Perhaps you just got home from a particularly trying day at work, and a hot, relaxing soak or shower sounds like the perfect remedy. You turn on the water and hop in the shower, only to find out that the electric water heater has apparently clocked off for the day too.
Now, instead of unwinding in a toasty shower or bath, you’re left without hot water and a less-than-stellar issue on your hands. Before you call in the plumber or throw in the towel (no pun intended), give these tips a try.
In This Article
Why Isn’t My Electric Water Heater Working?
Your electric water heater isn’t going on strike just because it can. Usually, there are a few significant reasons it might not be fully functional. Some problems require quick and easy fixes, while others are more involved (yikes).
A few of the most common issues include:
- A faulty thermostat
- The reset button is malfunctioning
- The high-limit switch isn’t working (this is the part that prevents the water from getting too hot)
- A short in the heating element
- Loose wire causing problems
Some of these issues can be easily resolved by resetting the unit itself, while others might require the help of a pro. Keep in mind that the combination of water and electricity can be deadly, so don’t attempt to troubleshoot the problem if you’re not comfortable doing so or if it seems to be something best left to a professional.
If you notice your water heater loses power repeatedly, there’s probably an issue that needs to be addressed by a professional. So, instead of trying to fix the problem yourself, it might be best to call a professional plumber. If you’re set on a warm shower or bath, you might be waiting a while.
How To Reset An Electric Water Heater
In some cases, resetting your electric water heater will correct the issue. Remember – if you aren’t comfortable troubleshooting these issues, call a professional plumber. That said, here’s how to reset an electric water heater.
Unplug The Unit
First things first – disconnect the electricity to the heater. You shouldn’t tinker with the heater while the power is on. So, unplug the unit from the wall before proceeding. Most electric heaters are plugged into the wall via a cable. If that’s the case, you’ll have to unscrew the cable or turn a knob near it to cut the power to the unit.
Alternatively, the unit might be directly wired into the wall. If this is the case, you’ll have to turn off the power directly at the breaker box.
Remove The Cover Plate
Once the power is disconnected, you need to remove the cover plates. Here’s what you’ll need for this step:
- Philips or flathead screwdriver
Locate the metal cover plate. It might be near the bottom of the water heater, although the exact location varies from one model to the next. Using a screwdriver, unthread the screws holding the plate in place. Some models require a Philips screwdriver, while others need a flathead screwdriver.
After removing the screws, set them aside in a safe spot so you don’t lose any of them. Then, take off the cover plate and set it aside as well.
Remove The Insulation Pad
Once you remove the cover plate, you’ll find a foam insulation pad inside the heater. This hides the buttons you need to access to reset the heater. So, pull the pad out using your hands, then set it aside.
If you notice moisture on the pad or near the reset button, there’s probably a faulty element gasket. You’ll need to fix the leak before you can reset the unit.
Reset The System
Your next step is to reset the system. You should see a red reset button in the recessed area behind the cover plate. Some models will have a “Reset Button” labeled on or beneath the button itself.
Simply press the button firmly to reset the system. Sometimes, the button can be sticky since the system generally doesn’t get manually reset very often. The button should click, letting you know the heater is successfully reset. Make sure it clicks before you reinstall everything.
If you don’t hear a click or the button immediately pops back out, examine the heater’s wiring for loose wire nuts or damage. If the wiring looks okay, it might be the controller, which probably needs to be replaced.
That said, some heaters might not make a clicking sound when you press the button. So, if you press the button for about five seconds and don’t hear a click, make sure you check the wiring and controller. If everything checks out, it might just be a model that doesn’t make the clicking noise. So, go ahead and reassemble the heater.
Reassemble The Heater
After you press the reset button, reinsert the foam pad. Fit it back into the recessed area over the reset button, then replace the cover plate. Rethread the screws into place, then tighten them with a screwdriver. Make sure you don’t overtighten the screws, as you could strip the threads, which is a nightmare in itself.
Once everything is back in place, turn the power back on. If you shut off the power at the breaker box, flip the correct circuit breaker back on. Or, plug in the cable to restore power.
Check Your Handiwork
Give the heater a few hours, then check the water to see if the reset worked. If it did, great – the nice, relaxing bath or shower is back on the schedule. If not, you might have a more complex issue that requires a professional’s assistance.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Does It Take An Electric Water Heater To Reset?
Usually, it takes an electric water heater about 60 to 90 minutes to work as it should after a reset. However, it depends on the size of the water tank.