I have an 8 year-old Bradford White 50-gallon electric HWH that
stopped functioning. Since it had a 6 year warranty, I figured it had
simply outlived its useful life, but wanted at least to check it out.
As I traced out its circuits I found that immediately above the upper
element (dual 4500 watt elements) was a small electrical distribution
block which had a reset button. I pushed, it clicked and it began
heating. Has worked fine overnight. I am not aware of any household
electrical surges, glitches, etc. which might have caused it to trip,
nor do I know what it is supposed to be protecting against.
Anyone with a SWAG as to why it's there, what might have set it
off,and if it is a matter of concern. If it matters, I did have it
wrapped with a blanket. Could it get too hot?
If it trips again, will probably replace it. In looking at those in
the big box stores (GE) is there any to avoid or recommended? (WIll
probably get whatever I want and bring it home, then call a plumber to
They are sold with various warranties (6, 9, 12 years or even
"forever") Since each costs more, it seems more like a an insurance
gamble on the part of the mfgr who probably believes it is worth the
gamble. Any thoughts on the increased warranties-increased price
Thanks in advance for any help.
Roy Starrin wrote:
I am not aware of any household
Water level .........which if low....then the top element would trip
it..overheats. You might want to drain/flush out the tank and get
nay/if any sand or slug buildup that may have accumilated over the
years. If there is alot of sand....then your bottom element would be
heating the sand.....and not the water which will also trip it. Start
with a good flush of the tank......and go from there.
If you dont know how........hook up a garden hose to the valve at the
bottom of tank. Run hose outside and then turn the valve on.
Note........be sure that the water heater's power is OFF before you do
this. Good luck.
Physics.dont rightly know........only know that with a previous e.water
heater I owned ( water being well water ), that the tank was filled
half way with sand and causing the heater to over heat............like
in this case. In my understanding is that the bottom element actually
heats up the water initially, where as the top element maintains the
water's heat to the desired temp.
In the problem I had........after flushing the tank out.....this fixed
the problem I had. Physics, well, dont rightly know......Id be
guessing.........but for a guess.........my guess is that the bottom
element , which kicks in to initially heat the water, was covered with
sand.....and the heat conducted from the sand to water was not quick
enough, therefore the bottom element stayed on and overheated ( the
sand ) which tripped the ckt. Does this sound like a good guess? :-)
I don't disbelieve what you saw happening, and I think I may have an
idea why that much sand that could cause the overtemp thermostat to
trip. The overtemp is located right next to the upper thermostat and
does it's thing when the temperature at that location exceeds its
If I had to make an informed guess I'd say that the sand thermally
insulated the lower thermostat from the actual water temperature enough
so, as you said, the lower heating element stayed on longer than it
normally would have, which was enough to heat the water to a temperature
above the overtemp thermostat's setting and cause it to trip.
I believe if the water doesn't cover the element, the element will
always burn out. Since pushing the red button at the top caused it to
start heating again, I don't think the water level was low.
Well, according to the original post, it was the red button at the
top, which controls the upper element afaik, that tripped, so this
paragraph and the one below might be of value to someone else, but I
don't think the OP should start here.
OP, do you have a red button on the lower element, as well? I'm not
absolutely positive every one does, but I think that the heat limit
switches are thermomechanical and can't trip anywhere near quickly
enough if a heating element two feet further down overheats.
This is the OP:
The button is in a little block on top of (and I think intergral with)
the upper thermostat. According to the wiring diagram inside the
upper cover, it controls power to both thermostats.
WRT other comments. I am aware of the drain-clean-leak forever cycle
of the bottom valve (in my case plastic) and have a cap to screw on it
when/if it leaks.
The HWH is functioning normally since reset. Since it is no longer
wrapped, I wonder if it just got extra hot, especially because it is
fed by the output of the tankless coil in my heating boiler.
Anyhoo, the plumbing circuit is set up that I can cut out the HWH and
just use the tankless coil (boiler is on 110, so if I have to go on a
generator, I can still have hot water), so I think I'll just wait and
see what happens.
Thanks to all for your input.
Still would like some input on better/best HWH. In my research I've
found a whole page on how bad the the Whirpool sold by Lowes is. I
also noticed that every dimension/specification of the 6/9/12 year GE
tank sold by HD that I would use is exactly the same; the only
variable is the increasing price. To me this sort of confirms that
the extra money is simply an insurance premium for the same product.
Just because something is a couple of years beyond its guarantee it
shouldn't be considered worn out?
Also it would appear that the OP is not familiar with an overheat
switch; which are common in quite a few appliances! (Clothes dryers,
Also it sounds as though no follow up maintenance (i.e. flushing out of
sludge) has been done on a six year old hot water tank installation!
No wonder we become a 'throw away society'!
As others point out something caused that overheat switch to trip,
maybe low water level? A thermostat that is old or sticking so that
temperature overshot? Or the bi-metallic overheat itself is a little
Even a complete new thermostat with overheat is not expensive
especially compared to having the whole tank replaced.
just be prepared the drain valve may not open or will break when it
does, or not close or drip afterwards.
be ready to replace the valve and have plenty of time to do so
espically if the valve is plastic, they are basically one use drain
tank at end of life........
element. If the element has melted or corroded thru, current can flow from
one hot line thru the water to the ground. This will heat the water very
slowly but will continue to heat when the thermostat opens. This sometimes
causes the heater to overheat when no hot water is being used, such as
overnight. Just something else to check.
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