You only really appreciate your water heater when it stops working. Although this can be annoying, it can also be a great opportunity to learn how the electric water heater works. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to diagnose and potentially repair it yourself.
However, it is important to remember that electricity is dangerous. If you have any doubts regarding what you are doing you must contact a local specialist in hot water systems. They’ll be able to advise whether yours can be repaired or if it needs replacing.
How It Works
The electric water heater is surprisingly simple. Most water heaters will have two bars that extend into the tank, usually one at the top and one at the bottom; this ensures even heating. These bars have a current of electricity that passes through them, heating the element and the water surrounding it.
A thermostat in the water tells the heating element when to stop heating; that’s when the water has reached the temperature you’ve chosen.
Before you look at your electric water heater turn off the power to it and verify that it’s off at the unit.
This is essential for your own safety.
Troubleshooting is surprisingly easy when you know what the most common issues are with an electric water heater.
No Hot Water
The first thing to check is that the heater is actually getting power. Check your breakers. If they haven’t tripped you probably have a high-temperature trip on the heater.
You’ll need to switch off the breaker and remove the access panel for the upper heating element. You should see a red button. Press this, without disturbing any of the other wires.
You can then replace the panel and turn the breaker back on. If the heater is still not working it will be time to test the heating bars. One, or both of them may need to be replaced. They unscrew and slide out of the heater, making this an easy repair job.
Water Not Hot Enough
If the water is warm, but not hot then you need to make sure that you haven’t simply used all the hot water up.
If this isn’t the case, one of the heating elements could have failed, or the thermostat has become faulty.
If your shower runs out of hot water quickly, your lower heating element is probably gone. If it just gives warm water then the upper element probably needs replacing.
Water Is Too Hot
Water being too hot will also point to an issue with the thermostat. It’s worth noting that you may have two thermostats, one for each heater bar. Reduce the temperature and see if this helps.
If it doesn’t you’re going to need a new thermostat.
Water, air, and metal are the perfect combination for rust and corrosion. Unfortunately, over time this will lead to leaks.
You’ll need to do a visual inspection. A corroded tank cannot be repaired; it’s time to replace it. However, if the leak is coming from the elements then they may have worked loose or the seals may be broken. You can check and adjust as necessary.
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