Test The Heating Element In Your Electric Hot Water Tank Before Tossing It

One of the most common repair calls that plumbers receive are the calls requesting help with a hot water heater. When an electric hot water heater begins to fail, you may notice the temperature of the water decreasing, how long the hot water lasts shorten, or maybe even notice an increase in your electricity bill. If you've experienced any of these issues, there's one thing that you can test before calling for professional help with repairs – the heating elements. Here, you'll learn how to do just that.

Supply List                   

  • Non-contact voltage tester
  • Multimeter tester          
  • Philips-head screwdriver

Shut off the Power

Before you can complete the test, you'll have to disconnect the power to the hot water heater. To do this, simply go to the breaker panel and flip the breaker tied to the hot water heater to the off position. This will protect you from electrical shock and burns as you perform the test.

Locate the Heating Element

The heating element is hidden behind an access panel and covered with insulation. The access panel must be removed using a screwdriver. Keep the screws in a glass or bowl so you don't lose them before you finish the test.

Remove the panel and carefully peel the insulation away from the heating element. Set it aside in a dry area so that it can be repositioned over the heating element when you're done. If you lose this piece of insulation, you'll either need to purchase and replace it, or you'll end up spending a lot more to keep the water inside the tank hot.

Confirm Non-Existent Electrical Current             

Before you can test the heating element, you have to be sure that the electrical current to the hot water tank has been disconnected. This is done using the non-contact voltage tester. If the test shows that there's an electrical current present, you'll need to try another breaker until it shows that there's no electricity flowing.

Test the Element

On the heating element, you'll see two exposed screws – one is connected to a yellow wire, the other to a blue wire. Loosen the screws and gently pull the wires out from underneath them.

Now, set your multimeter tester to 1,000 ohms. Touch each screw with each of the test probes. The needle on the dial should move to the right – if it doesn't the heating element will need to be replaced.

If you are uncomfortable performing this test on your own, your local plumber would be happy to assist with diagnosing the problem and making any necessary plumbing repairs.