How to Troubleshoot Electric Water Heater Problems

Electric Water Heaters

After a hard day at work or a difficult day in the garden, there is little more pleasant than a hot shower, allowing you to wash away the dirt and grime and be ready for something different.

However, you probably simply assume there will be hot water, that is until you find the electric hot water heater isn’t working properly.

Your first reaction and a good response will be to contact the electricians that supplied your hot water installation. They’ll know the system and be able to diagnosis the issue.

However, what if it’s the weekend and you don’t want to pay the call-out fee? It’s a good idea to understand how to troubleshoot electric water heater issues, this can help you identify the issue and even temporarily resolve it. You can then get the professionals in to verify the issue and ensure you’ve done everything right.

It is essential to remember to shut off the power supply before you start troubleshooting, it should only be turned on when you need to run tests.

Check The Power Supply

The first step is to establish there is actually the power to your heater. You’ll probably have a light at the heater which tells you it’s working. If not, you may be able to hear a low humming noise.

If neither of these is apparent then you’ll want to check your circuit breaker and, if you have a tester, remove the cover on your hot water heater to expose the electrical connections. You can then use your tester to verify power is coming through. If it isn’t the water heater isn’t at fault, you have a problem with your supply line.

Assess Output

Most electrical heaters have two or more heating elements inside them. If you run your water and it is warm, not hot, and not cold, then it is likely that one of your heating elements has stopped working.

You’ll need to test the supply and resistance to both elements in order to establish if this is the case and which one has stopped working.

You’ll then need to replace it which will probably involve draining your tank.


Your water heater could be working properly but leaks are draining the hot water faster than the tank can heat it. This is a serious issue as your water bill and electric bill will be much higher than they need to be.

Fortunately, a water leak is relatively easy to spot. Start by visually inspecting all the pipes and placing a bucket under the heater. If you can feel or see water then you’ve got a leak. If you can’t see or feel anything but water still collects in the bucket you have a leak.

You can try tightening connections or replacing them to resolve the issue. If this doesn’t work you’ll probably want professional help.

Funny Odors

If your water is a funny color or odor then it is likely that you have rust or other debris in it from your pipes and connections. This can prevent your heating elements from working properly and you may hear a rumbling noise. This means you’re going to need to flush the tank and potentially place some pipes and fittings.

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