Troubleshoot for Water Heater Breaker That Keeps Tripping

Posted on: July 13th, 2018 by plumbingcorona No Comments

Do you notice the red reset button on your water heater popping out every now and then? This happens when the water heater is tripping. This may be a puzzle to some homeowners, so let’s take a look at some concerns about water heater tripping.

water heater tripping

Why does my water heater keep tripping?

There are many potential reasons why a water heater would trip, but the most likely reason is that the water heater has gotten too hot. What does this mean and when does the water get too hot?

Normally, anything below 180 degrees would be acceptable, but anything over that, expect the water heater to trip. This means that the reset button or high limit switch would pop out. Why does this happen? It is part of a protection mechanism to prevent you from being burned as you take a hot shower.

However, the main reason why the water would get too hot can usually be traced to a bad thermostat. Electric water heaters have a thermostat for each heating element. These are responsible for controlling the elements to regulate the water temperature as it begins to cool down.

When the thermostat goes bad, it can get stuck and cause the continuous delivery of heat and eventual tripping. How can you check if it is a thermostat problem? A licensed professional plumber can use a multimeter to find out and put in a replacement.

What causes the problem?

There are other causes aside from a bad thermostat like:

  • A short in the heating element causing it to continuously heat the water even if the thermostat has shut off.
  • Loose wiring can also result in water heater tripping because of the improper distribution of electricity.
  • The reset switch itself may be the cause of the water heater tripping because it is malfunctioning.

 

Water heaters are usually plugged into Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI) to protect against bodily harm. It disconnects the current to prevent electrical shock. This is better than circuit breakers because it is activated by currents that is often too small to trip regular breakers.

GFCI trips or ghost trips are often caused by worn out insulation, water, and conductive dusts among others. The leakage current will result in intermittent and unnecessary tripping.

water heater breaker

Troubleshooting Electric Water Heaters

The most common problem encountered by homeowners when it comes to water heaters is that the water is not as hot as it should be. This is commonly resolved by:

  • Reconnecting the power and resetting the thermostat;
  • Flushing the heater to remove sediments;
  • Insulating hot water pipes;
  • Replacing the thermostat or heating elements; and
  • Raising thermostat temperature.

How to repair or replace?

As far as electric tankless water heaters go, the most common part that needs to be replaced is the heating element. This is how you do it:

  1. Check the manual to locate the heating element.
  2. Disconnect the power and water supply to the unit.
  3. Turn on the nearest hot water faucet to siphon out remaining hot water in the system.
  4. Remove the cover to the heating chamber plate to reach the plate and allow the water to drain.
  5. Disconnect the wires of the heating unit and wrap the heating element with a rag.
  6. Remove the nut keeping the heating element in place to remove it.
  7. Put in an exact replacement and make sure that the O-ring is correctly seated.
  8. Turn back the power and water supply to test the heater.

How much does the repair regularly cost?

If the problem is not the breaker, then the repair would focus mostly on the heating element. Replacing a heating element would normally cost around $200 to $300 and must be done by a professional because of the risks involved. A professional would usually charge about $200 to $300 for the two heating elements.

When the cause of the problem is the thermostat, a replacement can be installed by a professional for roughly $150 to $200, inclusive of professional fees. The cost of the part is around $20. Each heating element has its own thermostat control.

If in need to install new tankless water heater

This type of water heater usually goes on a plaster or drywall. The water supply lines should be routed to the water heater with the water utility going into the inlet and the pipe to the outlet. The shutoff valves for both lines should be installed near the unit. It is a good idea to have a pressure relief valve installed as well.

Union fittings can be used to finalize the connections. Turn on the water valve but not the power. Open all the faucets in your home to run water for about a minute. Shut off the valves and remove the inline filter to clean out debris. Replace the filters, open the water supply and turn on the power. Test the unit and check for leaks.

This may sound so easy on paper, but remember, working with water and electricity at the same time is considerably dangerous. That is why it is always suggested to call for a licensed professional plumber when handling water heater repair, replacement, and installations.

WHO & WHERE to find help

You say you don’t know where to find help? Corona Plumbing can provide quality and affordable service for all your plumbing installation, repair, cleaning, maintenance and leak detection needs. Contact them today at 951-444-5639.

Additional Questions

What is the reset button on a water heater for?

The reset button on the water heater is a safety device that shuts off the power to the unit to give the heated water time to cool down before operation can be resumed.

How do you know if you have a bad thermocouple?

Press and hold the gas knob as you put it in pilot while pressing the igniter button. Keep the gas knob depressed for at least 60 seconds after the pilot lights.

If the light immediately goes out when you release the knob, then you have a bad thermocouple. If the pilot stays lit but the burner does not start in five minutes, you have to test the thermocouple.

How much is a hot water heater thermostat?

For the water heater thermostat itself, the cost can be anywhere from $20 to $35 for each. To have this installed, a licensed professional would normally charge about $100 for labor.

How long does it take for a hot water heater to heat up?

The time it takes for a water heater to heat up would depend on its type:

  • Gas – between 30 to 40 minutes for a fully heated water in the tank.
  • Electric – anywhere from an hour to an hour and 20 minutes.
  • Solar – similar to electric, but without backup energy on a cloudy day, it may mean never.
  • Tankless – virtually no heating time required.

All of these of course are average values and can vary depending on the make, model, and manufacturer of the water heater unit.

If you have any questions and want to know which water heater is best for you, let us know.

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