I need help - Water Heater

Discussion in 'The BS Topic' started by gordonquixote, Nov 22, 2015.

  1. gordonquixote

    gordonquixote Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    We are remodeling the back few rooms of our house and I had to remove the water heater for the tile guys.

    Today I reinstalled it.

    I hooked up the two copper flex lines and hooked up the blow-off pipe. I then hooked the white house wire to red heater wire and black to black.

    I then turned the sink to hot water and let all the air out of the lines.

    I left for a few hours and when I got back, the water was barely warm. An hour or two later and it was even colder.

    I turned on the breaker before I bled the lines but surely I didn't burn up the elements in the 3-5 minutes it took to bleed of the air in the system?

    Anyway, seems like it heated for a tiny bit then failed.

    The main breaker is on and the subpanel breakers are not tripped.

    Odd: when I was unscrewing the little screws on the electrical cover plate, it was kind of dark and I could see tiny little sparks when the screw wiggled but it did not shock me to touch it.

    The top reset button was not tripped, I didn't check the bottom due to tight quarters.

    I do not have a voltmeter handy at the moment.

    Any ideas?
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  2. Rene Melten

    Rene Melten Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    ...oops... only switch the breaker on if you know if the tank is full.
    In this case it may be wise to call in a pro to diagnose.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2015
  3. tom3

    tom3 Veteran Member

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    Hard to diagnose from here. Seems like both elements are not usually on at the same time so even if there was not enough water in the tank one should work? Maybe not, could be the top element comes on with colder water so your bottom element is not switched on, the top one might be open. Might open and close the double (circuit) breaker to the tank. Never know.
     
  4. At Home Camaro

    At Home Camaro Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    "Dry Firing" an electric hot water heater element will burn it up quite quickly. I have never done it - but I'd assume it would happen in under a minute. It's typically ~4500 watts of heat and is designed to always be submerged in water to keep it from burning up.

    From a cold start, the top thermostat will switch the mains to power the top element - so that is the one which will be damaged. The lower element gets power only after the upper thermostat has been satisfied. Both are never on at the same time.

    So in your case the upper thermostat is likely waiting for the upper element to heat the top half of the water, which will not happen since the element itself is damaged.

    An ohm meter would help to verify an open circuit for that element. Kill the breaker and remove the 2 wires from the element and measure across the 2 screws. An open circuit (infinity) would tell you it is burned up. You can also measure from each screw to ground to see if it is also now shorted to ground - a good element would show an open circuit to ground from either screw.

    They are not too difficult to replace. The right size socket (1-1/2 " ?) and a good breaker bar. Drain the tank enough to get the water level underneath the top element before unscrewing it.

    Be safe with the electric part and good luck.
     
    Last edited: Nov 23, 2015
  5. Rene Melten

    Rene Melten Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    Really, are you a qualified plumber, many steps are missing here.
    1 1/2" socket is correct, and do you think they come out easily?
     
  6. gordonquixote

    gordonquixote Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    Thx for the advice. This morning we had fairly hot water but not like normal.

    I'll start by checking the elements with a meter today.
     
  7. danbrennan

    danbrennan Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    Every fall we drain the water system in our cabin(so of course the pipes don't freeze), and then we have to re-prime the system in the spring. I get all the air out of the system, hot and cold pipes, before I turn on the hot water heater. I think the elements can burn out rather quickly, just sitting in air instead of water.

    But remember electric water heaters have a relatively long recovery time, compared to gas, so it take a while for the water to heat up.

    I've replaced the element in our cabin's heater once over the years(20+), it went easily enough. But it's a small water heater, compared to what one would use for a full house. The elements were cheap enough, $10-$20 for our unit, such that I bought several just to have handy.
     
  8. LayZ

    LayZ Veteran Member

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    This is why i'm glad I have gas...

    LOL and not what your thinking!!!
     
  9. Earlsfat

    Earlsfat Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    Gordo,

    Elements are cheap and so are the tool kits. While you have it off and have the elements out, check for scale/sediment... moving it around could have stirred things up enough to let one of the elements short/burn out... that would explain the mild performance and poor recovery. If your water is hard this is or will be a problem. Good excuse to add a softener, cartridge sediment filter and whole house filter.

    I replaced a HW heater in my old home because it blew the lower element twice in a week.... I didn't check the first time, but it had scale in the bottom all the way up to about 1/4" of the element. Neighbor had the same exact issue a month later. We have terrible water around here.
     
  10. Cardinal

    Cardinal Veteran Member Lifetime Gold Member

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    As a service tech, we were told to replace both elements AND the controls as it was NOT worth going back (recall).

    You need an amprobe meter to check the elements to see if they are operating properly. It's easier to start the tests with the HWH cold so that the amprobe will read them working.

    OBTW, you do NOT need to drain the HWH to change the elements. Turn the HWH breaker off and verifly with a meter that it is off! Turn the main source of water off and drain the system pressure off at a sink. CLOSE ALL VALVES IN THE HOUSE! Wrap towels around the base of the HWH (I'd ask the customer for dirty OLD towels NOT new ones!). Have the wiring removed, the socket & wrench & cheater ready, and the two elements ready to go! Screw the old element out, and quickly start the new one by hand. Then tighten it with the socket & wrench. Done. This way you don't waste time and water.
     

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