Another electric water heater question....


Okay, so this is my first house and I'm trying to keep my costs to a minimum by doing all repairs by myself. That said, I've gone to the local orange box to pick up 2 thermostats and 2 elements.
When I first discovered I had a problem, I couldn't get any hot water to come out. I took the two panels off the tank and felt the tank; it was hot. Anyways I ended up replacing the upper thermostat and that worked for about 2+ days.
This morning I awoke to find little/no hot water. I took the upper panel off again and hit the reset button. My shower 10 mins later was lukewarm at best. I came home from work for lunch to find the water scalding hot. I checked the water heater and steaming water was coming out the pressure release valve.
So now I've decided to replace the other thermostat and 2 elements in hopes that I won't have to replace the hot water heater. The only trouble is I can't get the elements off.
So now my question is: Does the description above sound like an element problem or does it sound like a thermostat problem? Both? I'll go buy a special element wrench if need be, but before I do I'd like to get some opinions on the matter.
I'd appreciate any feedback!
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If it's overheating, it probably isn't an element, but with an ammeter you could see exactly what each element is doing. It's hard to believe a new thermostat has gone bad this quickly. Have you attached the thermostat properly to the tank? If it's loose it won't read temperature properly and may overheat

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Is the thermostat properly attached so that it accurately senses the tank temp? Too high of tamp cannot be caused by bad elements, so don't replace them. You can check the elements easily with an ohmmeter.
"You couldn't get any water to come out"? Was the water to the heater turned on?
Bob
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Shelley wrote:

I had that exact problem with an electric water heater maybe 20 years ago. Thermostat sticks on, tank overheats until the thermal button pops out.
Shouldn't be a problem with the elements. The elements are doing what they are supposed to do, heating the water. The element is either on or off, according to the thermostat.
As I understand it, the thermostats work as follows. Cold water enters at the bottom of the tank, hot water exits at the top. At rest, the top thermostat switches the top element off, passing the power to the bottom thermostat, which controls the bottom element, keeping the water in the tank at the set temperature. When enough hot water exits the tank, the top thermostat switches the power from the bottom thermostat to the top element, heating water near the exit quickly to accommodate the demand.
Now if the top thermostat gets stuck powering the top element and never switches the power to the bottom thermostat, it will keep heating until the thermal button on the top thermostat pops out. At this point, there will be no power to the top or bottom elements. Sounds exactly like what's happening to you.
Most likely, your problem has to do with the top thermostat. Either a defective thermostat, or the new thermostat is not mounted correctly, thus not sensing the tank temperature correctly.
Couple of things to check. While adjusting the temperature setting on the top thermostat with a screwdriver, can you hear the switch contacts in the thermostat opening and closing? Hang a voltmeter that can read 220 VAC across the upper element terminals and see if the power switches on and off as you adjust the thermostat. If you're not comfortable around electricity, leave that to someone who is, getting across a 220 V line can hurt!
If you can manually switch the power to the top element using the top thermostat temperature control, then the top thermostat must not be switching off when it's supposed to - either flaky thermostat, or not mounted correctly.
Hope this helps, Jerry
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Thanks to everyone that replied. Based on your collective advice, I reattached the thermostats and everything seems to be working fine. **Fingers crossed**
I really appreciate the help.
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