OK folks I have repaired many electric water heaters in my 18 years as a
handyman and have never ran into one that I couldn't fix. The best part is I
am doing this for free for a friend that is out of work.
First I replaced both elements and upper/lower thermostats and flushed the
water heater because it would not make hot water. It still didn't heat the
water. I went back over today and changed them all out again and it still
doesn't work. Yes it has power to it , right up to the top element. What am
Most electric hot water heaters are 220, are both 110 legs providing
power? I have seen it where one 110 leg trips and the other is still
hot. You could try jumping the thermostat and see if you have hot
water. If you do, then it is a thermostat issue, if not it is power.
How is the continuity of the heater elements?
I have not tested the power with the wires disconnected, only at the
thermostat and at the upper element and I get 220 volts. I did not think it
to test the wires while disconnected. Is that necessary??
You question my abilities/ - ha ha - Right now I question my abilities.
I'm not trying to beat on you either, but the first part of a repair is to
determine what's broken. As the others have said, you need to verify 240
volts across the two upper element terminals. My guess is that you've got a
dead leg feeding the heater, which may have been the original problem. If
you do have 240 volts across the upper element, it'll heat or you have a bad
element, which is unlikely
A slab leak is a possibility, which should not be that hard to
determine. If large enough to cause the problem, you should probably be
able to hear water running through the pipes and tank. Otherwise, see if
the water meter is turning with everything off, or the pump cycling if
it is on a well. I ran into a similar situation some years ago with a
friend's gas WH. Turned out the Moen cartridge at the bathtub was bad.
The water would take the path of least resistance, so any time a hot
water faucet was opened, the water would feed through that cartridge
rather than the WH. He had already bought a new WH, and I was going to
install it for him. I turned the valve off in the cold water inlet to
the WH and opened the drain valve. Not only was the water in the tank
hot, but the pressure in it never dropped. Finally took the hot water
line loose at the WH, and water was coming out of the line, but not out
of the WH. He took the new WH back and got a refund on it. Good luck
It would be good if you had an ammeter, which would tell you if there is any
current flowing. I had a situation one time very similar to yours. The wires
in the heater go from the junction box on top of the heater through foam
insulation to the upper thermostat. One of the two wires burned in half
imbedded in the foam insulation. Through the moisture and carbonized copper
I got a 240 volt reading at the upper thermostat and element, but the
element of course wouldn't heat. Barring a bad meter, I would try to
physically check the condition of the wires inside the heater
I will check them in the morning.
I just got off the phone with the home owner and she says there is a warm
spot on the vinyl covered concrete floor near her kitchen sink. I think she
may have a leaking hot water pipe under the slab. I'll check all this out in
Thanks so much,
Another thing CM, we out here in the ether, have no idea of how you are
testing . Like Dr. Hardcrab said. you could be testing each terminal to
ground and getting 120 volts on each, multiply that time 2, you get 240
I am testing across the terminal - not to ground so I am getting 220 volts
on my digital meter. I will also take a back up meter tomorrow.
If it is fact an under slab leak the water could just be running through the
water heater and not sitting long enough to heat. Should be easy to check.
When you check the voltage, what kind of meter are you using? Are you
testing it with it connected to the heating element and with the thermostat
calling for heat?
Have you checked power to the lower thermostat?
I am using a Greenlee multimeter (digital) and have only tested voltage with
the wires connected to the element as well as the thermostat and it shows
220 volts at the upper thermostat and the upper heating element and no power
to the lower thermostat or lower element. I assume the upper thermostat is
calling for heat since the tank is not hot. The top thermostat is not
sending power to the lower since upper thermostat is not satisfied.
I am going to check the voltage coming into the water heater with the wires
disconnected tomorrow and will do the same to the wires that go to the upper
element. I will also check the water meter and see if it is spinning with
all faucets shut off to see if there is a possibility of an under slab pipe
Thanks for your help on this,
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