Steps for Checking Your Water Heater

If you suddenly find you don’t have hot water, it could be that one of the elements in your hot water service is at fault. Electric water heater element testing is one way to determine if one or both elements have failed.

In a typical electric water heater, you have four parts that could have failed, any one of these can result in less hot water or no hot water at all. The first thing to check is the elements themselves. The other common problems are with the thermostats.

How hot water elements work

Most electric water heaters have two elements, and both have their own thermostat. If your thermostat isn’t working the elements won’t heat up. The upper heating element and thermostat control the lower heating element and thermostat, and if the upper element and thermostat have gone bad, you won’t have ANY hot water at all. If you don’t have enough hot water, it could be a sign of the lower element and thermostat going bad.

What can you do? If you have a multi-meter and a voltage tester you can check yourself. If you don’t, call your emergency plumber on 1300 896 508 and book an appointment.

There are a few simple things you can do

  • Check your circuit breaker first and make sure it hasn’t been tripped. The electric water heater should be on a dedicated two pole circuit in your breaker box. See if it has tripped – no power – no hot water. If the breaker hasn’t been tripped you will still need to see if you have power in the hot water system, shut the breaker off for the water heater.
  • Many thermostats have a reset button – you will need to shut off the power and remove the covers to reset them.
  • Only perform a water heater element test when the power is OFF. Electric water heaters have a powerful current in them, and you can be seriously hurt from a shock. The current can also ruin your testers – make sure the power is OFF.
  • Checking your water heater power is a must on an electric water heater, unlike gas water heaters, electric units don’t work when the power is off.
  • Remove the covers for the upper element and thermostat, remove the insulation and protective cover, the two hot wires should be at the top of the thermostat. Turn the power back on and CAREFULLY use a non-contact tester to check for power. Make sure the tester is working – so check it on something you know is ok first. Do you have power?

Make sure the power is OFF before you look at or check any electrical devices, and remember to call our 24-hour plumbers if you have any issues you are uncertain of how to tackle.


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