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Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting Guide

2 min read • March 12th, 2023

Heil Plumbing
White electric water heater

Losing your hot water puts a damper on your daily routine. Thankfully, you can do a few simple things to diagnose and fix the issue. 

From a quick reset to water heater element testing, we’ll help you eliminate the guesswork with our water heater troubleshooting guide. Read more to learn how to identify common water heater problems, then watch the video below to see how to easily test your water heater element.

4 Common Water Heater Problems

If your tap is out of hot water, a few things could be to blame. First, examine your water heater. If you notice it’s leaking, get professional help from your local plumber right away. Otherwise, consider the four common water heater problems below.

  1. A power surge or thunderstorm could have tripped your breaker. If this is the case, your fix is as easy as flipping the breaker connected to your water heater back on. 
  2. Your emergency limit switch might have tripped. To troubleshoot this issue, try resetting your heater with the electric water heater reset button.
  3. Your thermostat could be malfunctioning, which could have caused the emergency limit switch to trip.
  4. Your heating element could also be broken, causing the water heater to trip. 

If your water heater is continually shutting down, a broken thermostat is likely the issue, and you’ll need to replace it. But before going through the work, you should make sure a faulty heater element isn’t your real water heater problem. 

What Is a Water Heater Element?

Water heater elements are rods located inside your water heater tank. They work to make your showers hot and steamy. Depending on the size of your water heater, it houses one or two of these rods, each positioned for maximum temperature efficiency to heat the water at the top and bottom of your tank.

Water heater troubleshooting: Eddie the plumber holding a yellow heater element tester to solve water heater problems

How Does Your Water Heater Element Work?

Water heater elements and thermostats work hand in hand to make sure you and your family can enjoy hot showers every day. The thermostat measures the water temperature in your tank, which should be between 120F and 140F. When the temperature drops, the associated water heater element powers on. When things start heating up again, that same signal triggers the element to switch off until a lower temperature is again detected. 

When the thermostat or heating element is faulty, your water could overheat, triggering your water heater to shut down. If you believe either is the cause of your water heater problems, see the video above to learn how to test your water heater element. That will tell you if it’s your heater element or thermostat you’ll need to replace. 

Not sure what your water heater problem is and looking for water heater services from a professional plumber? Contact Heil Plumbing to schedule an appointment with a trustworthy plumber in Baltimore or the surrounding area.  Live closer to D.C.?  Trust our Montgomery County plumbers to get your hot water running again in no time. 


Heil Plumbing Team

8177 Mission Rd Jessup, MD, 20794, United States

(410) 799-7727

Schedule Service


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