How to Test Water Heater Element?

Last Updated on 6 months by

How to Test Water Heater Element?

A water heater element is a heating element inside the tank of an electric hot water heater. The water in the tank is heated by electricity running through the element, causing it to become extremely hot. A faulty or overheated water heater element can cause problems with your water’s pressure, temperature and/or chemistry. Testing your heater’s element will help determine whether or not it needs replacement.

Steps:

1 – Turn off the power supply to the unit at the main electrical panel; otherwise, switch off the circuit breaker controlling the unit (note: disconnecting leads from the terminal strip may be necessary). Verify that the power supply has been turned off by testing for voltage at leads connected to the appliance (unit should shut down). If using alligator clips, remove them after confirming the power supply has been turned off.

2 – Open the hot water heater lid, aware of the escaping gas vapors, which are flammable and potentially explosive if an ignition source is present.

3 – Locate the heating element inside the tank (it will be noticeable due to its steel-like appearance), then disconnect leads from either side by pulling apart connection points. Depending on the location within the tank, the procedure may vary but should not prove difficult with a little patience.

4 – Test resistance across terminals using a multimeter set to 20k ohms or ohms setting (note: water should prove to be an effective conductor). If there is no reading other than infinite resistance, the heater element should be open and could require replacement.

How to test water heater element without multimeter?

Here is an easy way to test your water heater element without a multimeter:

1. Turn off the power supply to the unit at the main electrical panel if possible; otherwise switch off the circuit breaker controlling the unit (note: disconnecting leads from terminal strip may be necessary). Verify that the power supply has been turned off by testing for voltage on the leads connected with appliance (unit should shut down). If using alligator clips, remove them after confirming power supply has been turned off.

2. Examine hot water heater and find heating element inside tank (it will be noticeable due to its steel-like appearance), then disconnect leads from either side of it by pulling apart connection points. Depending on location within tank, the procedure may vary but should not prove difficult with a little patience.

3. Test the resistance of heating element by connecting one end of the alligator clip to the ungrounded terminal of your water heater and the other end of the alligator clip to the grounded terminal (the heating coil will complete the circuit). If there is no reading on the multimeter, the heating element has disconnected from the tank’s wiring system and needs replacement.

4. If you get any reading on the multimeter, it means that your heating element is short-circuited (usually caused by wire touching another wire) and therefore needs replacement.

5. Before installing a new heating element, make sure plumbing in the electric water heater is properly maintained/tested for leaks.

How to test the water heater element with a multimeter?

Check your hot water heater for a power cord. If it has a power cord, shut off the breaker in the panel box that feeds it or unscrew one of its fuses to stop the flow of electricity. Locate an electrical outlet and plug the cord into the wall. Turn on circuit breakers until they click off, then turn them back on again to test for proper operation.

How to test water heater thermostat?

Touch one lead to the common terminal (next to the temperature setting) and the other to the left heating element terminal in the lower section of the thermostat. If the water in the tank is below the thermostat’s specified temperature, there should be very little resistance on both leads of a multimeter.

How to change water heater element?

If possible, turn off the power supply to the unit at the main electrical panel; otherwise, switch off the circuit breaker controlling the unit (note: disconnecting leads from terminal strip may be necessary). Verify that the power supply has been turned off by testing for voltage on the leads connected with the appliance (unit should shut down). If using alligator clips, remove them after confirming the power supply has been turned off.

1 – Remove screw(s) holding the thermostat probe in place, then lift out of the tank. Some models require pulling both ends of the probe away from each other to easily come out. Be sure to check heating element terminals for rust buildup or other irregularities while accessing them.

2 – Inspect resistance across terminals using a multimeter:

– if no reading is indicated, clean and scrape off buildup, and reassemble control;

– if an infinite resistance is indicated, the heating element has opened or shorted out and needs replacement.

3 – Remove wires from terminals holding old heating elements to the tank wiring system (it may be necessary to disconnect the clip). If you have trouble removing connectors, try using pliers. Pull wire leads free of the terminal strip.

4 – Install new heating element by reversing procedure used for removal: careful not to shorten or crimp water lines during the installation procedure. Heating elements are installed either horizontally or vertically, depending on the model of your heater. Verify that connections are tight at both ends before continuing.

5 – Verify the operation of the heating element. Follow instructions for checking the operation of the thermostat, making sure to refer to voltage specifications listed on new part packaging.

Compared with other hot water heaters, electric ones take the least amount of time to produce hot water after being turned on because there is no wait for fuel to burning or gas-driven parts to operate. However, suppose an electrical heater develops a problem. It could be as difficult as changing the heating unit since the power supply must be turned off first and then access can be made into some areas that cannot accommodate ladders and tool carts.

How do I know if my water heater element is bad?

Touch a probe to each screw on the element with the multitester. The element is faulty if you get no reading or a maximum reading. Because elements have resistance, 10-16 ohms is typical, with higher readings for 3,500-watt elements and lower readings for 5,500-watt elements.

How can you tell if a heating element is bad?

Examine the metal wire coil for any breaks in the wire. If the wire is solid and has no fractures, it indicates that the heating device is functioning properly. A break in the wire indicates that the heating element is faulty.

How do I know if my RV water heater element is bad?

Touch each screw on the element with a probe on the multitester. If you don’t get any readings or all maximum readings, the element is defective. Because elements have resistance, 10-16 ohms is typical; 3,500-watt elements show higher ohm values, while 5,500-watt ones display lower ones.

How do you diagnose a bad heating element?

Check the screws on the element’s face as well. Touch each screw with a multimeter probe. Place the remaining probe against the metal base that joins the element to the water heater. If the needle on the multimeter face deflects, it indicates that the element is faulty and must be replaced.

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