If your home’s electric water heater is having a problem, then you are likely wondering if it is time for a repair or a replacement. The good news is that many common water-heater problems do not require that you purchase a new water heater. In fact, unless the tank of your water heater has developed a leak, the chances are very good that a simple water-heater repair may be just what the plumber orders.
Before shopping for a new water heater or calling a plumber, follow this procedure to troubleshoot and fix common electric water-heater problems.
Check the Power Source
Your home’s water heater is not plugged into the wall like an appliance. Water heaters are hard-wired into your home’s electrical system and have their own breaker in the power panel. If a problem is detected in the flow of power to the water heater, then the breaker will trip and turn off its power. This will cause the water to turn cold in your water heater.
If you do not have any hot water, then checking the breaker is the first thing you should do. If the breaker has tripped, then you should turn it back on and wait for your hot water to be restored. If the breaker trips again while the water is heating up, then there is a problem with a heating element. Otherwise, you can assume the problem was not major and simply monitor the breaker to ensure it does not trip again.
Feel the Water Heater’s Tank
Your water heater has two electric heating elements. There is one element near the top of the water heater, and the other is near the bottom. The elements work together to regulate the temperature of the water contained within the tank. It is very common for water-heater elements to fail, and when this happens, you will notice that your home’s water gets warm but never gets really hot.
To determine which of the two elements has failed in your water heater’s tank, feel the tank and see if half of it is cooler than the other. If so, then the element closest to the cool area is the one that needs to be replaced. You can purchase a replacement element at your local hardware store and do the project yourself, or you can contact a licensed plumber in your area and have them replace the element for you.