Hot water heater question

List,
I have a electric hotwater heater that was in the house when I purchased it in 1998. My neighbor thinks the previous owner installed it in 1989. The unit looks and operates fine, except for last weekend. Saturday morning I went to take a shower and found there wasn't any hot water. I went down and found the reset button on the upper element needed reset. At this time the temperature for the water was at 120.
Since I have never taken the panels off before I assumed this was the original setting. I state this because later that night when I went to take a shower the water was scalding hot. I had never seen the water coming out of my faucet that hot ever. I went down and lowered the temp to 110. The next morning was fine, I went to take a shower Sunday night and found no hot water again. I reset the element again and it has been working fine ever since.
Because it's been working fine I don't know if my first assessment of replace the elements is the only thing I should do? Any insight or direction would be great.
Thanks..
Tom.
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Taadz wrote:

A bad element (element winding faulted to the sheath internally) can cause overheating and tripping of the safety. This happens because the element will draw current from one side of the line even though the thermostat is in the open position.
To find out for sure, you would have to use an Ohmmeter to measure resistance from the element terminals (wires disconnected) to ground. Of course, you would turn all power off to the heater first.
If the elements test OK, a sticking thermostat could be to blame.
Jim
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The reset button is there to interupt electric flow in case the tank overheats for some reason
Since it is working ok sometimes I would tend to suspect either the top or bottom thermostat is sticking on. From your description the top is the likely culprit, but they are fairly cheap so I would go ahead and replace both.
This problem could also be caused by a failing heating element. Also consider that heaters typically last 10 to 15 years. At best yours is on its last leg so you might want to just go ahead and replace the whole thing instead of replacing parts.
Steve B.
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wrote:

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