Is your Electric Water Heater Working Properly (7 Checks)

While sometimes electric water heaters can fail suddenly, you switch it on one morning and it does not supply any hot water, other times can be gradual.

It may start with some unusual performance, maybe the water is not as hot as usual or it is making some unusual sounds.

This can leave you wondering if the water heater is starting to fail or is still working properly which can cost you valuable time to intervene and save the heater or get a replacement in time.

So this guide, I will provide you with a list of checks you can make on an electric heater to help you confirm it is working properly.

Checks for a Working Electric Heater

Here is a list of 7 checks you can do to confirm whether the electric water heater is working properly.

As you will note, most of them rely on comparing the known working performance of the electric water heater with what you are observing now.

This way, you can tell if there is a noticeable change in performance, a possible sign that the heater is not working properly.

water heater

Note: This list is not exhaustive.

1. Check if the heater is still supplying as much hot water as before? Put another way, is there a reduction in available hot water from the time you switch it on assuming the family size and the water usage habits are still the same?

Or, are you running short of hot water? If there is a reduction in the supply of hot water then this can signal that the heater is not working properly.

2. Is the pilot light on the heater on? Some water heaters have a pilot light – blue or red depending on the make that lights up when the heater is switched on and is heating water.

If the electric heater has a pilot light and it is not lighting then there is a problem with the supply, wiring, or the heater itself.

3. Is the water from the heater unusually hot regardless of the thermostat temperature setting?

If the water is extremely hot regardless of the thermostat temperature setting then there is likely a problem with the heater, probably a fault with the thermostat.

4. Check for any leaks on the water heater. Water leaks on the heater can affect its performance.

Leakages on the hot water line for example will likely lead to higher electric bills.

5. Is the water heater silent or is it making unusual sounds? During the operation of the heater, it is usually silent but may occasionally make singing or hissing sounds.

Rumbling sounds are unusual and may be a sign of sediment or mineral buildup in the heater that should be flushed and the heater drained.

6. Is the water heater circuit breaker or reset button tripping? This can be because of faulty wiring, an overloaded electric circuit, or a fault with the heater such as a faulty element.

7. Is the temperature and relief valve popping or draining water? If it is then, you might have a case of excessive temperature buildup or a faulty valve that requires immediate attention.

Note, if not fixed, this can lead to your heater exploding if there is excess pressure or temperature.

What Usually goes Wrong with Electric Water Heaters

The more common problems you are likely to find with electric water heaters are listed below together with the possible causes:

  • Water heater not heating at all. This can have various causes ranging from a tripped reset button (if it has one), faulty wiring, tripped breaker, overloaded wiring or bad thermostat, or faulty heater elements.
  • The electric water heater is not supplying enough hot water, possibly because of lower temperatures of the incoming water, increased demand for hot water, faulty element, or sediment buildup.
  • High water heater temperature irrespective of the thermostat setting can be a result of a faulty thermostat or one that is not properly attached.

and lastly leaking electric water heaters, common with old and aging water heaters.

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How to Tell that Electric Heater Is On?

If the heater has been installed properly, you should be able to turn it on by switching on the circuit breaker and disconnect switch.

If the heater has a pilot light, it will come on.

Whereas many water heaters are silent in operation, it is not uncommon to hear a hissing or singing sound during water heating particularly when close to the water heater.

The water temperature should increase within an hour or less.

Final Word

If your hot water heater is working properly, then you should expect it to supply enough hot water assuming there are no changes in demand for hot water and usage habits.

Check that there are no leaks, that the pilot light is lighting (if the heater has that feature), the water is not excessively hot, and that it is not tripping the breaker repeatedly.

While the list is not exhaustive, If the heater passes the above tests then it is a sign that it is working properly.

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