Electric Water Heater Repair: Common Problems Experienced

January 16, 2019
man doing maintenance on water heater

There are different options for powering your water heater. Electric water heaters have gained immense popularity in recent years. This is because unlike in the past, these are now among the most energy-efficient water heater options. Electricity is also cheaper in most regions compared to gas and can be used all-year-round unlike solar energy. The common issues that plague electric water heaters are related to their wiring or electrical elements.

Only a licensed residential electrician should handle this to prevent deadly fires or scalding in your Woodbridge VA home. When an electric current flows through your appliance’s heating element, there is resistance. This resistance is responsible for the generation of heat to warm your water. The precise heat generated and your eventual water temperature primarily depends on your wattage.

Here are the common issues that affect water heating elements:

Dry Firing

Your water heater tank should be filled with water to protect the heating elements. Exposure of the elements to even the smallest pockets of air when the water falls below a certain level causes dry firing. In dry firing, the elements become extremely hot and their copper sheathing is damaged beyond repair. They are also deformed and easily bent. Moreover, their plastic sheaves are melted in the process. If your heating elements are dry fired, replacing them is the only solution.

Voltage Spikes

This issue arises from a power surge or lightning. A voltage spike is generally evidenced by a split or swollen sheath, or black soot on the element’s head. If not addressed adequately and promptly, the spike will also affect other electrical appliances in your home.

checking the meter of the heater

Open Circuits

There are times when your heating elements show no sign of deformation, but the water heater does not work. In most cases, this results from the presence of an open circuit due to a broken filament in the heating element. This calls for the replacement of your heating element but only after an electrician conducts different tests for continuity to verify that this is the real cause of the problem.

Lime Scale Accumulation

This is a common issue in places with hard water. The mineral deposits in the water accumulate on your heating element and act as an insulator, which reduces its efficiency. As a result, minimal heat will be transferred from the heating element to your water. The primary sign of lime scale buildup on your heating element is lukewarm water. If this is your water heater’s issue, periodic draining and cleaning of your water heater’s tank will avert future problems. A plumber might also recommend the inclusion of a water softener to dissolve the minerals in hard water.

You will come across many tutorials on how to repair an electric water heater plagued with the above problems. Other than the risk you expose yourself and your property to, fiddling with the heating element might cause a complete breakdown of your unit. Some heating elements nowadays are resistant to dry firing and lime scale accumulation. The electrician who fixes your water heater can replace your damaged heating element with these types of units to avert future breakdowns.

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