Electrical Safety 101

3 Useful Facts for Homeowners When Troubleshooting Electrical Water Heater Problems

by David Hart

An electric water heater is vital in most homes because of the provision of hot water for showering and washing. However, hot water system issues such as defective circuit breakers, damaged thermostats, and water heater timer problems can cause significant inconveniences, including lack of hot water or too much hot water. Here are some useful facts for homeowners when troubleshooting electrical water heater problems.

Overheated Circuit Breaker

When there is an electrical surge, a circuit breaker will burn to protect the water heater. The switch will burn near its terminal, thereby producing a smell of burnt plastic. Therefore, when you detect such a smell, you should replace the circuit breaker as soon as possible with the exact match.

You need to inspect the circuit breaker by toggling its switch. If the switch moves as opposed to being firm, then the unit should be replaced because of damaged contact points. You should be mindful of the circuit breaker's mounting design, power rating, and terminal spacing when installing a new device. Using a water heater with a defective circuit breaker can be disastrous because it can lead to a fire breakout in the electrical panel, which can spread to adjacent items.

Thermostat Issues

A thermostat regulates temperatures of an electric water heater. Most water heaters have two thermostats with reset buttons that turn off power if temperatures exceed the safety levels. A faulty reset button will turn off on its own, leading to heating problems. If you notice such an issue, try pressing the button and let the tank heat until it achieves the operating temperature. If the reset button constantly trips during water heating, then you might need to check the thermostat. Loose wires, carbon accumulation, and defective terminals might the cause of the problem.

Consult an electrician to replace or repair a faulty thermostat. Also, if you receive excessive hot water than desired, then the problem might lie with the thermostat settings. Adjust both thermostats to the same temperature setting using a flathead screwdriver.

Noisy Heating Elements

Over time, impurities in water build up on heating elements. Furthermore, if you choose the wrong heating elements, scale accumulation can occur thereby degrading these parts at an alarming rate. An electrician can rid the elements of such dirt, but that might be expensive compared to replacement. However, a good rule of thumb is to buy low-density components, which have a long service life. When replacing a heating element on your own, remember to switch off the power to the heater. Also, you need a spanner meant explicitly for replacing heating elements.