Question about Rheem 40 GAL ELEC TALL Water Heater 6YR SC 82VH402

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Replaced both elements and tstats now there is 240 at both elements at once and only the top one is heating the bottom is coldreplaced bottom sgain thinking maybe bad from factory but still cold will i need to replace the whole tank

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Electric water heaters never power BOTH the upper and lower elements at the same time.

If the water in the tank is cold, either the top OR bottom element will be powered through the upper thermostat (t-stat), never both at the same time. The upper t-stat will send power to the upper element until the temperature of the water in the top of the tank reaches the set point of the t-stat say 140 degrees. When the water temperature in the top of the tank reaches 140 degrees, the t-stat is "satisfied" and disconnects the power from the top element and sends it to the lower t-stat.

IF the temperature of the water in the lower half of the tank is lower than the set point of the lower t-stat, the t-stat closes to send power to the lower element. The lower element REMAINS powered by the t-stat until EITHER the water in the lower part of the tank reaches the set point temperature of the lower t-stat again, say 140 degrees; OR the temperature of the water in the upper part of the tank drops, at which point the upper t-stat "calls" and switches the power away from the lower t-stat and sends it to the upper heating element instead. When the top t-stat is satisfied, it switches power back to the lower t-stat. The process will continue back and forth for as long as needed to bring the temperature of the water in both halves of the tank to 140 degrees.

You must wait until the top of the tank is heated - before the lower element will be powered to heat the water.

I hope this helps you understand how the switching happens in these water heaters. Good luck! Please rate my reply. Thank you.

Posted on Mar 24, 2011

  • Steve Mar 25, 2011

    If you have a multi-meter, you can read the resistance of the element to determine if it is good. Set your meter to Ohms and to the lowest multiplier or "scale" ("Rx1" is good - some meters do not offer a multiplier however). With power to the water heater OFF, remove one wire from the heating element terminal - it does not matter which one. Insert the probe lead plugs into the "Common" and "Ohms" (or "Resistance") jacks. Touch & hold the test probes against each other and read the meter. You should see "0" or a very low value displayed.


    "Zeroing" the meter. 0.2 Ohms is displayed


    Some meters have a "Zero Adjust" knob - you should rotate this knob while holding the probes together so that the display shows 0 ohms. Do not worry if yours doesn't have this feature. Next, touch one probe to a terminal of the heating element. Press the other probe to the other terminal. If your water heater is rated 4500 watts and 240 volts (this the most common rating), you should see about 12 ohms resistance on the meter display.


    A "good" element under test. 12.5 Ohms resistance displayed.


    This tells you the element will heat when power is applied. If you see a value that is more than 20% off of this value, then the heater is suspect. When the elements go bad - the resistance values jump to the thousands (and much, much more) of ohms. Some digital meters show a value that is too high to display correctly as "OL" for over load, like a digital calculator.

    If you have further questions - please ask! I'd be happy to help some more.

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An electric water heater contains two elements (usually upper and lower). Normally hot water is maintained at a certain temperature to assure an immediate supply. When hot water is turned on at the fixture, the second element is turned on to boost the temperature. From your description one of the heating elements may be defective or set to incorrect temperature.

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Not getting 240 volts to lower element- have replaced lower element and both thermostats. get 120 on each leg to ground but no 240


If your top element is bad the the lower element will never turn on be cause the top element completes the 240 circuit. It is like a resister in a circuit. Make sure top element measures out at 13 ohms.

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The top element should be heating if there is 240 volts across the element terminals. I take it that the top element is the booster element. The thermostat for the top element is normally a 2 pole thermostat which switches the neutral to the bottom thermostat once it reaches temperature. Once this occurs then the bottom element will start to heat. The top element will only come on when you use all the hot water. Is this supply on the off-peak rate? When testing always check the voltage across the element terminals.

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The controls of electric water heaters are designed so that at no time are both the top and bottom heating elements energized. Nearly all electric water heaters of this capacity in the US & Canada (other places, too) operate on 240 Volts.

When the water in the tank is below the set point of the thermostat (in your case - 120 degrees), the top heating element is expected to be on - (unless there is an issue with the top thermostat or limit switch). The top most control is the "high temperature limit". It is identified by the reset button on it. Make sure this isn't tripped by depressing the button. If it clicks - it was tripped and should start to make hot water at this point. If not tripped, you should check for the presence of 240 Volts between the heating element terminal screws. Do not measure from ground to a terminal screw and believe 120 Volts is "good". To make heat, you need 240 Volts - not 120 Volts measured across the terminals - not to ground. The amount of heat created running at 120 Volts is only 1/4 of what it will do at the correct voltage.

If you don't measure 240 Volts on the top element, check the bottom element in the same manner described for the top element.

If unable to measure 240 volts on any element, either there is a problem with the power source (blown fuse or circuit breaker), high temp limit switch, or thermostat(s).

If 240 Volts is present on either heating element, and water is not warm / hot in 30 minutes or so, a defective heating element is suspect. You can change controls without draining a tank, but replacing elements will require draining the tank first. Do not power the water heater without first filling it.

You can read a very detailed "how to" article about checking water heaters here.

I hope this helps - and good luck!

Nov 04, 2010 | Rheem 40 GAL ELEC TALL Water Heater 6YR SC...

1 Answer

Have a new electric tank,top element wont come on,replaced thermostat 3 times top element comes on once but next morning not enough hot water&top element wont come on,can someone help? thanks


The top element only comes on when the heater is about out of water. The water is directed to the bottom of the tank. Cold water stays on bottom, Bottom heater element heats water. If you use all that water then the top of the tank gets cold and the top element comes. When the top of the tank is warm, then the bottom element comes on. I would susupect the bottom element as it does most of the work. If you have an ohm meter, turn off electric, and remove wires from element. Check element for continuity. If you don't get reading, then that element is bad.

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Not getting hot on bottom,how do i tell is its t stat,or element?


Turn the top thermostat temperature down and the bottom thermostat temperature up. Turn the hot-water on in a tub or shower and let it run. The bottom thermostat should activate first and send 208-to-240 volts to the bottom element. Once the power comes on, turn the water off. If power is going to the element but you cannot hear it heating or humming, it's the element.

When you are having a problem on an electric water heater, it is recommended that you replace both thermostats and elements. If one part is worn out, it will not be long until the other parts need to be replaced as well.

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The elements do not operate at the same time. They are designed to take turns coming on. Try setting the temperature of the top element 10 degrees lower than the bottom one, turn the hot water on in the bathtub. The bottom element should come on first. When you are done checking, turn the top element 10 degrees higher than the lower for normal operation.

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50 gallon electric heater not working after about 5 minutes in the shower the water gets cold and the rest of the house i do have 240 going to water heater thermostats goood element good


Some elements will read with a meter good until they heat up.

Hot water then going to ice cold top element is working and bottom bad. Luke warm water and then goes cold bottom element good and top element bad.

Elements and thermostats are not to exspensive to replace.

If you have power only two thing's left are the thermostat's and the elements.

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No power to the bottom element


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so... set them both at the temperature you want the water to be... about 120^F.

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