APR 18, 2018

There are certain things in your home that ought to just work. While there are some systems that you might expect to be touchy, others need to be in good working order around the clock. One such system is your electric water heater, which you might count on for everything from your personal hygiene to accomplishing basic household tasks. If you’re dealing with a finicky water heater, you might ask yourself a simple question – “Why do I keep having to reset my electric water heater?” There are several answers to that question, some of which might cause you a little more stress than others.


There are a number of reasons why your electric water heater might be malfunctioning. Fortunately, most of them are fairly isolated and you should be able to eliminate them one by one as you go through the checklist. Some of these problems are very easy to solve, while others really do require the help of a professional. As you look through these possible causes, don’t overestimate your own skills – it’s always better to get help than to risk causing a bigger problem.


Mechanical devices with a thermostat usually have them available for a number of reasons. While they do a great job of letting you know exactly how the temperature is set, they also tend to work with the other mechanical components to provide a shut-off point for the machine. As far as your electric water heater is concerned, this component actually serves as a way to let it know when to shut off. A good thermostat is one of the most important parts of your electric water heater, but it can be a real annoyance when it stops working.

When your thermostat stops working correctly, it can fail to regulate the temperature in your electric water heater properly. This, in turn, will cause your water to heat up to dangerous levels, which will cause the reset switch to trip. While it might seem like something of an inconvenience to you, your water heater really is saving you from serious problems. Fortunately, this is one of the easiest problems with a hot water heater to diagnose, if not to fix on your own.

Diagnosing an electric water heater isn’t too tough. If you’re handy enough to use a digital multimeter regularly, this is actually going to be simple. Turn off the power to the electric water heater and then use the multimeter to take a reading of the thermostat. If it reads O.L., you’ve got a functional thermostat. If not, it may need to be replaced. Replacement is a little tougher, though, so consider calling an HVAC repair service or a plumber to help you out if you’re not confident in your own skills. Replacing the thermostat isn’t hard on its own, though – it’s the fact that you’re working around electricity that should give you pause. In general, though, those who are savvy enough to test out the thermostat should have all the skills they need to replace the part.


While you do want your water heater to heat up water, there can actually be a fairly major problem if the water continues heating up beyond a safe point. When this happens, most electric water heaters will turn themselves off. This might not seem like it’s terribly useful to you, but you’ll be happy to know that this particular cut-off will allow you to avoid catastrophic failures.

If your water heater is overheating, you’re probably looking at one of several issues. Your hot water heater may, for example, be dealing with some kind of sedimentary build-up in your hot water tank. It’s also possible that you’re looking at problems with your pressure relief valve. Both problems are able to be solved, but it’s important to note that figuring out which is causing the issue may not be easy. This really is one of those situations in which a professional plumber is needed, especially if you aren’t terribly handy with household problems to begin with.

Fixing build-up can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. There are a few different treatments available to break down build-up, most of which are easy enough to use that you shouldn’t have to worry about outside help. If you have a stuck pressure valve, though, you need to be very careful. In that case, the safest and most responsible thing to do is to turn off the unit and get a plumber over immediately. Problems with the pressure valve can lead to failure of the entire unit, so the last thing you want to do is fail at fixing this problem on your own.


Loose wires are the bane of all electrical systems. There’s never a really good reason for a wire to go loose, of course, but this tends to happen all the time. A loose wire very well could be the problem with your electric heating system, though you’ll often need to do a lot of legwork to check to see if the problem really is in the wiring. The good news, though, is that loose wiring is very fixable. The bad news for most is that determining the difference between loose and faulty wiring can be quite hard.

Finding loose wiring is probably the easiest part of dealing with this problem. Turn off the hot water heater and start investigating any wired connections. If anything feels loose, the odds are that it’s the cause of a problem. If you’re able to easily tighten up the connection, there’s a good chance that you can solve the problem without any major help. Unfortunately, though, the fact that the wire is loose isn’t always that easy to tell – and fixing the problem isn’t always something you want to deal with. You will need to try to figure out why the wire is loose before you do anything else.

Loose wiring should only be fixed if you can do so with relative ease. If the wire is loose due to some kind of connection problem, you might be looking at a problem that is beyond your pay grade. If the loose wire looks like it is frayed or in some way broken, it’s probably a better idea to call out a professional than to handle the problem yourself. While you might not think of an electric water heater as something that requires a great deal of electrical knowledge, this is one repair you don’t want to deal with on your own.


The water heater’s element is the part of the system that actually heats the water. At the simplest level, it’s basically a system that passes voltage through a pair of wires in order to cause the temperature in the tank to rise. As might seem obvious, your electric water heater isn’t going to work if the heating element isn’t working correctly. Figuring out whether or not the element is broken is easy, while actually replacing it might require a bit more work on your part.

The troubleshooting part of this process is simple. If you look at the wire terminal, it should be black or burnt. If it’s in bad shape, it’s probably the cause of your problems. While you might need to go through all of the other issues above to figure out if they were the cause of your heating element’s failure, the final step in the process will always necessitate the replacement of this part. It’s the one point of failure that virtually all of the other causes can lead to if they are unchecked, so don’t be surprised to find this problem after you’ve also identified a few others.

Replacing this part is difficult. It does involve draining the heater and doing some quick and decisive work. If you are comfortable with the idea of removing wires from the terminal and then replacing the heating element with a new model, you can do this bit solo. It is, however, not something everyone is going to want to do – especially with the combination of water and electricity in play. Don’t go outside your comfort zone with this repair if you don’t absolutely need to do so. If you’re confident, though, the fix can be quicker than you might think.


As you can tell, identifying why your electric water heater isn’t working isn’t always that easy. There are a few different problems that could be at fault, some of which do require a good deal of effort to fix. Don’t fret if you are dealing with these issues, though – most of them can be fixed and your hot water heater can be returned to normal. If you are dealing with any kind of hot water heater problem and you want to make sure it is fixed correctly, don’t do it on your own – make sure to contact Donley Service Center today.