Do you know how to test your water heater element? Before you start spending money on repairs, it is important that you know how to evaluate a heater element first. This way, you will know if the heater works or not. You also get an idea if the heater will work when you need it most.

What Causes A Water Heater Element To Go Bad?

There are several factors that could cause a water heater element to go bad and it could be just one of those things or a combination of them. But the most important thing is that if you know what can cause the problem – you may be able to prevent it before it happens.

Here are 4 things that could cause a water heater element to malfunction.

  • Hard water – minerals in hard water can create a layer over the heating element which makes it more difficult for it to do it’s job of transferring heat to the water
  • Air pockets – if air pockets develop in the hot water tank around the water heater element it will not be able to work simply because it requires water to work
  • Power surges – like most anything electrical – a power surge can cause damage and a water heater and it’s element are no exception
  • Electrical wiring – if an electrical wire has become frayed or been dislodged, it could cause a poor connection to the water heater and the heating element

We recommend that you consult with a professional plumber if your water heater element has gone bad or if you are having chronic problems with it.

How Do You Check To See If A Water Heater Element Is Bad?

First – you will need a multimeter to check your water heater element. This tool is very inexpensive and can be purchased in most any hardware store or Walmart type of stores or online.

Most hot water heaters have two heating elements. Just because one has gone bad or is defective does not mean that both need to be replaced.

IMPORTANT: Shut off the electricity to the hot water heater first!

You’re going to conduct a test on each element in your water heater with your multimeter. Here are the steps:

  1. After you have shut off the power to your water heater – you will then want to remove the panels over your heater elements.
  2. Also remove any insulation and shields that were under those panels as well.
  3. Test your multimeter to make sure it’s working. You can do this by touching both prongs to each other and you should get a reading of about 2.5 ohms.
  4. To double check that you won’t get shocked by your water heater, turn the dial of your multimeter to 750 ACV and place the probes on the top screws of the top panel in your water heater. You should get either no reading or 001. This tells you there is no power coming to the water heater. So you will be safe.
  5. Turn the dial on your multimeter to the lowest ohm setting on your meter.
  6. Touch one probe to one screw of the heating element and the other probe to the second screw of the heating element and hold them there at the same time.
  7. You should get a reading of 10 to 16 ohms.
  8. Then go ahead and repeat the process with the second heating element if you have a second one on your water heater.
  9. Both elements should give you the same numbers – if they do not then something is wrong and you should have a professional plumber come to check them and replace the one that has become defective.

Here’s a video of a quick tutorial on how to test your heating element.

If you have any questions about hot water heater elements or are having some problems with it, call Atlantis Plumbing today at 770-505-8570. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.