Water Heater Troubleshooting Guide | How to Test Heating Elements with a Multimeter
There are many situations where a homeowner might suspect their electric water heater's heating elements are going bad: the power is on but there’s no hot water or the water isn't as hot as it used to be. Read on to learn how to find, remove, and test the heating elements in an electric water heater using a multimeter.
It’s important to note that only electric water heaters have heating elements. Gas water heaters burn natural gas or propane to heat the water. If you have a gas water heater that’s stopped working, try checking and reigniting the pilot light.
How to Test a Heating Element in a Water Heater
Most modern electric tank-style water heaters have two heating elements: one at the top, and one at the bottom. Old or small electric water heaters may only have one heating element. Water heater elements have a relatively short lifespan. Plus, they can be weakened by mineral deposits in your water supply. To test the heating elements in your electric water heater, you will first need to find them.
How to find your water heater elements:
- Locate the hot water heater’s circuit breaker in your electrical panel and turn it off.
- Find and remove the metal panel(s) attached to the side of your water heater. There should be one panel per heating element.
- Remove the insulation from inside the metal panel. Wear rubber gloves to protect your hands.
- Look for a one-inch-diameter round or hexagonal object, with a plastic plate attached by two screws. That’s the heating element.
Now that you’ve located the heating element, you can test it. Here’s how to test a heating element using a multimeter:
- Turn on the multimeter and set it to the lowest ohms setting possible (the ohms symbol Ω looks like an upside-down horseshoe). This setting will allow the multimeter to measure the amount of resistance in the heating element.
- Loosen one of the heating element screws and detach the wire from it (it doesn’t matter which).
- Touch one of the multimeter probes to the loosened screw. Touch the other probe to the other screw attached to the face of the heating element.
- If the heating element is functioning properly, the multimeter should read between 10 and 30 ohms. If there is a very low reading or zero reading, the heating element isn’t working and must be replaced.
- If your water heater has two heating elements, check the second element in the same manner.
- Reattach the wires, replace the insulation, and reattach the metal cover panels.
If the heating elements appear to be in good working order but you’re still having hot water issues, it’s time to call your local Mr. Rooter for expert assistance.
Call Mr. Rooter for Heating Element Troubleshooting and Replacement
Licensed plumbing professionals from your local Mr. Rooter can replace a faulty heating element in your electric water heater to make sure you have hot showers to look forward to. Give us a call today or schedule an estimate.