8 Steps to Fixing Your Electric Hot Water System

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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The water heater in your home is either electric-powered or gas-powered. Truthfully, there isn’t much difference between electric hot water systems and their gas counterparts.

Both units are shaped the same and use insulated jackets made from steel. Between this steel and the tank is extra insulation to keep the water hot.

Problems with your electric hot water system can be inconvenient. Luckily, we’ve prepared an 8-step guide to fix your electric hot water system.

Fixing an Electric Hot Water Heater

Your electric water heater can be tested if you lose your hot water. Follow this simple checklist to troubleshoot potential problems with your electric hot water system.

1. Go to the Breaker

Locate the breaker that powers your water heater. Flip the door open and turn off the breaker running the water heater’s circuit. The panels should be numbered and labelled accordingly.

2. Access Panel

Go back to the area where your water heater is located. Remove the access panel for the upper heating element on the water heater. This controls the main functions of your electric hot water system.

3. Remove Insulation

Carefully remove the insulation and the plastic safety guard on the water heater. Be careful not to touch any wires or electrical terminals. These could cause injury from electric shock if you accidentally contact the wrong wire.

4. Red Button

Press the red button you see after removing the plastic safety guard. This button is the high-temperature cut-off reset button. The button is located right above the upper thermostat.

5. Replace

After pressing the red button, you can replace the safety guard and insulation. You can also put the main access panel back on the water heater.

6. Circuit Breaker

Return to the circuit breaker that powers your electric hot water system. Turn the breaker back on that you previously set to the off position.

7. Moving Forward

This should the issue you’re having with the water heater. Sometimes that unit just needs to be reset to function efficiently again.

8. Other Issues

If this doesn’t fix your problem, you’ll need to do more testing. Test each heating element on the water heater separately. If any of the elements isn’t functioning properly, you will need to replace them.

Other Potential Issues

A lack of hot water isn’t the only problem you could face with your electric hot water system. Sometimes the water can get too hot to stand. There’s a solution to this problem as well.

  • Repeat the steps you went through in the previous 8-steps, beginning with the circuit breaker.
  • Remove the insulation and access panel to your water heater.
  • Use a voltage tester to ensure that the power to the water heater is off. You don’t want to risk getting shocked.
  • Find both thermostats located on the water heater.
  • These two thermostats should be set at the same temperature. It’s recommended that you set the temperature somewhere between 115 and 125 degrees.
  • Replace all the pieces you removed and turn the breaker back to the on position.

Water Leaks

If you leak within your electric hot water system, there’s a solution to this problem. You’ll have to drain the tank completely and shut the power off.

Find any cracks or holes in the tank and along the lines and repair them with strong bonding material or sealer. Allow the sealer to dry for 24 hours.

Power the circuit breaker back on and reset the water heater. Allow ample time for the heater to refill and test by turning on the hot water knob on your sink or bathtub.

Bad Odour or Rust Coloured Water

Water with a bad odour or a rust colour could be a sign of a corrosion problem in your water heater. There’s a chance you also have corrosion problems in the pipes leading to and from the heater as well.

There is a potential for a bacterial issue in this case. The tank might need to be completely replaced. For this issue, you may have to contact your local plumber to assess the damage.

Depending on the severity of the issue with your electric hot water system, there’s a chance you could remedy the issue yourself. For major technical issues, it’s recommended that you contact a local technician for assistance. They should be able to fix, or they may give you a quote for a new electric hot water system.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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