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2011

Test water heater circuit







Thermostat ECO reset button

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

Test Black to ground
Test White to ground
Test Black to White



240 Volt breaker


A) This information is for ordinary tank-type electric water heater.

B) Steps assume you have electric wiring knowledge and can safeguard from electric shock.

Do not stand on bare ground, 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 confimed OFF.
Tape tester leads to wood sticks to keep hands away from power, wear dry clothes, do not sweat.

C) Water heater is completely full of water, and tub faucet runs full stream with no air gaps.
          Note: If elements are not fully immersed in water, they will instantly burn out.
          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-electric-water-heater-works
               How-to-troubleshoot-electric-water-heater

D) If tank is in working order, that leaves ELECTRICITY as main suspect.

How to test circuit breaker and electricity to water heater:
1) Open upper cover located on side of tank: Push in ECO red reset button on upper thermostat.
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.
          How water heater thermostats work
          How-to-replace-thermostats

2) Look at circuit breaker:
Push circuit breaker lever all the way one direction and then back other direction to make sure breaker is latched.
If circuit breaker is tripped and will not reset, then move to step 5, test breaker.
If circuit breaker was tripped, and is now reset, then be wary of possible electrical-short at tank, move to next step.
If breaker resets but still no hot water, move to next step.

3) If tank has 2 elements, then water heater is 240volt.
- If 1 leg of 240Volt circuit is not working, then 240V appliance will not work.
- 240Volt circuit needs both hot wires to complete the circuit:
- Ground wire is not needed for 240Volt circuit to work.
          How 120 Volt and 240 Volt circuits work

      -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
      -On water heater: Test across top 2 screws on upper thermostat should read 220-240 volts.
      -If you have 240 at top two screws, and water heater still not working, then skip to step 6 at bottom.
      -If top two screws do not read 220-240V, move to next step.

4) Open cover located on top of heater where electric wires first connect to water heater.
- Turn circuit breaker OFF while you remove wire nuts, and separate wires for testing.
- Turn circuit breaker ON, and test across both insulated wires that come from breaker, should read 220-240 volts.
- If you test each wire to bare ground wire, it should read 120V.
- If testing across both insulated wires does not read 220-240V, move to next step.
- Re-install wire nuts very tight, and close cover. Make sure bare ground wire is connected to green screw.

5) Test circuit breaker:
-Mark water heater circuit breaker before removing panel cover.
-Turn off all breakers except water heater breaker, main breaker, and breaker to light-fixture so you can see
-Use adequate light.
-Do not hold or touch or lean against anything metal.
-Stand on dry boards and wear dry clothes.
-Caution: No matter if main breaker is ON or OFF, the big wires that connect to main breaker are still HOT.
-Stay away from main breaker no matter if main is ON or OFF

        -Remove circuit breaker box cover so you have access to wiring at each breaker.
        -Find water heater breaker: Notice that 240Volt circuit breaker has 2 wires connected with screws.
            See basic water heater circuit
        -Using multi-meter, test across both screws for 240Volt.
        -Turn water heater circuit breaker OFF and check if wires are loose. These wires should be very tight.
        -If testing across both screws does not read 220-240, then breaker is not working.
             How to replace circuit breaker
        -To double check, move water heater wires to another same-amp 240V breaker. Turn breaker ON.
        -Put ear against water heater to listen for bubbly-fizzing sound.
        -If water heater is still not ON when wires are on another breaker, then wire between breaker and heater is suspect.

6) If you are getting 240 to water heater, but heater is not working, then wire inside tank could be loose.
      -Do 30 minute troubleshoot:
      How-to-troubleshoot-electric-water-heater
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