How to Test a Water Heater Element? (Step-by-Step Guide)

Water Heater Element

Do you want to test a water heater element to know the actual cause of the drop in the water temperature?

The Water Heater is one of the most vital home appliances that should be functioning properly if you want warm water, especially in the winter seasons.  If you have just turned up the heat but the water doesn’t exceed lukewarm water, there is some trouble that needs to be fixed.

In this article, we will help you figure out how to test the water heater and why this issue occurs. Let’s get started.

Why Water Heater Stops Working?

Besides all the steps needed for this purpose, you might be wondering why your heater has suddenly stopped giving warm water. After knowing these reasons you will be able to figure out the actual cause whenever you deal with the same issue. The reasons or causes include:

Water Heater Stops Working

Mineral Deposits in Water

It is one of the major reasons why your water heater suddenly stopped working. The life of these heaters is not long enough because they continuously have to process by going through different elements. If the mineral deposits enter the water, these elements become weak resulting in this issue.

The only solution to this problem is to turn off the water heater every year and flush away the entire water. It is how if any mineral deposits enter the water, they will be flushed out.

Trapped Air Pockets

All the working elements of the water heater should be submerged in the water because if it didn’t happen, the heat produced by the water heater will burn through copper resulting in trapped air pockets.

The sediments and trapped air must be extracted at least once or twice a year so that this issue never occurs. For this purpose, it is important that all the water heater elements working must be submerged in the water.

Malfunctioning thermostat

A thermostat is a temperature-activated switch whose main purpose is to control the temperature of the water in the heater. If the temperature crosses the normal limit, the thermostat activates and the power is switched off.

However, if the thermostat is malfunctioning, it won’t be able to handle the temperature resulting in failure.

Heating Elements Damages

When all the heating elements functioning inside the water heater are damaged, this problem normally occurs. With the burning of these elements, the water cools down and it stops giving hot water.

Hence, it is important to keep checking all the elements working inside so that you can instantly find out the cause.

Poor Connection of Wire

Here is the last cause that might be the reason for cold water flow. All the heavy wires attached to the heater give electricity to all the elements working inside so if any issue occurs to the wires, it also results in cold water. Be cautious about the things that might make the connection of wires poor.

Thermocouple is Damaged

A damaged thermocouple can be the reason why your water heater won’t turn on. And when your heater isn’t working, it cannot supply hot water. It should either be repaired or replaced completely in order to fix this issue. So, make sure to check it as well when testing other components of the heater.

Tool and Materials Required for Hot Water Heater Element

Now you are aware of all the causes that might lead to this issue. let’s move ahead and talk about all the tools and materials required to do this DIY work.

How to Test Water Heater Element at Home?

Now you have all the tools needed in this process, let’s put light on the easy-to-follow steps so that you can comfortably test the water heater element at home without anyone’s assistance. The process includes:

Test Water Heater Element

 Switch Off the Power1. Switch Off the Power


As you are going to work with the electricity so never forget to switch off the power because it can lead to serious injuries. For this purpose, you have to first switch off the circuit breaker.

You can easily find this breaker in the central breaker box of the home. The electrician who did all this setup for you at the start must have labeled the breaker.

Once you find out the breaker, switch it off by lifting it to the side where ‘off’ is written. However, if you couldn’t find the breaker or if it is not labeled, you can power off the main supply. Once it is shut off, you can begin working.

Pull Off the Metal Covers2. Pull Off the Metal Covers


Here you need a screwdriver in order to dislocate the screws from the metal plates. The metal plate will be installed at the side of the water heater that covers the thermostat. There might be a single plate cover or 2, you need to unscrew both.

Dislocate Plastic Covers and Insulation3. Dislocate Plastic Covers and Insulation


There is a plastic sheet between heater elements and metal covers that you need to dislocate in order to reach there. There is also an insulation layer that might be flexible fiberglass or rigid foam.

You can easily dislocate the insulation without any tool. However, in a few cases, you might need to break the insulation into pieces. If the insulation is of fiberglass, carefully cut it with a utility knife.

Ensure that all the elements you have removed must be in the right state because you have to install them again once the testing is done.

Detect the Water Heater Elements4. Detect the Water Heater Elements


Now you have removed all the components from the water heater, you can easily find out the elements. The water heater thermostat is rectangular in shape that has many electrical wires attached to the screws. It is usually found overhead the heating elements. You should also test it to make sure everything is right.

Confirm the Electricity is Off5. Confirm the Electricity is Off


For confirmation, you can use a multimeter or voltage tester that is pen-shaped. You have to place this pen on the wires attached to the thermostat.

If the pen beeps or lights up it means the electricity is still on and if it doesn’t create any noise, means the electricity is off. However, if you want to confirm the electricity with a multimeter, touch the black probe to 1 screw and the red probe to another.

If the reading is between 110 to 130, it means there is still electricity. Retest after switching the probes and repeat the same process. It is how you will get an accurate reading.

 Examine the Heater Elements6. Examine the Heater Elements


How well the heating elements are functioning depends on the circuit’s resistance which is measured in ohms. At the start, keep the setting of ohms to the lowest and touch the red probe to 1 screw and the black probe to another.

You are not bound to touch a red probe or black probe with a specific screw. Go ahead with anyone. If the reading lies between 10 and 30 Ω, it means your heating elements are working perfectly.

If the reading is below the mentioned figures, there is some fault in the elements that need to be fixed. When you have double heating elements, repeat the same process on the other one as well.

Reassemble the Water Heater7. Reassemble the Water Heater


After testing the heating elements and recovering the faulty ones, it is time to reassemble them. Locate the plastic cover and insulator that you dislocate in order to test the elements. Switch on the breaker to turn on the water heater after reassembling everything.

Wait for a few hours until the water heater starts giving hot water. If the water is hot, you have successfully covered the issue. If the water is still lukewarm, the issue is still there and you might need to call someone.

Replacing An Electric Water Heater Heating Element

The water heater can only last for hardly 6 or maybe 8 years after that you need to get your hands on a new one. However, if your water heater has suddenly stopped working, you do not need to go for a new one as you can easily replace it at home by following the below-mentioned points.

Replacing An Electric Water Heater Heating Element

  1. Ensure the circuit breaker is working fine because sometimes it is tripped or might be switched off mistakenly.
  2. Later, examining the reset button on the temperature that might need to be fixed. You can easily find that button on the thermostat. After resetting, if the problem is still there, the issue might be in the elements.
  3.  You can check the elements of the water heater with a multimeter as already mentioned above. If the fault is there, you can replace the elements.

It is how you can replace the heating element or water heater at home without any professional’s need. Changing the water heater element is as easy as mentioned above.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Let’s cover a few commonly asked questions regarding hot water heater element test or water heater wattage. The queries include:

How Do I Know if My Hot Water Heater Element is Not Working Fine?

If your water heater has suddenly stopped giving hot water or the water state doesn’t exceed lukewarmly, the problem might be in the heater elements. Moreover, if the circuit breaker is working fine, the issue commonly lies in the elements.

How Do I Test My Water Heater with a Multimeter?

Keep the temperature setting of the Multimeter at the lowest and touch the red probe with 1 screw and the black probe with another screw. If the reading lies between 10 and 30 Ω, the elements are working fine, If the reading is low, there is some fault.

What Should the Ohms be on a Water Heater?

It should be between 10 and 30 Ω. This is the accurate reading that depicts, that the heating element is fine and doesn’t need to be fixed. If the reading is above or below, there is an issue.

How Do You Check a Water Heater Element with A Voltage Tester?

A voltage tester is a pen shape that you keep near the wires of the thermostat attached to the screws. If the pen beeps, there is some issue and if it doesn’t beep, the heating elements are fine.

Final Thoughts

A water Heater is one of the most important things that should be upgraded from time to time for accurate working. After reading this detailed guide, you will finally be able to test a Water Heater Element without any professional.

I have tried to keep the points as simple as possible so that it is easy for you as a beginner. Take notes and keep checking the elements so that you can detect the issue as early as possible. I hope this article will help you deal with this issue in the future.

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