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Hot water element

No reading on top element bottom element reads 20.5

Posted by Daryll Nikki on


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Gene Haynes

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Make sure wires are removed from element when ohm-testing.
Watt and voltage rating of element appears on end of each element.
Volts squared divided by watts = correct ohm testing.
Two-element water heaters are rated for 240Volts, but can be wired for 120Volts.
Check that water heater is receiving power from circuit breaker box.
So if breaker is 2-pole 240Volt, then check that heater is receiving 240 V across top two screws on upper element.
Replace upper element.
Other resources.

If you need further help, I’m available over the phone at

Posted on Oct 03, 2012


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  • 8 Answers

SOURCE: Top heating element was broke. Replaced got hot

look for a badly connected power line ont he bottom element, or any connection upstream of the power terminals. voltage readings usually drop to that range when you only have one side of the 220v circuit connected.

Posted on Jun 22, 2010


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How can you tell which heater element is out? It stays hot for about 20 minutes and then gets cold would it be the top or bottom element?

use a multimeter set on ohms reading and test each element
remember to turn the system off at the power board first as it will have full utility voltage at the elements

Nov 01, 2015 | Element Water Heaters

1 Answer

Brand new electric hot water heater doesn't get water hot top reads 240v, bottom reads 120 v

Check your manual. Your thermostat may be turned too low 140 should be a good setting, or the bottom element is bad. Also, some water heaters have resets that may be tripped

Jul 01, 2014 | Rheem Water Heaters

1 Answer

Hot water tank element reads 20.5 what is wrong

If reading voltage or amps on the elements, only one element will be working at a time. When the lower thermostat is activates the top thermostat will be off and vise-versa. Best to kill all power and check for continunity on both elements. Usually it is the thermostat that is the problem unless the element is corroded or open.

Oct 02, 2012 | MTI Maddux 2 Tub 60.25" x 32.5" x 20.5"

1 Answer

No hot water, replaced both elements, replaced breaker switch, pressed reset button, fire from breaker to heater, frie to top and bottom unit. still no hot water, is unit itself bad?

I had this same EXACT problem. I replaced both elements, and STILL no hot water. Power to everything, but no hot water. So, I got online, and got educated.

THEN what I did was to replace the Thermostats, both the top (master) and the bottom. Cost was reasonable, I think all told it was 24.00 for both elements, and about 40.00 for both thermos. Got the thermos at the same plumbing supply store where I got the elements.

This fixed my problem, I now have great hot water.

The way the water heater works is that the top thermo is the master, and when the water needs to be heated, it turns on the bottom one first. This is because that when you turn on a tap, the hot water is taken from the TOP of the tank, and the new water coming into the tank comes in to the BOTTOM. This means that during normal operation, the water in the top of the tank will pretty much stay hot, and only the water in the bottom will need to be heated. Your bad Thermostats are not reading the temperature any more, so it isn't sending power, (or rather grounding) the circuit to the elements. Since the entire tank is cold, it is probably the top one that is bad, since it turns on the the lower element (or, I should say, the lower thermostat) FIRST. The elements always have power, the switch in the thermos just works by grounding, and thereby completing, the circuit.

Either one of your thermos could be bad, or both. I thought for myself that if one went bad, then it won't be long till the other goes bad too, so I just replaced them both. On mine, they just snapped out, and snapped back in, they just kind of sit against the tank, and there is only 4 or 5 wires to hook back up.

I am assuming that you are competent to do it, since you already know how to replace the elements, and obviously have a voltage tester to see if you have power everywhere you supposed to have it. One thing, too, make sure that both of the Temperature Stettings on the thermostats are exactly the same. You do not want one to read 125, and the other to read 150, or whatever. Set them both to the same temp.

This should fix ya, and it is a heck of a lot cheaper than a whole new water heater. The only reason to completely replace an electric hot water heater is if the tank has rusted through and is leaking, or if it has filled up with sediment. Or physically damaged in some irrepairable way. Other than that, this cheap repair should do it.

Good Luck To You.

Jun 22, 2011 | Rheem Water Heaters

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.

Oct 04, 2010 | General Electric Water Heaters

1 Answer

Top heating element was broke. Replaced got hot water for week. Now have to run hot water for 20 mins before it goes from warm to hot. Top heating element reads 240VAC bottom heating element reads...

look for a badly connected power line ont he bottom element, or any connection upstream of the power terminals. voltage readings usually drop to that range when you only have one side of the 220v circuit connected.

Jun 20, 2010 | Rheem 50 GAL ELEC TALL Water Heater 6YR SC...

2 Answers

I have a Rheem 81v52dt 50 Gal Elec heater. I can not get enough hot water to fill a tub.I have turned both thermostats all the way up. I have checked both elements with an ohm meter. I got a 220 reading on...

There should be a flip flop circuit in your heater that switches between the two heaters. I don't think they both heat at the same time. Check the rating on the indivitual heat element then compare that with the data printed on the heater RE: maximum WATT rating.

Now then, what did you miss - I'm thinking you missed the ohm reading. You measured 220 Volts but you did not check to see if the element is burned out or not. Move your meter to OHM and take a measurement with the power turned off. If the reading is "open" the element is buned out. If you get some reading beside 'open' the element is probably able to carry current.

Have you drained the sediment from your heater recently?

All the way up is a dangerous setting by the way. I suspect you know this.

Thanks for your interest in

Feb 19, 2010 | Rheem 50 GAL ELEC TALL Water Heater 6YR SC...

1 Answer

I have hot water for a minute then it goes to warm. I took off the 2 wires on each element and I have 15 ohms on the top and 5.5 on the bottom. Is my bottom element bad?

Sounds like bottom element may be bad but usually reads open circuit if bad. Also tan k would run about 8 gallons hot water then go cold. lots of warm water usually means bad dip tube.
Check if tank is hot at bottom element when not used for a while. If bottom element is still cold then bad element.
If bottom element is hot - (all water in tank is hot then you have a bad "dip tube" This is allowing incoming cold water to mix with outgoing hot water. The dip tube is usually A part of the cold water nipple or B located under the cold water inlet nipple.

Jan 18, 2010 | Rheem 40 GAL ELEC TALL Water Heater 6YR SC...

1 Answer

I had a water heater that stoped heating. I checked and found the top elment to be bad and replaced it. I have since replaced the bottom lement and the top thermostat and the ohm meter to the thermostat...


Dec 14, 2009 | Rheem Water Heaters

1 Answer

Low amount of hot water

You say a very new water heater. You won't get 40 gallons of hot water from a 40 gallon water heater because the continuing influx of cold water will cool your hot water down. However, it appears that your bottom water heater element needs replacing. If the top element is bad, you'll get no hot water. If your bottom element is bad, you'll get "some" hot water. Try replacing the bottom element. DON'T FORGET to turn off the electricity AND water first (closeby towels are also handy)!

Mar 09, 2009 | Rheem 40 GAL ELEC TALL Water Heater 6YR SC...

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