Slow heating and an outright failure to heat are among the most common problems experienced with an electric water heater. Both of these issues often stem from a faulty heating element. The good news is that you can quickly determine if this is the case by means of an easy test. If you would like to learn more about this process, read on. This article will discuss how to assess the state of your electric water heater's heating element.
Tools You'll Need
It certainly doesn't take a professional electrician to determine whether your heating element is working properly. That said, it will require that you invest in a pair of inexpensive electrical tools. To begin with, you will need what is known as a non-contact tester. This tool allows you to determine whether there is current passing through a switch, outlet or wire--all without even having to touch the component in question. In this case, you will be using the non-contact tester as a way to protect against electrocution, by ensuring that no power is flowing through your heater.
You are also going to need the tool called a continuity tester. The purpose of this simple yet ingenious device is to determine whether a given circuit is working properly. If so, the small light bulb at the tip of the continuity tester will light up when its two wires are placed against the circuit. Here this device will be used to test the conductivity of the heating element inside your water heater.
At your circuit breaker, shut off the switch responsible for powering your water heater. Now head to a still-working outlet and pass your non-contact tester close to it. The tester should light up; this is simply a way of ensuring that it works properly. Now place the tester next to the electrical cable responsible for powering your water heater. If you have turned off the appropriate switch on the circuit breaker, the tester should not light up. If it does, try again until you find the switch that truly controls the heater.
Once you have ensured that your water heater is not receiving any power, you can proceed to test the element. First remove the metal access panel located on the tank's side. This should expose the heating element and its two terminal screws. Attach the continuity tester's alligator clip to one of these screws and then touch the other one with the probe. Does the light bulb come on? If not, you can rest assured that you are dealing with a bad heating element. Contact a professional plumber to assist you in installing a new one. Click here for info on this kind of project.