off electricity when overheating is detected.
4. Ground wire that conducts electrical short back to ground rod. Never touch water heater that is wet or was wet, unless power is confirmed OFF.
TP valve and ECO prevent water heater explosion. In physics, hot water expands and puts pressure on container holding water. Metal tank will rupture violently if water gets too hot. ECO is first line of defense. The next safety device before water heater explodes is a properly functioning through ” pipe. Test and replace TP valve
Power is ON means risk of electrocution which can be sudden, or can take a moment or two, and will include anyone who grabs a hold of you. Have your spouse knock you loose from wires using a 2x4, and then treat possible stopped heart and 3rd degree burns. If you are not familiar with electricity, and/or spouse does not want to hit you with a board, then use EZ repair above, or call plumber, or electrician. If you want to understand how to test water heaters, then keep reading information below.
Test electricity
Action #1: test for 240Volt at upper element


Action #2: Test for 240Volt at top of tank


Basic water heater circuit

Water heater has electricity but not heating water

Power is ON.
Quick answer
::   Push reset button on upper thermostat. Open drain valve and see if water is hot at bottom of tank. Open TP valve and see if water is hot at top of tank. See if you got water pressure or clog: Low hot water pressure Check tank label for voltage of appliance. If circuit breaker is burned or broken, water heater receives 120V, so heater appears to have electricity but is not working. Use multimeter to test water heater for 240V at L1-L3 screws on upper thermostat -and- test breaker  Turn breaker fully off and then back on, wiggle breaker and listen for crackling sound of shorting breaker; move wires to another same amp 240 breaker]Replace circuit breaker. Turn off all faucets and put ear against pipe listen for water leak. Bad faucet cartridge or crossover problem: Read about Crossover  Other causes: red reset button tripped, upper thermostat bad, upper element burned out, loose or shorted wire: read steps below.

Test for 240Volts

Power is ON
Water heater appears to have power, but doesn't make hot water because circuit requires 240Volts.
  Power is ON during test. Stand on dry boards. Do not touch or lean into anything made of metal.
Action #1: Test for 240Volts across top two screws on upper thermostat.
Action #2: Test each screw to bare metal part of heater. Each screw should test for power.
Action #3: If action #1 does not show 240Volts, then test wires at top of water heater: Black to Red must test for 240V. Black to ground tests 120V and Red to ground tests 120V. See basic water heater circuit

If 240Volts is not present. Check circuit breaker and wire between breaker and water heater

If water heater has 2 elements, then water heater is 240Volts.
If curcuit breaker is tripped on one leg and delivering 120Volts, then water heater appears to have electricity but doesn't work.

Electric water heater wiring        
Larger image
Buy non-contact voltage tester at Amazon

Breaker is tripping
Water heater not receiving 240Volts

Water heater not receiving 240Volts:

Breaker trips because of heat. Action: Reset breaker: Push breaker fully OFF and then fully back ON.
1) Loose wires on breaker can cause heat. Action: Turn off main breaker, Tighten both wires on circuit breaker.
2) Loose breaker can trip breaker. Action: Wiggle breaker and listen for crackling sound and smell of burning. Move wires to another identical-sized breaker and see if problem continues. Replace circuit breaker.
3) Short caused by wiring inside tank can trip breaker. Action: If breaker will not reset, move breaker wires to identical-sized breaker and see if problem continues. If different breaker trips also, then short is located at tank or along wire going to tank. Inspect wire to tank for damage caused by nail, staple or rat gnaws.
4) Short inside tank: Inspect for burned wires and melting. Test for continuity between each wire and bare metal part of water heater. Set multimeter to read ohms. Any positive test to bare metal hull of water heater indicates shorted wire that will trip breaker.
5) Wet water heater can trip breaker. Action: leave breaker OFF and inspect for leaks.
6) Undersized breaker and wire can trip. Action: make sure breaker is 30 amp and wire is 10 Gauge
7) Flooded water heater must be replaced:  
How to reset circuit breaker

How to reset circuit breaker

Circuit breaker can look ok, but still be tripped.
Push circuit breaker all the way OFF, and then all the way back ON.
How to wire tankless electric water heater
How to replace circuit breaker
Choose correct wire and breaker size
See inside main breaker box
20 amp breaker and 10 gauge wire
20 amp breaker and 12 gauge wire are not recommended... most residential water heaters are 4500 watt and draw more amps that safe-maximum for 12 gauge wire... causing wire and breaker to run warm, lowering life of breaker and box. Figure volts amps watts

water heater circuit breaker
Use 30 amp breaker and 10 gauge wire on 240Volt water heaters

Do you have correct wire size?  Chart

Circuit breaker is tripping:
Causes include:
Undersized breaker and wire. 10 gauge wire and 30 amp breaker for wattages over 3800.
Loose wire on breaker.
Bad circuit breaker.
Leaking water heater. Leaking element.
Burned wire on element or thermostat.
Shorted element.

Breaker tripping:

Inspect water heater for signs of leaking/ do not touch wet water heater
                     Causes leaking water heater
Breaker trips when hot:
1) Use hand and touch circuit breaker.
                    Does circuit breaker feel warm?
2) Use nose and smell for burned electric smell
                    Does anything smell burned to induicate overheating?
3) Use ears, and jiggle breaker to listen for crackling sound
                     Do you hear crackling sound when jiggling breaker? Then breaker is loose on busbar
4) Open covers on water heater and inspect for burned, melted parts (read more detail below)

Action 1: Check if wires are tightly screwed to circuit breaker
Action 2: Replace circuit breaker
Action 3: Move wires to another same-size breaker and see if problem continues:
                         How to replace circuit breaker
DO NOT INSTALL LARGER CIRCUIT BREAKER TO SOLVE PROBLEM: absolute fire risk
Read more causes
Melted thermostat has sent power to both element at same time: Inspect for melted parts
Install smaller watt elements so circuit breaker runs cooler How to replace elements,
Conduct main service panel stress test stress test service panel
Convert water heater to 120Volts How to convert water heater to 120Volts

Important: Read more detailed causes below:
Busbar is burned
Over heated breaker can get loose and overheat on busbar . Use nose and ears to find burned breaker

Cause 1: Water heater element is shorted to ground. Action: Turn off power and test elements.
Water heater is leaking down electrical parts: Do not touch wet or leaking water heater. Turn power OFF, open covers and inspect for wet parts and use nose to smell for melt and burning,  and inspect for leak
Element is cracked and/or touching anode rod. Action: Turn off power and test elements
Shorted wire or burned part. Action: Open covers, and use nose and eyes to inspect for burned parts and test wires
Prevent electrocution: Do not touch wet water heater or leaking water heater. At water heater, electrically ground both pipes together and connect ground wire to ground screw on tank. See image

Cause 2: If water heater is tripping breaker, the breaker and wire may be too small   See wire and breaker size chart
Action: Feel if circuit breaker is warm. Jiggle breaker and listen for crackling sound. Smell if there is bruning. Check breaker size: should be 30 amp, with 10 gauge wire, for wattage over 3800W. Wattage printed on end of each element. See wire and breaker size chart
30 amp breaker and 10 gauge wire is suitable for 4500 watt and 5500 watt residential water heaters
30 amp circuit runs cooler = less heat loss = more efficient use of electricity = service panel lasts longer
Undersized breaker and wire will cause heat damage to circuit breaker and breaker box, leading to tripped breakers and loose breakers and damage to busbar.
Wire size and amp chart
Figure volts amps for water heater

Cause 3:
Breaker is bad. Move wires to another same-size breaker and see if problem continues.
How to replace circuit breaker
9-ways to save with water heater




Short caused breaker to trip

Melted wire

Causes:
-Loose connection: Wire nuts not secure. Wires not twisted together. Expansion and contraction from heating caused sparking and melt. -Action: Install wire nut correctly. Twist wire very tight. How to twist wire and select correct wire nut
-Non-copper wire joined with copper wire. Action: change all wiring to copper. Avoid aluminum wire.
-Thermostat shorted, causing both elements to be ON at same time. And wires were overloaded. Action: Open covers, use eyes and nose to inspect for burned melted parts. Replace thermostats and test elements
-Wire too small for water heater. Look at watt rating on label on side of tank. Compare with watt rating printed on end of each element. For elements less than 3801watts at 240Volt, 12 gauge wire is fine. Use 20 amp breaker. For elements 3800 watts to 6000 waats at 240Volt, use 10 gauge wire and 30 amp breaker. Figure volts amps watts of water heater
Nearby lightning strike can cause unusual and isolated events. Can melt 1 wire or 1 connection. Can cause widespread damage throughout house. Action: Call electrician  How to test wire  Install whole house surge protection
Read more below
Melted wires discovered
Breaker tripped, and now ECO is tripping:
Water heater had leak, or flooded and now ECO is tripping:
Water heater flooded and now breaker is tripping
Water heater electric tests out, but heater does not heat water:
Water heater
Quick answer: Replace thermostats and test elements and clean sediment out of tank
Quick answer2: Check that wire size matches watt rating on label on side of tank, and matches watt rating printed on each element. Greater than 3800 watt element at 240V requires 10 gauge wire and 30 amp breaker. Figure volts amps watts of water heater
Water leak shorted parts. Action. Check for leak
Move wires to different circuit breaker to see if breaker is causing problem. How to replace circuit breaker
Use nose and eyes to Inspect for burned thermostat or element and and loose wires: Replace burned part.

Melted wire can carry correct voltage but will not carry necessary amperage.
This can cause water heater not to operate correctly, and/or trip ECO, and or melt wires, and cause breaker to trip.
Wire can no longer carry element amperage, causing heat that trips ECO.
If melt is far enough down tank, it will not trip ECO and tank will test out electrically but still not work.

This happens when water heater leak caused short. Or if circuit breaker tripped. Or if water heater had a fire. Or if symptoms match above, then Replace wires.
New water heaters with foam insulation might require replacement.

Melted wire will pass continuity test How to test wire
Replace wire in foam filled tank
Tanks with foam insulation.
Run wire down outside of tank
Buy 48" drill bit and/ drill down from top.
Use only solid copper wire.
Insulation must cover thermostat and element when finished
This action will void product warranty
Water heater element
Change water heater from 240Volts to 120Volts, uses less wattage per minute of operation

Installed new element, and now ECO is tripping:

Quick answer: Replace thermostats and test elements
Inspect for burned parts and and loose wires: Replace burned part.

ECO trips when wire gauge is too small for element wattage, causing heat that trips ECO.
This happens if replacement element has greater wattage than shows on label on side of tank.
Compare rating label on side of tank with wattage rating printed on end of each element.
Change water heater from 240 to 120
Connect water heater to generator
Off peak water heater options

Installed new element, and now Circuit breaker is tripping:

Any element over 3800 watts must have 10 gauge wire and 30 amp breaker
Move wires to different breaker and see if problem contuinues
Replace circuit breaker
Troubleshoot Household electric

Water heater insulation
Larger image

How electric water heater works
Off peak water heater options

Information about water heater design

Water heater is steel tank, covered with insulation, and surrounded by metal shell. Metal shell protects wiring.

1) Steel tank holds pressure of hot water.
2) Steel tank can be rusted and leaking.
Leaking water heater.
Read about anode rod

3) Insulation helps prevent heat loss.
4) Metal shell protects wires from damage.
5) Any short to metal tank will trip breaker. Ground wire must be connected to water heater.

Thermostat and element must be covered

Cover, insulation and protector are necessary so thermostat can read correct temperature. Thermostats exposed to room temperature will misread temperature and cause overheating.
Thermostat must sit flat against tank.
Water heater cover
Larger image
http://waterheatertimer.org/Replace-anode-rod.html
flooded water heater
Larger image

Flooded water heater should be replaced

  Do not touch wet water heater
Do don't touch water heater standing on wet surface
1) Water heater cannot dry out unless covers and insulation are left off tank. If covers and insulation are missing, then thermostats cannot read correct temperature.
2) Wet insulation will be continuous shock and electrical danger
3) Wet water heater is shock hazard. All parts must be replaced, wires checked and insulation totally dry.
Read about flooded water heaters
Flooded water heater
American flooded water heater
Water heater flooded and now breaker is tripping

leaking water heater

Leaking water heater 

Quick answer:   Read: water heater is leaking
Do not touch water heater that is wet. Turn power OFF before touching.

<> Rusted tank needs replacement before rupture >
Read: water heater is leaking

Off peak ideas

Off peak water heater options
Change water heater from 240 to 120
Connect water heater to generator

TP valve   

Read: water heater is leaking
How to test and replace TP valve
Do NOT cap off TP valve
water heater tank drain

Drain valve

1) Use garden hose cap drain valve to stop dripping
2) How to replace drain valve
3) Water-heater-will-not-drain

Under-counter water heater

How to install under counter water heater
Intermatic GM series

Water heater timer

Box timers
15 different timers
Gas water heater timers
Use timer to Change temperature of electric water heater
Off-peak water heater ideas
connect water heater to generator

Connect Water heater to any voltage generator

Connect water heater to any voltage generator
Convert water heater to 120Volt
Off-peak water heater ideas

Di electric nipple

Nipple stuck, will not come out

Insert 5/8" or 3/4" carriage bolt so nipple will not collapse
Use pipe wrench and heavy hammer to rotate nipple, use galvanized pipe to make cheater bar
Wedge steel pry bar across both nipples to help hold water heater
Read more
See illustration of heat traps
Low hot water pressure
age of water heater

How old is water heater?

Find manufacturer and serial number on side of tank How to find age of water heater
Bradford White age finder
Water heater manufacturers
Leaking water heater
How to maintain water heater

Tank must be in upright position to work correctly.

Laying tank on side will cause water heater not to work efficiently. Elements will still heat water, but tank design is for hot water to travel to top of tank where hot outlet is located. How it works

Warranties

There are 3 main manufacturers that make all other brands: Rheem, AO-Smith, Bradford White. Most warranties are the same and protect against defects in workmanship.
Water heater manufacturers
Kenmore water heater warranty is printed in each product manual Example Kenmore water heater warranty
Rheem:  Example 6 year Rheem water heater manual from 2003
Rheem warranty claim form
Rheem parts warranty claim form
American Residential: Example American residential warranty 2006
Reliance power vent: Reliance power vent warranty
Rheem Marathon: Example Marathon warranty
GE Heat pump GE Hybrid water heater manual
Bradford White :Bradford White warranty policy and coverage
GE: GE water heater warranties
drop water heater

Drop water heater/ water heater fell over

Electric water heater will be repairable. External metal shell can dent without causing problem as long as element-thermostat covers are not pushed against electrical parts, and water connections are good. (Drop gas water heater will probably break TRD/FVIR requiring water heater replacement Read)
1) Electric elements might break. Action: Test elements
2) Thermostats might becomes loose and not touch tank wall. Action: Check if each thermostat sits flat against tank. Push in red reset button.
3) Wires might be loose. Action: Open covers and inspect for loose wires.
4) Anode rod or dip tube might break. Action: Stand tank upright. Remove lower element and see if dip tube or anode rod are touching bottom of tank. Replace anode rod Replace dip tube.
5) Internal steel tank will not be harmed, except enamal 'glass' liner might crack or chip. Action: Inspect and change anode rod each 2-3 years to prevent rusting.
6) Drain valve might breake off: Action: How to replace drain valve
7) Earthquake straps good idea for safety. Read about earthquake straps   Earthquake straps at Amazon

Earthquake

Earthquake straps good idea for safety.

Read about earthquake straps

Attic/ basement

How to remove water heater from attic
Lift water heater into attic

Attic

How to lift heavy water heater into attic
clogged water heater

Water heater will not drain


Use household water pressure and washing-machine hose to flush open water heater
Read more
remove old water heater element

Element stuck

Drill and tap holes, insert 1/4" bolts, use pipe wrench
Drain tank before drilling.
How to remove element
Element wrench Ratchet is better than element wrench
Use element wrench or 1-1/2" ratchet.
Marathon tanks require 1-7/8"
Leave tank 3/4 full of water to loosen element.
Weight of water will stablize tank while you push and twist element wrench.
Then drain tank before removing element.

$$$$

Install electric meter on water heater

Electric bill skyrocketed

Resource with detailed walk through:
Water-heater-causing-high-electric-bill

Causes
1) New smart meter was installed on house. Old meter might have been inaccurate Action: Break meter glass with hammer and they will replace with another new smart meter purchased from China. The new Chinese-made smart meters will replace your friend's meter reader job, but are tested accurate. Low chance of getting two meters in a row that are bad, so breaking meter gives second opinion. Wear goggles.
2) Water heater could be cause. Is water very hot? Test elements. Replace thermostats.
3) Water heater circuit could be bad:
Turn off all breakers except water heater. See if meter is still showing usage.
Turn off breaker to water heater and see if meter slows or stops. In some cases, if water heater element is shorted to ground, the meter will continue running. Test elements
4) Water leak is running hot water out of tank, causing elements to run continuously. Action: Fix leaks. Turn off all taps. Put ear againsts pipe and listen for water running. Check TP overflow tube.
5) Water heater bleeding electricity to ground. Actions: Open covers and inspect tank parts for burned wire. Test wires between tank parts. Test and replace elements: How to test elements Test for leaks to ground. Turn power OFF and completely disconnect ground wire from tank. Turn power ON and look at meter, but do NOT touch tank with ground wire disconnected.
6) Malfunctioning heat-pump water heater. Call service tech. This page doesn't cover heat-pump troubleshoot.
7) Water heater circuit connected to another usage in addition to water heater. Action: Check 240V circuit breaker has only 2 individual wires. Follow cable to see if junction box is found. Turn off breaker and check if other usage points are out. Check if neighbor's house has outage when you turn off your breaker.
8) If home has recirculation system, the thermostat on recirc system might be bad. Water heater recirculation system

How to install electric meter on water heater
going to jail
Art-post.net

Away weekends -or- gone 6 months

  >  Should water heater be drained?
Yes. If water heater is old and could fail. Or if a failed tank will flood belongings or home. Install drip pan under heater.
No. The anode rod cannot protect tank from rusting unless water heater is full. Anode rods
  >  Should water be turned OFF?
Yes. Close water shut-off valve and open hot tap for a moment to relieve pressure. This action will protect home from possible flood if tank develops leak. Leaking water heater
  > Should power to water heater be turned OFF?
Yes, > if tank will not freeze.
No, > if tank can freeze > then turn thermostat down to lowest setting Or drain heater.
Another option is to install 7-day timer, and turn water heater ON for 1 hour every other day.   7-day timers
  >  Any problems when returning?
Possible odor problems inside tank after several weeks: drain water heater, and pour in 2 pints hydrogen peroxide. See information More info
Possible hydrogen build-up in tank after several weeks. Open faucet located at highest point in home, let hot run for minutes. If hydrogen is present, air will come out faucet. Do not turn on light switch that could cause spark until area is vented. Read about hydrogen  Read more

diagnose water heater problems
See larger image
Larger image











Interior diagram water heater top thermostat
See larger

Troubleshooting part 1: Reset button and tank safety

Red reset button or 'high limit control' or Energy Cut Off or ECO will cut off electric power to entire water heater if water reaches 150-180 F <> or if electrical short causes top thermostat to overheat. 

ECO shuts off both hot wires in the 240V circuit. Look at diagram on left: 240V arrives at L1 and L3 screws of top thermostat <> when ECO is tripped, L1 and L3 screws are hot but electricity stops there.

Understanding safety features: Residential electric water heaters have 3 critical safety features: <> 1. Circuit breaker that cuts power at service panel <> 2. TP valve see image that releases water if pressure builds inside tank <> 3. ECO red reset button that turns off electricity when overheating is detected.

TP valve and ECO prevent water heater explosion. In physics, hot water expands and puts pressure on container holding water. Metal tank will rupture violently if water gets too hot. ECO is first line of defense. The next safety device before water heater explodes is a properly functioning TP valve that releases scalding water to floor through ” pipe. 


Troubleshooting part 2: Test ECO red reset button

Electricity is 'on' during this test. Caution needed since 240-volts can kill or injure you. 

Call licensed plumber or keep reading.

Protect yourselfTape multimeter leads to wood paint sticks so hands do not get near electricity see image

Water heater must be on dry surface and not in water. Wet or flooded water heater is dangerous >> turn off power. YES Use adequate lighting. YES Wear dry tennis shoes and dry clothes. YES Stand on dry boards or several layers of dry cardboard. DO NOT lean against or touch metal pipes or metal ductwork. DO NOT stand in water or on damp surface. DO NOT stand on bare outdoor soil or metal ladder. Do not hold metal screwdriver in your mouth. Put down dry boards and plywood so your body does not conduct electricity to ground which will cause serious injury. 

1. To get ready. Turn off electricity to water heater. Open hot water faucet so cool water enters tank. Remove covers on water heater see image so you have access to thermostats and elements. 

2. Turn electricity back on so you can test parts. 

3. Set multimeter to read 240 Volts AC see image.

4. Test L3 to T2 and then L3 to T4. Then test L1 to L4. If voltage is present with any test, then EOC is not tripped, so move forward to next section. Thermostat can still need replacement as per testing when you get to Part 4.

5. If voltage is NOT present then ECO is tripped and requires resetting. Water in tank must be cool. Push red button to reset. If ECO will not reset, then replace upper thermostat with new one from hardware store. How to replace thermostats  If ECO resets then move forward to next section.

Troubleshooting part 3: Test the Elements

Electricity is off during this test. Look for loose screws and burned wires see image. Burned wire is caused by loose screw or element shorted by sediment or lime build-up inside tank. How to clean sediment out of water heater Cut back burned area of wire. Continue testing elements.

1. Disconnect wires from both elements see image  

2. Set multimeter to read Ohms > or > use continuity tester from hardware store see   

                    Good element must pass Test A & B

3. Test-A: test across the two element screws with multimeter and resistance should read about 12.8 Ohms for 240-Volt 4500-Watt element. For 30 gallon tanks with 3500-Watt elements, reading is about 16.4 Ohms. see chart with formula
If you are using continuity tester instead of multimeter, the light turns on when element is good, but element must pass next test too.

4. Test-B: test each screw to any bare metal part of water heater. If the multimeter reads any Ohms at all, or if needle moves even tiny bit, then element is shorted and needs replacement with new one purchased at hardware store see how. If you are using continuity tester instead of multimeter: if bulb turns on or flickers or is dim then element is bad. How to replace element 

Use same wattage for replacement element. End of element marked with wattage. Also label on side of tank shows wattage. Tank wattage is element wattage since both elements are never 'on' at same time. See image

Power is ON means risk of electrocution which can be sudden, or can take a moment or two, and will include anyone who grabs a hold of you. Have your spouse knock you loose from wires using a 2x4, and then treat possible stopped heart and 3rd degree burns. If you are not familiar with electricity, and/or spouse does not want to hit you with a board, then use EZ repair at top of page, or call plumber, or electrician. If you want to understand how to test thermostats, then keep reading information below.

Troubleshooting part 4: Test upper and lower Thermostats

Electricity is 'on' during this test. Wires are attached to elements see

Start with cold or cool water in tank. Overheated tank must cool first. Set multimeter to read 240 Volts AC.

1) Test across L1 to L3 should read 240Volts unless water heater not receiving 240V. How to test water heater circuit

2) Test L1 to L4 should always read 240Volts unless ECO is tripped, or thermostat is bad, or water heater not receiving 240Volts.

3) Change thermostat temperature settings See image: Set upper thermostat to maximum temperature setting. Set lower thermostat to minimum temperature setting. Cold water in tank means upper element will be on How a water heater works

4) Test L3 to T2 should read 240V. This means upper thermostat is sending power to upper element. Then test across both screws on upper element. If element does not show 240V, and you know element is good, then one of the wires between thermostat and element is shorted and needs to be replaced.  How to test if element is good

5) While upper element is on, check for electricity going to lower thermostat and element. Test L3 to T4 should read 0-Volts. If  L3 to T2 and L3 to T4 both read 240V at same time, then upper thermostat needs to be replaced. How to replace thermostats

6) Change thermostat temperature settings again: Set upper thermostat to minimum temperature setting. Set lower thermostat to maximum temperature setting. Now L3 to T2 should be 0V and L3 to T4 should read 240V. This means electricity is being sent to lower thermostat and element. 

7) Electricity is being sent to lower element. Cold water is in tank, and lower themostat is at maximum setting, so lower element should be ON. Test across both lower element screws. Test should read 240V. If there is no voltage, then wire from top is shorted and needs to be replaced, or lower thermostat is bad. How to test wire for continuity

8) Test if lower element is receiving electricity from top: Test each screw to bare metal part of water heater should read 120Volts. If both thermostat screws test for power to ground, and testing across lower element screws still does not show 240V,  then wire from top need replacement. If lower element never turns off, then replace lower thermostats.


Additional links

Troubleshoot gas water heater
Numbering on upper thermostats varies slightly
How to replace thermostats
Upper thermostats
See larger

Clean sediment out of water heater

How to install gas water heater

9 ways to save with water heater
How to test elements

Electricity from pole to breaker box

See basic 120V and 240V water heater circuits

Compare all water heater timers
Do it yourself
Do it yourself water heater

Always bring helpers
My art website

How to twist wire

How to wire off-peak water heater
Cutler Hammer C25BUB230A
Contactors
Recirculation system
Hot water circulation system

Drink American Beer
How to make a still/ book
Beer books at Amazon
Solar water heater
9+ ways to save with water heater

Motorized shut off valve

Anode rods

Clean sediment from tank
Low water pressure
Low water pressure


Stacking
Troubleshoot Rheem tankless

Troubleshoot Bosch tankless

How to install tank-type gas water heater

 EJ500 Utilitec Woods Woods ST01C  ST01C ETW350 Aube T1032Aube Intermatic EI500Intermatic
Sylvania Tork GE  Leviton Hagar Power pack
Timex

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Intermatic box timers:
Compare T100 series timers
How to set box timers
Troubleshoot box timers
Trippers and parts
Intermatic GM series
Intermatic parts
Intermatic trippers and parts
 Dayton Sprinkler timers Power pack
Wire T1906 and T1905 timers
  
Wire T-101 T103 T104 timers
Paragon timers and manuals
Tork TU universal timer
Westek box timers
Wire EH40 and WH40 timers
  
Tork timers and manuals
Tork TU universal timer
Troubleshoot intermatic
Sylvania timers

Leaking water heater
Intermatic GM series
Intermatic GM series
Pool timers and manuals
Intermatic T104P201
Wire GE 15207 timer
3-phase timer
3-phase timer

GE box timers
Gardena timers
Gardena T1030

Anode rods

Cost to run water heater

Replace circuit breaker

Clean sediment from tank

Low hot water pressure
Buy:
Buy Rainbird at Amazon
Buy BTG 100 at Amazon
Safety Equipment for Professionals
Industrial and scientific Amazon

Compare all water heater timers
Recirculation system
Hot water circulation system
Gas and electric water heaters Support the economy:
Buy water heaters  from my associate links:

50 gallon Gas water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon gas water heaters at Amazon
50 gallon Electric water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon electric water heaters at Amazon
Hybrid / heat pump/ water heaters at Amazon

Resources:
How to install gas water heater
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Troubleshoot electric water heater
Intermatic control centers Intermatic control centers:
+ manuals and parts


Including Z-wave
box timers Compare box timers

Control water heater w/ Z-wave
programmable timer Compare programmable timers

Control water heater with programmable wall timer
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