Electric Water Heater Repair

If your electric water heater is acting up, you don't have to rush to call in the experts or immediately consider replacing the entire unit. Repairing it yourself is often a viable option, depending on the issue. However, before you begin, it's crucial to diagnose the problem correctly. Here's a comprehensive guide on troubleshooting and repairing your electric water heater.

Understanding Electric Water Heaters

Electric water heaters resemble their gas-powered counterparts in appearance, both featuring an insulated storage tank jacket made of steel with insulation to reduce heat loss. However, the main distinction lies in the heat source. Electric water heaters use upper and lower heating elements submerged in the tank to heat water, while gas heaters rely on a burner beneath the tank.

Common Electric Water Heater Problems

Several issues can disrupt your electric water heater's operation. The most frequent problem is a malfunctioning heating element, leading to inadequate or no hot water. Thankfully, replacing this relatively inexpensive part is often a straightforward DIY solution. Other issues that may cause your water heater to malfunction include incorrect settings, high home water pressure, or insufficient tank maintenance.

If you're contemplating how to repair an electric water heater, here are 6 common problems

No Hot Water

- Check the water heater's circuit breaker in the service panel and reset it if tripped.

- Reset the high-temperature limit on the water heater thermostat by following these steps:

1. Turn off the breaker to the water heater's circuit.

2. Remove the access panel for the upper heating element.

3. Carefully remove the insulation and the plastic safety guard.

4. Press the red reset button above the upper thermostat.

5. Replace the safety guard, insulation, and access panel.

6. Turn on the heater's circuit breaker.

- If the problem persists, test and replace each heating element if necessary.

2. Inadequate Amount of Hot Water

- Ensure your water heater's capacity matches your household's hot water demand. A water heater should provide 75% of its capacity as hot water.

- If it's not undersized but still produces insufficient hot water, one or both heating elements may be defective and require replacement.

-The capacity can also be reduced as the water heater fills up with sediment such as sand and other minerals found in the water.

3. Water Heater Temperature Is Too Hot

- Turn off the power to the water heater in the service panel.

- Check and adjust the thermostat settings to around 120 degrees Fahrenheit for both thermostats.

- Replace safety guards, insulation, and access panels.

- Turn on the heater's circuit breaker.

4. Water Leaks on Water Heater Tanks or Connections

- Water leaks are usually caused by leaking valves or plumbing connections, but they can also result from tank problems.

- Tighten loose heating elements with an element wrench.

- If the tank is corroded, it cannot be repaired and must be replaced.

5. Rust-Colored Hot Water with a Bad Odor

- Brown, yellow, or red-tinted water may indicate corrosion in your water heater tank or pipes.

- A rotten egg smell suggests bacterial growth in the tank, possibly requiring a professional plumber to replace the anode rod and flush the water heater.

6. Tank Type Water Heater Making Noises

- If you hear rumbling, popping, or whining noises from the water heater, sediment buildup at the tank's bottom may be causing overheating.

- Try draining the tank to remove sediment; if this doesn't resolve the issue, you might need to replace the tank.

FAQ About Water Heaters

  1. - What's the difference between electric and gas water heaters?

    Electric heaters use electricity to heat water via heating elements, while gas heaters use a gas burner for the same purpose.

    - What should I do if my electric water heater isn't producing hot water?

    Check for tripped circuit breakers or blown fuses first. If that's not the issue, a burnt-out heating element may need replacement.

    - What's the recommended hot water heater temperature?

    The U.S. Department of Energy advises setting hot water heater thermostats to 120°F, but no higher than 140°F.

Safety Devices You Place in The Pan to Alert You of a Water Leak on the Water Heater

Safety devices for water heaters that catch water and detect leaks are installed under the water heater and in the water heater drain pan. These devices are designed to serve two primary purposes:

1. Catch Water that Leaks: The primary function of a water heater drain pan is to catch and direct water into a drainpipe to drain to a location where damage will not result. Water leaks may occur from the water heater tank or its associated plumbing connections and flow to this drain pan. This helps prevent water damage to the surrounding area, such as the floor and walls.

2. Detect Water that has Leaked: Water heater drain pans can be equipped with a water leak detection sensor or alarms. These sensors are designed to detect the presence of water in the pan or on any surface and trigger an alarm or shut off the water to the water heater to prevent further leakage. This early warning system can help you address leaks promptly before they cause expensive water damage to your home.

Here's how these safety devices for water heaters typically work:

- Sensors are placed in the drain strategically to detect water accumulation. These sensors can be simple float switches or more advanced electronic sensors.

- Alarms sound when the sensors detect water in the pan, they activate an alarm system. This alarm can be audible, alerting you to the leak, or it might be integrated into a home security or monitoring system.

- Automatic Shutoff is the result of the most advanced systems. When a leak is detected in the water or gas, the system can cut off power, gas, and water to the water heater, preventing the continuous pressurized flow of water and reducing the amount of damage.

- Remote Monitoring systems allow for remote monitoring by sending alerts to your smartphone or a designated monitoring service, providing you with real-time updates on any moisture levels and when leaks are detected.

These safety devices are especially useful in preventing water damage to the structure or in situations where water heaters are installed in areas where valuable possessions are stored. In finished basements or attics, water heaters are seldom seen, or near sensitive electrical equipment that should not get wet. These devices can shut off the water, electricity, and gas or at minimum alert you that there is a water leak. They provide peace of mind by alerting you of leaks as soon as they happen, allowing you to take corrective action before expensive water damage occurs.

The most common brands of water heaters in 2023

In 2023 every manufacturer is faced with workforce shortages and experiences defective water heaters leaving the manufacturing facility.

1. Rheem is one of the largest and most well-known manufacturers of water heaters in the United States. They offer a wide range of gas, electric, and tankless water heaters for residential and commercial use.

2. A.O. Smith is another major player in the water heater industry, offering both gas and electric water heaters. They are known for their high-quality products and innovative technology.

3. Bradford White specializes in manufacturing water heaters for residential, commercial, and industrial applications. They are known for their durable and energy-efficient water heaters.

4. American Standard is a trusted brand that offers a variety of water heaters, including tankless, electric, and gas models. They are known for their focus on energy efficiency and durability.

5. State Water Heaters is a brand of A.O. Smith and offers a range of residential and commercial water heaters. They are known for their quality and reliability.

6. Kenmore, a brand owned by Sears, offers a range of gas and electric water heaters. They are known for providing affordable options for homeowners.

7. Navien is a well-regarded brand in the tankless water heater market. They are known for their energy-efficient and space-saving tankless water heater systems.

8. Rinnai specializes in gas tankless water heaters. They are known for their energy efficiency and long-lasting tankless water heaters with many user features.

9. Noritz is a reputable brand in the tankless water heater industry. They offer a wide range of tankless water heaters for residential and commercial use.

10. Whirlpool is a well-known appliance manufacturer that also produces water heaters. They offer a variety of electric and gas water heaters.

It is a good idea to consider factors such as energy efficiency, warranty, and your specific hot water needs when choosing a brand and model of water heater for your home.

Plumbing Contractors and HVAC Contractors Sell and Install Water Heaters

The regulation of who is allowed to install water heaters can vary from state to state in the United States. In many states, plumbers are typically the professionals licensed and authorized to sell and install water heaters. Plumbing licenses often cover a wide range of plumbing-related work, including water heater maintenance and installation.

However, in some states, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) contractors may also be permitted to sell and install water heaters. HVAC contractors are trained in heating and cooling systems, and since water heaters are a component of a home's heating system, they have the skills and qualifications necessary to handle water heater sales and installation.

The specific rules and regulations regarding water heater installation can vary widely by state, so it's essential for both plumbers and HVAC contractors to be aware of and adhere to their state's licensing and permitting requirements. Additionally, local municipalities may have their own specific regulations and codes related to water heater installation, so it's crucial for professionals to be familiar with both state and local requirements in the areas where they work.

Homeowners looking to have a water heater installed should always ensure that the professional they hire is licensed, experienced, and knowledgeable about local building codes and safety standards to ensure a safe and compliant installation. However, in 2023 most contractors are facing skilled labor shortages and are in desperate need of skilled trades workers. These plumbers and HVAC contractors are forced to hire eager apprentices to perform water heater installations and learn in your home. In many cases, the homeowner is more capable than you think and has the same level of experience as the apprentice that the company sends to do the water heater installation.

In 2023 it pays off to use Video Chat A Pro to get instructions from a professional to learn how to repair or replace your own water heater.

The plumbing and HVAC contractors markup the water heaters and connections 100% and the labor is upwards of $480 an hour in some states causing homeowners to get loans or refinance their homes to pay upwards of $20,000 to upgrade to a tankless water heating system. Homeowners can expect to pay up to $5000 in some states to replace a normal 50-gallon tank-type water heater with updates to meet new code requirements. In 2024 most homeowners will need to become self-sufficient and begin to repair and replace water heaters themselves to afford to maintain a comfortable home.