It is extremely frustrating to have to depend on a handyman for every problem you face. Here’s how to troubleshoot your electric water heater all by yourself.

Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting

We all become handicapped whenever one or more of our electrical appliances refuses to work or gives troubles in any other way. We curse everything under the sun, call up service station, ask them to send someone to fix it, wait for three days before the (not so) handyman takes pity on our plight and comes to fix it and in the end, shell out our hard earned money only to have the problem resurface a few days later. Would it not be better if we could do all this troubleshooting ourselves? It would save a lot of money and time too. The problem is, most of us are scared of electrical appliances and thus, do not approach these things. If you too belong to that tribe, please do not fear electricity. Learn to handle it well. For instance, here is how to troubleshoot your electric water heater all by yourself.
How To Troubleshoot an Electric Water Heater
Here’s what you could do to troubleshoot your electric water heater all by yourself:
Comfortable? Then Proceed
It would do you good to start on this only if you are absolutely comfortable working with electric appliances and with electricity in general. If your water heater has stopped heating, begin troubleshooting at the fuse/breaker panel. Check the fuse/breaker to insure that you have current flowing to the water heater and that it hasn’t tripped. Next, remove the top thermostat cover, and using a volt/ohm meter check for current on the thermostat terminals. If you have current there, push the red button labeled "Reset".
If the water that comes from your electric heater is discoloured or takes too long to replenish, then it could be a case of buildup or deposition of sediments inside the heater. If such is the case, then drain the water in the heater completely and flush it several times with clean water.
Right Temperature
The next thing that you must check is the water heater's temperature settings, especially if you have noisy plumbing. There are chances that it might be too hot, and the noise may be the result of steam building up in the pipes.
Smell and try to ascertain as to whether the water smells like sulfur. Sometimes bacteria that live in the water get out of control. A good dose of chlorine will usually take care of the problem. To do so, you may have to consult the manual for the recommended dosage.
Another thing that you must check is the water temperature when the tank is full. To do so, run hot water from the tap over a thermometer. It should be within 5 degrees of the thermostat setting. A larger discrepancy in the thermostat setting would signify the need to get it replaced immediately.
Another thing you need to make sure is that you aren't running multiple appliances that use hot water – for instance, running the dishwasher and the washing machine will not allow you to have enough water for taking a shower.
Here’s what you should do in case your electric water heater does not give you hot water:
  • After you have pressed the ‘Reset’ button on the electric heater, check for current on the heating element, if the water in the tank is cold, you should have current there. If the water is cold and there is no current, then you have a bad thermostat. If the thermostat is good, turn off the electricity at the fuse/breaker panel and remove the wires from the heating element.
  • With the help of an ohmmeter, test for continuity through the element itself by touching your test leads to both element screws at the same time. If you have no continuity, the element is bad; if, however, the continuity is good, you can proceed to the next test.
  •  If you find all of the upper components in working order, reattach the wires to the element and replace the top cover. Then turn the electricity back on and perform these same checks on the lower components. If, however, you find that one or the other element is causing a problem, it is recommended to replace it. If your electric heater is more than ten years old, however, you must replace the whole thing, instead of wasting your money on repairs or high electricity bills.

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