Electrical Water Heater Breaker Tripping | Read Why

Electric water heaters keep your water hot for running your dishwasher/washing machine, including tub water and shower water fine to use.

If your water heater keeps on shutting off, you will have to troubleshoot the problem. Having a good and basic understanding of how this equipment works is the very first step.

Note – It is essential for getting/detecting the source of the problem and contacting the expert who can determine the cause of the exact issue and troubleshoot it.

Causes of Water Heater Breaker Tripping

Bad Thermostat

Water heaters have a limit switch that keeps your water temperature from exceeding 180 degrees. Whenever water reaches 180 degrees, the limit switch trips off. It helps to protect you from getting scalded or burned by excessively hot water.

The cause of the switch tripping is a bad thermostat. Water heaters (having two elements) have two thermostats – one for every element each. Thermostats interact with each other to ensure that only one element is heated at one time.

Whenever it goes bad, they get stuck in the ON position, and this causes one or both heating elements to remain ON and heat water continuously.

If the water heater has two elements as most electric water heaters do, both elements staying ON can overload the circuit. The circuit will draw excess current and get hot, which causes a breaker in the breaker box for tripping.

Solution:

You have to test thermostats with a multimeter. Ensure that the power to the water heater breaker is OFF. Disconnect all wires from the thermostat (also mark it, so you know where they connect) and check the thermostat for resistance. It must not have ohms (it must display infinity or open) for a normal open(NO) thermostat and close to zero ohms for a closed (NC) thermostat.

You will have to replace bad thermostats. However, most recommendations go to replace the heating elements at the same time when replacing thermostats.

Burned Heating Element

The heating element of the water heater is the one that heats up your water. Your heating element may experience short due to metal casing cracks or live wires of elements exposed to water.

If there is a short in your heating element, power will continue to flow in the element even after the thermostat turns off. Thus, your heating element will continue to increase the temperature of water in a tank until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit. And at this temperature, your reset button will get tripped to prevent water from getting hotter for safety reasons.

Solution:

You need to test the heating element with a multimeter and remove wires from it. Turn Off the water heater and test across points where wires attach to the element. Then, contact an expert to replace the bad heating element of your water heater.

Loose Electrical Connections

Loose electrical connections are always dangerous. The high resistance of loose wire produces a considerable amount of heat that can cause fire ultimately.

If your heating elements and the thermostat works appropriately, a lousy wire connection may be the issue. Heat generation from loose wiring can lead to a switch to trip.

The thermostat needs to be installed flush with the tank, i.e., firmly attached, to read out temperature accurately.

Solution:

If your professional plumber has checked the water heater and everything seems fine, you need to contact an expert electrician to check loose electrical connections.

Water Leakage

If leakage occurs in a water heater, such as via a failing gasket for the heating element, it may contact electric components and trip the water heater breaker. It might be hazardous and can lead to severe electric shock.

Solution:

If you find that the breaker is not yet tripped and there is a leakage, turn OFF the breaker immediately and get it repaired as soon as possible.

Voltage/Power Problem

If your breakers are ON, the voltage must be about 110/120 V or 220/240 V based on the mode. If there is no voltage, there is a need for checking and testing.

Also, if your heater is ON, there will be a constant supply of power. If there is an absence of power and voltage, there is a need to check and repair.

Solution:

Use a voltage tester to check whether there is any voltage at the input terminals of the upper heating element. If you find there is no voltage, the house’s electrical system must be checked or replace the thermostat.

If no power is found, check the main switch, whether it is ON/OFF, fuse blown, or a trip-in circuit breaker.

Bad Reset Button

Like all other parts of the water heater, the reset button goes through wear and tear that can affect performance or cause the breaker to trip irrespective of water temperature. If you find that the water heater’s reset button keeps on tripping, the issue may be with the button.

Solution:

Seek the help of an expert to replace it as the reset button is also part of the thermostat.

ThermoCouple/Dirty Pilot Light

If you are not regularly maintaining your heater, it might cause the pilot to remain dirty for staying lit. Hence, regular cleaning will ensure it’s in top condition and does not have buildup from grime.

There is an adjustment knob present on the heater’s pilot light that increases or decreases the flame’s size.

If there is no receiving of electric current, the thermocouple detects the pilot light is lit or not. If there is no sense of heat, the thermocouple makes the assumption that the pilot is OFF and shuts the gas supply down to burners.

Solution:

If it is dirty, then there is a need to clean and maintain it to ensure it is working appropriately.

Broken Electric Current Source

An electrical outlet is the core part of the electric system of the heater. It leads electricity towards the rest of the unit. It may be the cause of the heater that keeps turning it OFF sometimes. Thus, the broken outlet can also be a severe problem.

Solution:

If you hear a cracking or buzz sound when the heater is turned ON, all you need to do is turn it OFF because this situation can lead to a short circuit or explosion. Hence, contact the electrician sooner.

Final Words

There is no fun talk when the water heater keeps on tripping the breaker. It can lead to dangerous or severe damage to you or your house. Thus, check out the reasons behind the tripping of the water heater with its troubleshooting solutions.