Guide and tips

How to find out if an element in your water heater needs to be replaced

How to find out if an element in your water heater needs to be replaced

You’re taking a shower and suddenly you get a stream of ice-cold water in your face. You’ll obviously want to take care of this problem as quickly as possible. It’s easy to find out if the culprit is a burned-out element in your water heater. But first, you should check if there’s another reason your water heater is malfunctioning. Make sure that the cold water and hot water inlets are not reversed. Also check if there are any leaks and that the thermostat is set at the right temperature (60 oC). It’s also possible your tank isn’t big enough for your water needs. If you’ve got a HydroSolution water heater, it was installed by experts so you don’t need to worry too much about these issues.

That being said, if your electric water heater is slow to heat up water, if you run out of hot water quicker than usual or if there is no hot water at all, odds are that the problem is one or both of the elements. If you have a HydroSolution water heater, it’s easy to find out if the elements are at fault. Simply call our call centre. Or get a multimeter and follow these instructions.

Using a multimeter to test the elements in a water heater

Before testing your elements, make sure your circuit breaker is off and that no fuses have blown. Resetting your circuit breaker may solve the problem, but if it continues to trip, the problem might be electrical.

To test the elements, you’ll need:

  • A screwdriver
  • Protective eyewear
  • Safety gloves
  • Non-contact voltage tester

Start with the circuit breaker. Flip the breakers connected to your water heater to off. On your water heater, find the panels screwed shut. There might be one or two. Remove the screws to open the panels and remove the insulation within. Make sure you wear safety goggles if it is wool insulation. Remove the plastic safety cover. Use your voltage tester near the wires on the front of the element and near each wire connected to the thermostat. If there is still power in the water heater, the voltage tester will sound an alarm and its lights will blink.

Loosen the screws from the two elements and remove the wires underneath. Take note of the wattage of each element. Configure the multimeter to Rx1k. Place one of the multimeter’s sensors on one of the screws on the front of the element and the other sensor on the other screw. A 3,500-watt element will read 16 ohms. A 4,500-watt element will read between 12 and 13 ohms, and a 5,500-watt element will read between 10 and 11 ohms. If this figure does not appear on the multimeter, it’s time to replace the element.

Make sure that one of the sensors keeps touching one of the screws on the front of the element. Touch any metal surface of the water heater tank with the other sensor. If the needle on the multimeter moves, the element needs to be replaced. Make sure you test both screws on the front of the element.

Touch each screw with one of the multimeter sensors. Place the other sensor against the metal base connected to the element, where it penetrates the water heater. If the sensor on the front of the multimeter moves, the element needs to be replaced.

That’s it. Simply reconnect each wire to the front of the element and put everything back where it was before flipping your breakers back on.

If the problem isn’t the elements

If your elements seem fine, the problem might be the thermostat. In that case, simply replace it. Feel like you need expert help? Contact us and we’ll find the solution to your problem. To prevent any future problems, make sure to maintain your water heater. Here are a few simple tips.

If you want peace of mind, choose one of our water heaters that come with a practical warranty. You can also choose our extended warranty and you’ll be guaranteed to enjoy hot showers for years to come!