How to Test Water Heater Element

The cold season might trigger you to use water heater mostly. But just like all the other electric devices, a water heater can also stop working properly. The most mainstream situation can be the time when the heater produced less hot water or no hot water. And when that happens, the elements or their thermostats may be at fault. At this point, the first thing you should do is to check the functioning of the elements yourself. you can perform a test if you want to find out the culprit.

So, in the write, you will get to know how to test the water heater element properly. If you follow the steps just like the way mentioned here, you can complete the testing mission successfully.

How do Water Heater Elements Work?

Electric water heaters mostly come with two elements. And it’s possible that both or either of them could go off. Moreover, you will also find a thermostat for each of the elements.

If something goes wrong with the thermostats, then the elements will not be able to heat up. In this case, all you should do is: get a few testers and a couple of precautions. Then you’re all geared up!

Most of the time, it is seen that the upper element of heating and its thermostat control the lower one and its thermostat. If the water heater no longer produces hot water, then either the upper element or its thermostat could be the actual culprit. But if the device starts warming up water but it’s not as hot as it should, then suspects the lower element or its thermostat.

But no worries! There are a few tests that you can do so you can understand the actual issue with the heater.

Things You’ll Need!

  • Noncontact voltage detector
  • Multi-meter
  • Voltage tester
  • Screwdriver
  • Safety goggles
  • Gloves

Methods of Testing

If you see your water heater that is tripping the circuit breaker continually, then perhaps it could mean that the element got grounded and might end up creating an electric short. At this point, you will need a multi-meter so you can find out how the elements went damaged.

Before that, you should turn off the breaker inside the main electric panel that provides power to the heating device. The majority of the water heaters use a circuit breaker that comes with a 30-amp double-pole.

Try to find the panels that are fixed with the screws to each of the water heater’s sides. Relying on what the size your water heater is, the device will either have one or two panels. Take out the screws so you can release them from the panels.

Also, take out the insulation that was exposed while taking out the panels. The type of insulation will depend on the age of the heating device, it could be either closed-cell extruded polystyrene foam or fiberglass.

Has it pulled the plastic safety cover from the face of the element? The cover basically snaps on and off the elements and the thermostats.

Then, use a non-contact voltage detector and hold it just next to the wires that are connected to the face of the element. And then hold it near each wire that is connected to the thermostat. You will find the voltage detector emitting an audible alarm and flashing light if there is electricity present in the water heater.

Loosen the screws of two elements and take out the wires from the screws below. Keep a note of the wattage of an element that is written on the sides of the element face.

Rotate the dial on the multimeter to Rx1k which means ‘resistance times 1,000 ohms. Touch any of the screws of the element face with one of the probes of the multimeter. Place the other probe on the other screw. If the element has 3,500 wattages, then it should register 1516 ohms, if it has 4,500 wattages, then it should register 12-13 ohms, and if it has 5,500 wattages, then it should register 10-11 ohms. Switch the element if it doesn’t register on the multimeter.

Leave any of the probes touching one of the screws on the face of the element. Then leave the other probe touching a metal part of the heating device. If the needle of the multi-meter happens to move, then the heater element is grounded. It means you must replace the element.

It is also important to ensure that you test both the screws on the element face.

Touch each of the screws with one of the probes of a multimeter. Place the other probe against the base of the metal that is connected to the element where it enters the heating device. If the needle on the face of the multi-meter moves, then it means that the element is damaged and you must replace it.

Have it attached the wires back to the face of the element. Clip the plastic cover on the element and the thermostat. After that re-install the insulation and fix the panels to the sides of the water reservoir. Then, turn on the breaker to the heating device.

Safety Tips

Make sure before you step into the testing water heater, you wear safety gear such as goggles and gloves. These gears will keep you protected from any accident or risk that can occur during the inspection. Also, check if you have unplugged the main power of the heater and turned it off. You should also drain the water from the tank as well before conducting a test of the water heater element.

Wrap Up!

Testing the water heater elements can be a little time-consuming, but it needs nothing but some testers, gears, and your determination. If you get dependent on someone professional, then it is expected that they will end up charging you a lot of fees. But, if you can get the job done on your own, then it will not only be convenient to fix a damaged water element but also save you a lot of your money. Hopefully, now you will be able to test the water heater element in a proper way without the need for any professional.