Why Electric Water Heater Keeps on Tripping?

Posted on: January 26th, 2017 by plumbingcorona No Comments

When it comes to the operation of your electric home water heater, you may experience the possibility of tripping. There are 2 ways that the tripping can occur, one is from the reset switch and the other is from the circuit breaker. Let’s take a look at the reasons why electric water heater keeps on tripping.

Reset Switch

The reset of an electric water heater is a high limit safety thermostat switch. What does this mean? Simply put, it disconnects the power feeding the water heater once the preset temperature is exceeded. It uses a temperature sensing button, which is in direct contact with the metal tank to sense the water temperature. What are the reasons why the reset trips repeatedly?

Defective Thermostat


The reset button would usually keep on tripping if the thermostat is stuck at close. This means that the thermostat allows the element to continuously operate resulting in a dangerous rise in temperature within the tank. How would you confirm this type of problem?

You would need a multimeter to conduct a continuity reading. First, power off the water heater at its service panel and disconnect all the wires going to the thermostat. Place the test probes on the thermostat while it is in the off position. A reading of O.L. means that the thermostat is in good condition. A 0.000 reading however will confirm that it is stuck in the closed position and must be replaced.

Shortened Element

Another reason for the tripping is a heating element that is shorted to ground. This causes the element to also run continuously thereby tripping the reset switch. Disconnect the shortened element and do a continuity reading. Replace the element if you get a reading of 0.000.

Circuit Breaker

Consider this situation, the electric water heater trips the circuit breaker. Naturally, you reset the breaker from the electrical panel. However, after a few minutes, the breaker trips again. This is already an indication that something is wrong. The worst thing that you can do is to keep on flipping the breaker back on. Why? Because this can overheat the wires resulting in a fire. It may also wear out the breaker and damage the water heating unit. What could be causing the problem?

Burnt out heating element – many electric water heaters rely on 2 heating elements. One is at the tops of the unit and the other at the bottom. When the heating elements begin to fail, they will burn out and you would not notice it at once. A telltale sign is that the water temperature is not as hot as it used to be.

There will be instances wherein the casing will split and expose the components directly to water. This creates a short circuit that will result in the tripping of the breaker.

Faulty thermostat – both heating elements are controlled by their respective thermostats. These usually send signals to one another to make sure that only one is functioning at any given time. With a faulty thermostat, you may face a condition where both heating elements are running simultaneously. This draws in more electricity than what the circuit breaker can handle causing an overload, so it trips.

Bad breaker or wiring – another possible reason why a circuit breaker would trip is that the breaker itself may be faulty or worn out. It is also possible that the wiring in the electrical panel has become loose causing the short circuit. Once the water heating unit has been ruled out as the cause of the circuit breaker tripping, you should have the electrical connections checked by a licensed electrician.

One note on circuit breakers, never replace your worn out breakers with a higher-rated one. Increasing the size of the circuit breaker without using the appropriate wiring removes the safety net of the device. This can result in the overheating of the wires and possibly fire.

Always call on licensed professionals when dealing with problems with your water heater.

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