Water heater question


So, I go to shower, no hot water. Head down to basement, check water heater and breakers. I found that one of the breakers in the breaker box had blown, and the breaker at the element itself had popped out. I clicked it in, reset breaker, and now I have hot water again. I also noticed water on the floor that looked as if several gallons had come out of the overflow/overpressure on the top of the heater. I'm guessing the top thermostat didn't shut off and it overheated, causing water to come out the overflow, and the breaker to blow. Does this sound reasonable?
Now it's working, but for how long? Those of you that know more then I do about water heaters (which is probably most of you lol), would you replace the thermostat for the top element (is it part of the element, or seperate?), or watch it to see if it happens again?
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I don't necessarily see a relationship between the circuit breaker blowing and the water heater overheating. Watch it for a while to see if it overheats. If so, replace the thermostat. The thermostat is a separate device from the element. Be sure you understand the wires and make sure it's mounted tightly against the tank
"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

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RBM wrote:

I agree that it's probably not the thermostat if the panel breaker also tripped.
What's more likely is that one of the heating elements developed a short to its grounded sheath which bypassed the thermostat and allowed it to keep heating on 120 volts until the overtemp condition occurred.
I'd go for replacing both elements as there's no real easy way to tell for sure which one it might have been, and also 'cause things which go away by themselves usually come back by themselves.
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia
(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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I agree with you under that scenario, but if the heating end was to short I think it would trip the breaker and not heat, and if it were to long, it wouldn't heat enough to overheat

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I don't know 100% sure that it overheated, only that there was several gallons of water on the floor and the only water source there is the water heater. The water heater is at the highest point in my basement, and the water on the floor came from behind the heater where the overflow valve dumps. A blown breaker by itself is no biggee, just replace the element. But what caused the water to flow out the overflow?
I think I'll just replace the elements and thermostats and call it good. Safest that way. If I had the time I'd put a gas water heater, but that is on my todo list for next summer sometime when I have more time...

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If the unit overheated, it would blow off through the safety. You should test the elements before replacing them, unless you just feel ambitious. Do you know for sure that the breaker that tripped was for the water heater?
"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

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The breaker in the breaker box feeds the water heater. No question about that, the box is 5 feet from the heater, and I can actually trace the wires right to the heater. Also, each thermostat on the heater has a breaker built into them, and the top one was blown, and it was only one of the breakers in the breaker box that blew (there is a seperate breaker for each 120V line that goes to the heater).
State Industries. 52 gallon. October 1988.
I'm not overly ambitious, but I'd rather bite the bullet now and replace the entire stinkin' set and know that I have good heater elements and thermostats, then risk having something go out again - especially considering that I'm out of town 3 days every week, and my wife wouldn't know how to so much as reset the breakers, let alone fix anything that breaks while I'm gone.

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If the water heater circuit breaker tripped, which incidentally should be a double pole, not two single poles, it does indicated a likely element problem. The red buttons on the thermostats are not breakers, but high temperature cutouts, indicating an overheating problem. The combination of occurrences would indicate to me that Jeff Wisnia is probably correct about the shorted element.
"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

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It doesn't have to be shorted. A burned out element with the sheath burned thru can conduct enough current thru the water to ground for the heater to overheat. This is not theoretical, but is based on several personal instances over the years. It happened particularly with single pole thermostats (and lower elements which got limed up enough to burn out) which left one element terminal hot when they opened.
Don Young
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Was the upper element visibly damaged?
"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

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On Sat, 24 Mar 2007 10:45:35 -0700, "Ook"
>State Industries. 52 gallon. October 1988.
1988 !
In our area a gas water heater's life is about 12-15 years. I wouldn't repair one that 19 years old on a bet. Maybe electrics are different. Maybe other areas are different.
-- Ken
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The date came from one of those Energy Saved things they put on the side of the tank to show you how efficient the tank is. I don't know what the life expectancy is of an electric water heater is, but I imagine it's much longer then a gas heater. Gas has parts that can wear/burn out, and replacing them probably isn't that cheap, if even possible. Electric, OTOH, you plop down a $30 bill and buy a set of heater elements and thermostats, and you just replaced all of the moving parts. About the only other thing that can happen is the tank rupturing (knock on wood).
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"Ook" <Ook Don't send me any freakin' spam at zootal dot com delete the Don't send me any freakin' spam> wrote in message

Ever change freeze plugs on an engine?
I did once. I was so proud. I pulled the engine from my '67 Chevy pickup BY MYSELF, and changed the leaking freeze plug.
Two weeks later, the next one leaked. I learned that they are all the same age, and it is senseless to change only one while you have the engine pulled.
It didn't take me as long to pull the engine the second time, but it was still a lot of unnecessary work.
I look at futzing with water heaters in the same way. Once it starts giving you problems, it won't be long before it does the big dump. It's all the same age, and if one part is worn out, the others are not far behind.
YMMV, and you can do whatever you like. As for me, slam in another, walk away, and know that you won't be working on it again in a few weeks/days.
Steve
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Our cabin was built in 1987. It has the original propane water heater. Complete with handpainted waterfall and rainbow trout jumping in the pond below mural. It still works good after twenty years. BUT, it only gets used about three months a year. It is drained for about six months, and on and off for six months, the propane is turned off and on.
So, when someone chimes in here and tells you that they have a gas hot water heater that is twenty years old, and is still going strong, they MAY be leaving out one or two small details. I could be a spokesman who spouts that a gas water heater SHOULD last for at least twenty years. After all, I own one that is twenty years old, SHOULDN'T all of them do the same? But, I'd be leaving out some minor facts that make that statement true, wouldn't I.
One thing for sure, I'm going to miss that handpainted woodsy scene with the waterfall and rainbow trout jumping in the pond at the bottom. It was done by a real craftsman. When it does die, or we redo the bathroom, that heater will stay in some corner as an object d' art, and not go to the landfill. The vent pipe is even painted with vines. It's a classic.
Steve
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My gas heater has lasted for 27 years of daily use. Yearly flushing & checking of the anode does wonders... It's a Bradford-White for those that care.
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"Ook" wrote a gut wrenching tear filled emotion packed colon twisting tale about a water heater and yet FAILED TO GIVE US A HINT ABOUT ITS AGE.
Steve
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