How To Troubleshoot An Electric Water Heater

Posted on: 12 February 2015

A failing water heater comes with a host of problems and inconveniences, from uncomfortably cold showers to dishwashers and washing machines that can no longer get the job done without a sufficient supply of hot water. Fortunately, many common electric hot water heater issues can be fixed without the help of a repairman, even for homeowners with few DIY skills. Before you call in the pros, check out these simple fixes to get your hot water heater up and running once more.

Simple Circuit Issues

If your hot water heater isn't working at all, you may simply need to reset the circuit breaker. Try flipping the breaker assigned to the water heater to see if this fires the unit back up. Consider replacing the breaker with a new one from the hardware store. With the breaker on, press the reset button on your unit, which is generally located near the upper thermostat. If this doesn't resolve your issues, turn the breaker back off to cut power to the unit before proceeding with any additional troubleshooting.

Consider Capacity

Does it seem like you always run out of hot water just a few minutes into your shower? You could have a water heater that's simply not large enough to meet demand in your household. Consider that the average bath uses 30 gallons of water, while a shower uses 2.5 gallons per minute. If you're trying to run the dishwasher – 20 gallons per use, or the washing machine – 40 gallons per use – it's no surprise that a 40 gallon water heater would be unable to keep up. If your water heater is undersized for your needs, contact a local supplier or contractor for help selecting a properly-sized unit.

Failed Heating Elements

Electric water heaters use a pair of heating elements to warm your water, and a failed element is the most common explanation for a unit that provides insufficient or no hot water. Fortunately, these elements are inexpensive and relatively simple to replace. Start by draining the tank, then open the covers at the top and bottom of your unit. You'll need an element wrench to remove the old elements. Slide the replacement units in place and reconnect the pair of wires at each element. Replace the covers and flip the breaker to your unit to see if your problem has been resolved.

Water Odors and Discoloration

Water heaters contain an anode rod, which prevents rust, odors and discoloration. These rods can wear out over time, but are surprisingly easy to replace. If your water heater supplies plenty of hot water, but the water smells bad or is no longer clear, start by removing the cover on the top of your unit. Use a wrench to unscrew the anode rod and remove it. Wrap Teflon tape around the threads of a replacement rod and screw it into place with your wrench before replacing the cover.

Still suffering from a hot water heater that just won't cooperate? If these DIY fixes don't solve your problem, contact a local water heater repair company for professional help.

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I'm Maryann Delgado and I am very happy with the success my life has brought. One thing I have learned is to never underestimate the importance of your property, whether it is a storefront or your home. We spend the majority of our time in our homes, working and living our lives. I have visited many properties that just feel off. Those who live in work on these properties don't understand the changes that can be made to how they construct their buildings. I have had to learn everything I can about construction in order to build my perfect home and I have many lessons I'd love to teach to others.

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