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2014

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Water heater is blowing breaker

Use non-contact voltage tester to make sure power is OFF before touching heater
Move wires to different, same-size circuit breaker
water heater safety

Safety first !!!

1)  Do not touch wet water heater or heater that was wet
2) Stand on dry surface, such as dry boards.
3) NEVER stand on bare ground or wet surface and touch electrical equipment. Wear dry clothes.
4)  Do not touch or lean into anything metal.
5) Do not touch any wires inside box.
6) Make sure main breaker panel has cover installed over wires until you are ready to replace breaker or change wires.
7) Tape tester leads to wood sticks to keep hands away from power
8) Use non-contact voltage tester to make sure power is OFF before touching heater
9) Knock the person loose with a 2x4. Do not touch person who is getting shocked.
Buy:
Buy non-contact voltage tester at Amazon
Electric testers at Amazon
circuit breakers are warm
DO NOT INSTALL LARGER CIRCUIT BREAKER TO SOLVE PROBLEM: absolute fire risk

Circuit breaker trips because of Heat

Caused by overheated wire, loose wires, bad breaker, loose breaker, or electrical short to ground:

Breakers do not trip immediately when heat is detected.
This allows heavy-amp motors to start with surge of amp-draw without tripping breaker.
However breaker trips immediately if there is a short.
Tripping breaker protects full length of wire from damage, but does not prevent damage at location of shorted wires.

A short is caused when electricity from breaker comes into contact with grounded surface.
Causes for short vary. Loose connections, re-used wire nuts, water leak, failed part inside tank, under-sized wire, under-sized breaker, bad circuit breaker, burned bus busbar inside breaker box, rats chewed through wire etc.
circuit breaker

DO NOT INSTALL LARGER CIRCUIT BREAKER TO SOLVE PROBLEM: absolute fire risk

Quick answer for blowing breaker:

1) Reset breaker fully off and then back ON.
Listen if water heater begins to heat, this will say if unit is getting power.

2) If breaker will not reset, then turn breaker fully off.
Uon-contact voltage tester to check there is no power at heater

3) Inspect outside water heater for signs of leaking/ do not touch wet water heater
                     Causes leaking water heater

4) Open panels and connection on top of heater to inspect for shorted, burned wires and parts. (read more detail below)

3) At main breaker box: Use hand and touch circuit breaker. Does breaker feel warm? Touch main breaker and see if it is warm to touch. Observe safety rules above. Make sure breaker panel has cover installed over wires until you are ready to replace breaker or change wires.
                    Does circuit breaker feel warm?
                    Do stress test if main breaker feels warm
4) Use nose and smell for burned electric smell
                    Does anything smell burned to indicate overheating?
5) Use ears, and jiggle breaker to listen for crackling sound
                     Do you hear crackling sound when jiggling breaker? Then breaker is loose on busbar

Actions to take:
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

How to reset circuit breaker
DO NOT INSTALL LARGER CIRCUIT BREAKER TO SOLVE PROBLEM: absolute fire risk

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.
Resource:
How to wire tankless electric water heater
How to replace circuit breaker
Choose correct wire and breaker size
See inside main breaker box
bad thermostat

Melted parts or wires inside water heater can trip breaker        Usually breaker will NOT reset

Melted or burned parts insidce water heater can also cause breaker to trip
Inspection:

1) Turn power OFF
2) Open side covers on tank
3) Inspect for leak or presence of any water. Tank must be completely DRY
Diagnose leaking water heater
3) Use nose and eyes to inspect for burned wires, parts and evidence of high heat
4) Check each screw connection for loose wire. Tighten all screws very tight against copper wire

Action 1: Replace any burned part
How to replace thermostats
How to replace element
How to test elements
Action 2: Cut back any melted wire, and restrip and reattach
Action 3: Test melted wires if present
How-to-test-water-heater-wires.html
Action 4: Tighten all screws
Action 5: put back insulation and factory covers
Circuit breakerO ALWAYS MATCH CIRCUIT BREAKER TO WIRE SIZE: avoid fire risk

Undersized breaker will cause breaker to overheat and trip

20 amp breaker, and 12 gauge wire: maximum 3800 watt element
30 amp breaker, and 10 gauge wire: maximum 5760 watt element
Buy short lengths of 12 ga and 10 ga wire at local home store to compare with your wire to determine wire gauge
                        Resource:
                        Figure volts amps watts for water heater
                        
Wire and breaker sizes

Element wattage is printed on side of each element
Action: Replace element with lower wattage
                       Resource:
                       How to replace element
DO NOT INSTALL LARGER CIRCUIT BREAKER TO SOLVE PROBLEM: absolute fire risk
Busbar is burned

Burned busbar will cause breaker to trip

Over heated breaker can get loose and overheat on busbar .
Use nose and ears to find burned breaker

Often this condition exists when breaker box is old, or breaker is undersized.
Action 1: Move breaker to different slot. Resource:
                             How to replace circuit breaker
Action 2: Call electrician to upgrade service box

Main lug wiring
Larger image

Main breaker wires are HOT at all times

Do not remove metal cover over breakers, or the wires and connections will be HOT
Main breaker wires are HOT even when main breaker is OFF.
Be careful when checking if main breaker feels warm to touch
Resource:
Do stress test if main breaker feels warm

Advanced DIY

Advanced information on wire size and amp loads:

Resource:
Wire and breaker sizes
Figure volts amps watts for water heater

Advanced breaker box diagnosis:

Feel if breaker is hot or loose or smells burned.
Conduct stress test on electric panel  
Resource:
Stress test service panel

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

More causes

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

See larger

Residential dual-element water heater wiring

Wire colors vary
Connection to bottom themrostat can be either illustration shown.

Both elements are never 'on' at same time unless tank is wired for other purpose (see owners manual). This is called 'non-simultaneous operation' since both elements are not 'on' at same time.
Either upper element is 'on' or lower element is 'on,' or both are off.

Resources:
How to replace thermostats
How to test elements
How to wire electric water heaters for various functions
How residential water heater works
Troubleshoot electric water heater
Test upper thermostat
Adjust temperature using screwdriver
How to adjust temperature/ gas and electric water heaters
How to increase amount of hot water

water heater element

Basic electric testers: multimeter and non-contact voltage tester

Buy:
Multimeters at Amazon
Buy non-contact voltage tester at Amazon
Electric testers at Amazon

Shop Amazon - Industrial and scientific
Shop Amazon - Industrial Electric Products

Basic safety:

Use non-contact voltage tester to test if voltage is present
Use mulimeter to test for voltage and continuity
NEVER touch wet water heater or water heater that was wet
NEVER assume power is OFF... always test
Do not stand on wet surface or bare ground.
Always stand on dry boards
Never lean into metal or carry metal objects in pocket when working around electricity

Match wire and breaker size

240Volt non-simultaneous water heater with 4500 watt element should have 30 amp breaker and 10 gauge wire

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
mm
Additional resources:
See inside main breaker box
Add a pilot light to show when water heater is ON
Add electic meter to water heater
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Convert 3-phase water heater to single-phase
How to replace circuit breaker

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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
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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

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