Keeping Your Water Heater in Shape
Electric powered or gas powered, the water heater is an important part of any household functioning, day in and day out. The water heater is one appliance that we give little thought about until it isn’t working. Today, we’re going to focus on electric-powered water heaters and when an electric water heater replacement is the best option.
Understanding Water Heater Issues
First though, let’s briefly review how an electric water heater works. This bit of knowledge can often answer the questions or how to address an issue or problem you’re having with your electric water heater. Sometimes, there are things you can do to get your electric water heater going again and save the expense of a new electric water heater replacement at the moment.
A common question for plumbers is why electric water heaters keep tripping. There are five possible issues that are causing your water heater to continuously trip the circuit breaker:
- The thermostat is bad: There is an upper thermostat and a lower thermostat on electric water heaters. The upper heating element is controlled by the upper thermostat and the lower heating element is controlled by the lower thermostat. The heating elements cycle on and off by design to keep the water hot inside the tank. The lower thermostat will get stuck “ON” and it doesn’t cycle on and off as designed. This causes heat to build up in the upper part of the tank, causing the reset button to trip. The good news with this, an electric water heater replacement isn’t necessary! Simply call a professional plumber to replace the bad lower thermostat.
- The reset button is bad: Every water heater has a reset button that trips and cuts the power off when a water heater reaches a temperature higher than 180 F degrees. This is a safety feature, but the switch can weaken as it ages and misread the temperature, cutting the power off before the water reaches 180 F degrees. A professional plumber can determine if the reset button can be replaced or if you need an electric water heater replacement.
- Faulty wiring: If there is aluminum wiring between the water heater and the electrical panel, it can cause electrical problems that will trip the circuit breaker. Water heaters today are made with copper wiring, and without a special lug connector, the two metals will fight each other, thus tripping the breaker. An electrician can rewire your electric panel to fix this problem and save you from having to purchase a new electric water heater replacement.
- The breaker is bad: Before you assume you need a new electric water heater replacement, have an electrician check the circuit breaker assigned to the water heater. While circuit breakers are made to last a long time, they don’t last forever. Replacing the circuit breaker assigned to the water heater may be the fix you need.
- The heating element has gone out: Remember, there are two heating elements in an electric water heater, and an electrical current runs through both to heat the water. These elements will wear out over time, causing the circuit to short and the break to trip. A professional plumber can replace the bad element, saving you from needing a new electric water heater replacement.
Another common problem is an electric water heater getting too hot. Water that gets overheated can burn or scald you or a family member, and additionally, damage the water heater. If the overheating isn’t addressed, you’ll find yourself buying an electric water heater replacement. When you notice the water getting too hot, check the following:
- Pressure too high: Every water heater has a PRV (pressure relief valve) and when it isn’t working right, the steam will build up inside the tank can cause the tank to burst, causing bodily and structural harm. If the water inside the tank seems to be boiling, contact a plumber immediately and turn the electricity off immediately.
- Temperature set too high: The thermostat on your water heater should never be higher than 120ºF, but that setting can get moved by accident. When the water feels too hot, check the temperature setting and if it is higher than 120º, dial it down. If that doesn’t fix the problem, call a plumber to inspect the water heater. It is possible the thermostat needs to be replaced or you need a new electric water heater replacement.
- Sediment buildup: Water heaters will get a sediment buildup over time and this can affect the heating elements as the sediment covers them. That causes the water heater to work harder and can often overheat the water. A plumber can replace the elements and flush the water heater to fix the problem. Depending on the age of your water heater, an new electric water heater replacement may be the cheaper option.
Are electric water heater thermostats universal?
No, there are variations between electric water heater thermostats. Some electric water heaters have only one heating element and one thermostat. Others have dual heating elements and dual thermostats. The difference between lower and upper thermostats keeps them from being universal.
How do you reset an electric water heater?
Every electric water heater will have a reset button, which is usually red and located by the thermostat. Some are behind insulation and a metal panel. To reset your electric water heater, simply press the red button and release it.
How do you know when to replace an electric water heater?
There are five common indicators you need to purchase an electric water heater replacement:
- The current electric water heater’s age. Typically at 10 years, an electric water heater replacement is needed, some will last 12 to 15 years if routine flushing is performed.
- When the amount of hot water is getting less and less.
- When the electric bill is increasing steadily each month for no obvious reason.
- When the TPR and water connections are corroded.
- When the water coming from the faucets is a brown-reddish color.
- If you’ve had to have more than one repair every 3 years.
Can I install an electric water heater myself?
If you’re a hand DIY homeowner with basic household tools, yes, you could do your own electric water heater replacement. However, depending on where you live, the local municipality may require a permit for water heater installation. This will require the city to turn the water off until the installation is complete. They will then inspect the installation job before turning the water back on.
For the safety of you and your home, having a professional plumber handle the electric water heater replacement installation is recommended from the electrical side. A wrong wire connection can damage the water heater or your home’s electrical system.
What is needed to install an electric tankless water heater?
After you have determined the right size of electric tankless water heater needed for your home, you’ll need to address the additional amperage and voltage required. The unit will require special wiring to be installed and a separate circuit breaker. The plumbing is different for a tankless unit as well. It is for these reasons it is recommended to have a tankless water heater installed by a professional.
At The End Of The Day – Are You Saving Money?
And is a propane water heater cheaper than an electric? There is minimal difference in the operation cost between an electric water heater and a propane water heater. A propane water heater will cost approximately $80 less than an electric water heater.