Testing An Electric Water Heater's Heating Elements

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An electric water heater that is either slow to heat, or won't heat at all, is often caused by a bad heating element. Fortunately, determining if this is the source of the problem is easy enough that almost any amateur can accomplish it. If you would like to learn more about how to perform this simple test, here is how to test for a bad element.

Necessary Tools

While you don't need to be a trained electrician to test an electric water heater's heating elements, you will need access to couple of specialized—but thankfully affordable—tools. The first is a non-contact tester. This tool allows you to test whether current is flowing through an outlet, switch or wire--simply by holding the tester against the outside of the housing. Here you will be using it as a safety measure, to ensure that there is no power flowing into your water heater

The second tool you will need is known as a continuity tester. This inexpensive device consists of more or less nothing more than a tiny light bulb, a battery, a wire, and a metal probe. When the wires are touched to either end of a working continuous circuit--such as the element inside your water heater--the bulb will light up. If it does not, you know that the circuit no longer works properly.

Safety Testing

Begin by flipping off the appropriate switch on your circuit breaker, thereby cutting off power to the water heater. Now you're going to use your non-contact tester to ensure that the switch you have flipped has indeed shut off the heater. First, go to a working outlet and hold the non-contact tester up to it; the bulb should light up, thus indicating that there is nothing wrong with your tester itself. Now hold the tester up against the electrical wires leading to the water heater. It should not light up. If it does, that means you haven't flipped the appropriate breaker switch.

Testing The Element

Having ensured that no power is flowing to your water heater, it is now safe to remove the metal cover on the side of the tank. This will reveal the testable portion of the heating element. Attach the alligator clip at the end of the wire to one of the element's two terminal screws. Then touch the probe to the other screw. If the light bulb fails to come on, you know you are dealing with a bad heating element. Replacing it with an identical unit should solve the problem.

For assistance, tlak to a professional like Jim Dhamer Plumbing and Sewer, Inc.

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6 October 2016

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