Tip & How-To about Water Heaters

Electric Water Heater not Working

If you have an electric water heater and it is not making any hot water then you have a problem. The good news is that electric water heaters are not that hard to troubleshoot and there are not a lot of things that can go wrong with them. I will go over the things that can give trouble and how to fix them.

First off if you have some hot water but not as much as you did when it was new then you probably have a bad bottom element. Only the top element is working, so you are only getting about 1/3 of a tank of hot water, replace the bottom element and you will be good again.

If you are making steam, then you have a bad thermostat. While you are making the steam out the relief valve, check to see which element is working. The easiest way to do that is to see which element has 220v on the two screws on the element. That thermostat at that element is bad. Replace it and you will stop the sauna.

If you have no hot water then check the red reset button directly above the top thermostat. You may have to push very hard on it to get it to reset. If the reset is tripped then you have a bad thermostat. Finding out which one can be tricky and timing is important to catch the bad thermostat in the act.

No hot water can also be the result of the top heating element going bad. If the top element goes bad then the top thermostat will never get enough heat to trip on the bottom thermostat. Therefore you will get no hot water. Dual element hot water heaters for residential use, do not ever run both elements at the same time. Only the top OR the bottom will be energized at a time.

This all there is to checking an electric hot water heater. If you are having problems go through this list systematically and you will find your problem and be able to fix it.

For a diagram of how a typical electric hot water heater is wired, check out this tip.






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2 Answers

Our water heater is having issues. A couple months back it stopped giving hot water, so I looked up some simple DIY stuff, and found out about a red switch that resets it.

Hello, Aaron -

It is time to contact an authorized repair person for your make of water heater and repair the electrical fault with your water heater. Depending upon the age of your water heater, it may be time to purchase a new one.

According to the well-respected U.S. publication, Consumer Reports, which evaluates all kinds of products, the average life expectancy water heaters are:
- electric water heater: 11 years,
- gas water heater: 10 years
- tankless water heater: 20+ years

Best wishes.

Apr 19, 2018 | Water Heaters

1 Answer

Not enough hot water ge smartwater water heater electric

1) Test elements:

2) If elements test out ok, then replace both thermostats. There is no reliable way to test thermostats.

3) No leaks is good news. Inspect for leaks is important step for longevity of water heater.

Mar 12, 2013 | Water Heaters

1 Answer


Electric water heater typically makes 21 gallons hot water per hour.
Gas heater makes 41 gallons per hour.
If you use a timer on electric heater, it will make enough hot water for shower in about 15 minutes summertimer and 30 minutes wintertime. So incoming water temperature is a factor.

If your water heater is not full of water before turning on electricity, then elements will burn out.
Also the ECO might be tripped out: open top cover and push in red reset button.
How to troubleshoot electric water heater:


1 Answer

I have an eighty gallon tank and can only get two quick showers out of it. I pull the relief valve open and got hot water. then i opened the drain valve at the bottom and got cold water. does this mean the lower element is out?

Suspects are lower element -or- either upper or lower thermostat.
If water heater has some hot water, then upper element is good, and electricity and circuit breaker to water heater are good.
Dual element tank is 240Volts.

Good news is tank-type electric water heater is fully repairable by homeowner using generic parts from hardware or home center:
Links below explain water heater repairs with step-by-step photos

Add a comment for more free help.
Also take advantage of fixya phone service.
For a price, expert speaks with you over phone while you work on water heater or any do-it-yourself project.
Fixya is always less expensive than a service call.

Feb 09, 2011 | Premier Water Heaters

1 Answer

my reliance 606 is electric 240v my problem sometimes have hot water two days and the other day have cold water

Water heaters typically don't repair themselves every other day.
That suggests something electrical is connecting and disconnecting.
Good news is ordinary tank-type electric water heaters are fully repairable by homeowner using generic parts from home center or hardware.

Could be one of three things: Problem is this, if water heater is working correctly at that moment, testing might not reveal source of trouble. Best to do testing when water heater is not working. If you don't want to test, then do step 3 below and see if problem persists, and then move out from there.

1) Circuit breaker not making full contact.
2) Loose wire/bad wire inside tank: Open covers and check for loose screws and signs of high heat and burning:
Do a full troubleshoot:
3) Malfunctioning thermostat. Replace both thermostats for $28

Add a comment for more free help.
Also take advantage of fixya phone service.
For a price, expert speaks with you over phone while you work on water heater or any do-it-yourself project.
Fixya is always less expensive than a service call.


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