Heater: Electric. 50 gallons. 240V. Two 4500w elements (the ones
that curl around) Thermostats both set to 130F.
Symptoms: After about 15 minutes, a hot shower turns to warm and then
quickly turns to ice cold. This didn't seem to be a problem in the
What I've done: Last winter, I had the same problem, but much worse.
After a lot of reading and learning about hot water heaters, I found
that the dip tube had broken off inside the tank. At that time I
replaced the dip tube and the anode rod. I also wrapped the tank with
an insulation blanket. The result was unlimited hot water. Great!
I'm having the same problem this year. I decided to replace my
elements with the long doubled (curl) type. $20 each! That didn't
solve my problem. I've tested the thermostats. I believe they are
working properly. This is how I tested them: Verified that power is
getting to the top element after setting the top thermostat to its
maximum setting. Verified that power is getting to the bottom element
after setting the top thermostat to its minimum setting and setting
the bottom thermostat to its maximum setting. I was basically just
making sure the flow of power was correct.
Was my thermostat test adequate?
Is it possible that I melted the top of the dip tube when I soldered
the connections last winter? This year, when I replaced the elements,
I peeked inside to make sure the dip tube was still connected. It
was. When the top element was removed and the water was just below
the element hole, I turned the water on and looked for splashing
inside the tank. I didn't see any. I'm assuming splashing would
occur if there was a hole in the dip tube.
Any other ideas?
You tested the elements to see if they're getting voltage, but that would
not indicate that they are actually working. The only way to do that would
be with an ammeter that would measure the CURRENT going THROUGH each element
(amps), not the VOLTAGE being supplied TO it. You could also remove the
wires from the elements and ohm them out. At the same time, check with a
meg-ohm meter to see if they're grounded at all. It sounds to me like
you've lost your lower element. I had an electric heater that I could not
keep running for more than a year with hard water.
Your temperature is set a bit low and that may be part of
the problem. Have you test the water at a faucet, and what
temperature did you get? Are both thermostats set to 130?
In any event you need to test the water temperature and set
the tank to deliver water at 130 if that is what you want.
Thermostats are easy to test, and you can test with a
voltmeter. All you are doing is seeing if the thermostat
closes, so all you need to do is measure the potential
(voltage) at the downstream end. You may very well have an
element that doesn't work, maybe never worked. You test
elements the same way as thermostats, after you make sure
the thermostats close.
See if an electrical supply has give out sheets for checking
thermostats and elements. Don't know if Lowes or Home Depot
have them or not.
Soldering? What were you soldering on a water heater? I
can't imagine what you would be soldering so may that's a
line to investigate.
Both are set at 130, as recommended. I can check the temp at the
faucet. Good idea.
Both elements are working. When I crank up the thermostat, I can hear
the element heating up. I tried this on both elements.
There is a copper fitting that screws onto the nipple. I had to
solder the copper fitting to the copper pipe supplying cold water.
The soldering wasn't ON the water heater, but close enough to possibly
cause heat damage. I added a union later and don't need to solder
Good. Check the actual water temp. Don't you use a flexible
tubes to connect the water heater? Solid copper or iron
connections are archaic.
So now you know that your heating elements are working and
by inference the thermostats are closing the connection. So
what are the possibilities? The elements are undersized,
they work intermittent, your thermostats 130 setting is
really 5,10 or 15 degrees lower(or one is set too low), or
the two thermostats don't work together correctly.
Have you drained your tank, or justs open the bottom to get
the gunk out? Maybe the crud in the bottom is clear up to
the bottom electrode and screwing it up. Or maybe, the
element is the incorrect model.
I found my old check list prepared by a local electrical
supply for home owners to check a hot water tank. It should
be generic enough for your tank. If you want me to send a
scan, just send a request to my e-mail address.
I guess I'm archaic. I don't have flexible lines running to/from the
water heater. Just straight copper. That's how I bought the house...
I checked the water temp. It's set at 130 and I'm getting about 128
at the faucet. I would expect to lose a few degrees somewhere :)
The elements are not undersized. Both are 4500w and are the type that
curl under (double).
I completely drained the tank when I replaced the elements a few weeks
ago. The first few seconds of drainage was orange. Otherwise, no
That would be great. I'll send you an email.
I think at this point there are two possibilites.
- I have a crack in my dip tube. I find this unlikely since I changed
it last year.
- This started happening when winter hit. I think the more likely
possibility is that the water entering the tank is just too cold.
After 15 minutes of this, the tank can't keep up and the water turns
Sounds like one element probably the top one is not working correctly. If
you do not have an Amp meter then do this. With a cool or cold tank. Open
the top cover and find the thermostat. Crank it up to max do you
something like a coffee maker? Should be no more than 30 seconds no noises
then that element is bad/or is not working. Do the same for the bottom
element. This will help you isolate the problem. Please becareful there are
live parts in there and it could be a shocking situation.
When the water is colder it takes longer for it to get warm. I would set the
top element at 145 and the bottom one for 135 or so. This should make your
tank stratify when cold water is introduced.
If the wires are accessible, I'd suggest you get yourself a clamp on
ammeter, which will allow you to measure the volts and amps used by the
elements. Then you can tell if the element is working.
Should be $50-$100 at most, and will serve you well over the years.
I got one when I tried to measure the mains voltage with my old trusty
vom set on DC amps. (ouch!)
This is Turtle.
Without the right tools your fighting a unbeatiable battle. What you need to
do is get you the 2 thermostats, 2 elements, dip tube, and a pop off valve
and just replace them and you will have a brand new tank and nothing can go
wrong if everything is new. With everything new you can't have trouble at
all. tis is costly but it will solve it. You can buy everything for about
$100.00 and be done with it.
This is Turtle.
Well you say less than $100.00 is too much.
Well you can get a trouble shooting guide from Rheem / Ruud / or who ever
makes the tank $20.00.
Get you a VOM UEI brand to test with $97.00. Spend 1 or 2 days learning how
to use them.
Get you a amp meter clamp type Amprobe brand $ 112.00 . Spend 1 or 2 day
getting use to using them.
You have spent $229.00 + tax to start and have 50 / 50 chance of figuring it
out. If you feel lucky -- go for it.
Now you said Electric shops have a sheet on how to test everything. Yes they
do but it will not do you any good without at least $300.00 worth of tools
to use on each test they have on the sheet. At the top of the sheet it list
the tools needed to do the test and does say if you don't have these tools
to work with get them before beginning testing.
Now to the real world on trouble shooting these tanks and general thoughts
Intermitten problem --- change both thermostats.
Just not suppling enough hot water -- change both elements.
Stops working all together and is supplied with electric power --- Change
both thermostats and elements. If you look at the operation manual. You will
see you need to change the thermostats and element every 10 to 12 years or
so. They don't last for ever.
Now the thought of spending a $100.00 right now to stop all this problem
seem very high to you ,but if you would have changed everything a year ago
you would not be talking here to day and off watching TV or surfing the
internet. Now Figure up what you have spent so far and see if a $100.00 is
too much to stop all the problems a year ago. If you don't want to spend
less than a $100.00 to stop the problem. just keep on posting here and one
day you may get lucky. The shotgun theory is good on small appliances but
not on large appliances.
You don't need any of that. In fact all you need is a
continuity tester for as little as $2.00, get a fancy one
for maybe $10.00. Or buy a digital VOM from Harbor Freight
Baloney! Continuity testor or cheap VOM is all you need.
All you are going to do is test for voltage at various
places in addition to using your eyes and using your hands
to feel for warmth.
I didn't say that!. are you talking to me or to someone
BTW, I looked in my file and found the sheet, but I could
also get the sheet from the store that is still in
business. It give a simple by the numbers check procedure.
If Ryan wants a copy he can ask and I will scan and send it
This is Turtle.
You must be good at fixing hot water tank problem without a clamp amp meter
to see the amps being drawed on each leg to see it you have any bleed over
or unbalance of load or the thermostat is bleeding electricity back to the
other element while you have the other on running. If you give me just a
digital VOM to work with. I could figure it out by the process of
alimination and about 4 hours to go throught the cycles. I don't have 4
hours at $55.00 a hour to waist on fixing a hot water tank. You may have the
time but i don't. With a clamp amp meter and a vom. It will take about 5
minutes to tell you what it is.
All I can say is Your Good.
Last year, the dip tube broke off. While replacing the tube, I
figured I would drain the tank to get the gunk off the bottom as well
as replace the anode rod. At the same time, I decided to take a look
at the elements. They appeared to be in good shape. Why would I
spend the money on new elements and thermos when I knew they were
working fine? When I put everything back together, it worked great.
This year, I'm having a similar problem, although not nearly as big a
problem. Instead of tearing everything apart and replacing everything
I figured I would do a little more research. I replaced the elements,
thinking that the short older elements couldn't handle the cold water.
It helped a little, but didn't completely fix the problem. Since
everything else on the tank was new, I figured I'd post here. There's
nothing else to replace, except the thermos which I believe are in
Here's the big question for those of you living in a cold climate.
With your 50 gallon tank set at 130 degrees, how long would your
shower last at about 85% hot water? Mine lasts about 15 minutes until
it starts to get luke warm. Maybe that's fine. I dunno...
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