Two Easy Tasks For Maintaining Your Electric Water Heater

By: Ezra Plank

It is important to maintain your electric water heater. You don't want to replace it every time it breaks down.

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Plumbers Tune-Up Kit

Easy-to-use kit containing the most commonly replaced parts for double element electric water heaters. Comes with installation guide.

You need to know what to do when it begins to act up. This keeps you from having to rely on your handyman, who might disappoint you by not showing up, and it helps save your hard earned money too.

If electric water heaters develop problems, they can often be fixed with a few simple routine tasks. This will ensure that your appliance remains in good working order, and provide hot water whenever you need it.

If you're having problems with your heater, or if you just want to avoid problems in the future, the following routines might work for you. If they don't, then you will need to call your repairman.

Water is too hot:

This is the water heater in my own home Electric water heater

If the water coming from a hot water tap is much hotter than you need, this is not a good thing. Not only is it dangerous, especially if you have small children, but it will definitely increase your electric power bill.

CAUTION: Many hot water heaters use 220 volts. This can produce a fatal shock! Exercise extreme care when adjusting your heater. Perform all operations with the heater UNPLUGGED.

Fortunately, this is an easy thing to fix. Remove the cover plate that hides your heater adjustments, and turn the set screw on the rheostat to a lower temperature setting.

Keep doing this until you reach a hot water temperature that is high enough to suit your needs, but not high enough to burn your skin. ( There should be a large yellow warning label on your tank that has more information about the dangers of hot water. )

Not enough hot water, or no hot water at all:

This is the water heater in my own home Inside the cover plate

Electric heaters have two heating elements. One is near the top of the tank, and its thermostat will trip off when the water gets too hot. ( This is a safety feature: since hot water rises, the hottest water should be at the top of the tank. )

The heating element near the bottom of the tank will continue to supply heat until the water gets to the temperature set on your rheostat. ( This ensures that you have a full tank of hot water, so you don't run out in the middle of your shower! )

When a heating element is supplying heat, it will make a high-pitched whirring noise as it warms the surrounding water. If you can't hear this noise, then you know that your heating elements are not working properly.

In any case, here's how to troubleshoot your problem:

  1. If you have no hot water at all, first check your electric panel to see if the breaker is OFF. If so, then switch it to the ON position.
  2. If that wasn't the problem, remove the cover plate from your heater, and press the RESET button. Now you should hear a heating element applying heat to the water in the tank.
  3. This is the water heater in my own home Safety shield removed
  4. If there is no whirring noise, then your heating elements are not working - replace them ( or call your electric repairman ).
  5. If you can hear heat being applied, but
    • The water's not hot enough: Wait - it takes time to heat up all the water in your tank. If it's still not hot enough when the heating noise stops, set the rheostat to a higher temperature.
    • There's not enough hot water: This means that your lower heating element is defective, and should be replaced. ( Actually, replace them both at this time - they are sold as a pair anyway.)

This article has only addressed two of the problems that you might encounter with your electric water heater. If you have more confidence, there are other tasks that you might perform that will save you time and money. Please consult an appropriate repair manual.