No Hot Water: Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting

Hi. This is Wayne from Sears Parts Direct.
Today we’re going to provide some troubleshooting tips for an electric water heater that is
not heating. Of course, the first thing to check is the
power source. An electric water heater needs 240 volts of
power to heat water. Check both house circuit breakers for the
water heater. It’s often hard to spot a tripped breaker.
We recommend that you shut off both breakers for the water heater and then turn them back
on. If a breaker was tripped, this will reset it. This will likely restore power, unless
you have a problem with the electrical supply itself, which should be addressed by a qualified
electrician. If you reset the circuit breakers and they
immediately trip again, then you likely have a broken and shorted heating element. Click
here to skip to the section of this video about checking the heating system inside the
water heater. If your circuit breakers don’t trip right
after you reset them, wait 30 minutes for the water heater to recover and check for
hot water. If you’re still not getting any hot water, you may need to reset the hi-temperature
limit switch on the upper thermostat. You won’t get any hot water if that limit switch
is tripped. Shut off the house circuit breakers for your
water heater. Remove the upper heating element cover to
access the hi-temperature limit switch. Press the red button on the switch to reset
it then reinstall the cover. Turn the circuit breakers back on and check
to see if the water heater is heating normally. Even if resetting the limit switch solves
your problem, you may not be out the woods yet. You’ll need to monitor your water temperature
for overheating. The hi-temperature limit switch tripped for a reason, likely because
you have a shorted heating element or defective thermostat causing the water to overheat.
You’ll need to resolve overheating problems to prevent scalding. Water temperature should
never exceed 120 degrees. If the water overheats after resetting the
hi-temperature limit switch, view this video for troubleshooting tips to resolve that problem.
So far, we’ve tried resetting the circuit breakers and resetting the hi-temperature
limit switch on the water heater. If you’re still not getting any hot water,
we’ll need to check the power supply wiring. Shut off the house circuit breakers for your
water heater. Make sure you cut off the correct circuit breakers for the water heater. If
the power is connected, it could shock or kill.
Remove the cover to the junction box that houses the power supply wiring. Make sure
that none of the wires are loose and all wire nuts are tight enough to make secure connections.
Reconnect any loose wires then reinstall the cover.
Turn on the house circuit breakers and check to see if you’re getting any hot water now.
If that didn’t solve the problem, we’ll need to check the heating system inside your
water heater. For this test, we’ll be using a multi-meter
to check for continuity, which will confirm that power is making it to all of the internal
components. If you don’t have a multi-meter, you can find one at Sears
Shut off the house circuit breaker for the water heater before performing these checks.
Never attempt to check continuity with the power connected.
First we’ll check for a short circuit to the water heater cabinet. You’ll want to
check this, especially if your circuit breaker trips as soon as you reset it.
Access the power supply wiring again. Remove the wire nuts to access the water heater
supply wires, which will lead directly in to the water heater cabinet.
Set the multi-meter to measure ohms of resistance. Measure the resistance from the black wire
to the bare metal on the junction box. Repeat the same test with the red wire.
You should see a “1” appear in the far left corner of the meter during these short
circuit tests, indicating “no continuity.” If you measure a resistance reading during
this test, then damaged wiring or a broken electrical part is touching the metal cabinet
and causing the short circuit. Do not restore power to the water heater until you find and
repair the damaged wire or the broken electrical part. A short circuit can shock you if you
touch the metal cabinet with the power connected. Next, we’ll check the upper element heating
system, by measuring the resistance through the supply wiring. The upper element heating
system consists of the hi-temperature limit switch, the upper thermostat, the upper heating
element and the wires that connect those electrical parts. Since all of these components create
a complete circuit, if we don’t have continuity here, we’ll know that the problem is in the upper
half of the water heater. Touch one meter probe to the black wire and
the other probe to the red wire. You should measure around 13 ohms of resistance
through the upper element heating system. If you measure 13 ohms of resistance, then
your upper element heating system is probably okay. Click here to skip ahead and check the
lower heating element system. If you find continuity through the upper heating
system, we’ll need to check the individual parts to find the break.
With the power still disconnected, remove the upper heating element cover and check
the resistance for the upper heating element. Place one meter lead on each of the two screws.
You should measure about 13 ohms of resistance. If you measure “no continuity”, drain
the tank and replace the broken heating element. Here’s a video that will show you how.
If the heating element is okay, we’ll check the upper thermostat next. This thermostat
turns the upper heating element on and off to maintain hot water temperature. An electrical
switch inside the thermostat activates the element. If the switch is broken, the element
won’t heat. At room temperature, the switch should be “on” to supply power to the heating
element. Refer to a wiring diagram for your water heater
to determine which terminals to check. Many water heaters have a sticker on the cabinet
or you can usually find one in your owner’s manual. On this water heater, the thermostat
switch is between terminals 1 and 2. Touch one meter probe to terminal 1 and the
other probe to terminal 2. You should measure near zero ohms of resistance.
If you measure “no continuity,” then replace the thermostat. Here’s a video that shows
you how. The last component in the upper element heating
system to check is the hi-temperature limit switch.
This wiring diagram shows us that the hi-temperature limit switch opens contacts between terminals
1 & 2 and between terminals 3 & 4 when it trips because the water is too hot.
Touch one meter probe to terminal 1 and the other probe to terminal 2.
You should measure near zero ohms of resistance. Repeat that process for terminals 3 & 4.
If you measure “no continuity,” then the hi-temperature limit switch is broken. You’ll
need to replace the whole upper thermostat because the limit switch is part of the thermostat.
If you’ve checked all of the parts in the upper heating system and you still haven’t
found the break, then you know it’s gotta be in the wiring. Carefully examine the wiring
for loose connections. Reconnect any loose wires and repair any broken wires that you
find. If your upper heating system is ok, then we’ll
check the lower heating system. According to our wiring diagram, we can check continuity
through the entire lower heating system circuit by measuring resistance through terminal 4
on the upper thermostat and terminal 4 on the hi-temperature limit switch.
Touch one meter probe to terminal 4 on the upper thermostat and the other meter probe
to terminal 4 of the hi-temperature limit switch. You should measure about 13 ohms of
resistance through the whole lower element heating system; that lets you know all lower
heating system components are working. You’ve now eliminated all possible failures
except one. The upper thermostat has a transfer switch which alternates power between the
upper heating element and the lower heating element so both heating elements in the tank
never heat at the same time. When the upper thermostat senses that water in the top of
the tank is hot enough, the transfer switch shifts power from the upper system to the
lower. If the transfer switch in the upper thermostat breaks, the lower heating element
won’t get power. You’ll need to replace the whole upper thermostat because the transfer
switch is a component of that part. Now, if on the other hand, you measured an
open circuit when checking the lower element heating system, then you’ll need to check
the individual parts of that system. The lower heating system is similar to the
upper, but only has a thermostat and heating element.
We’ll check the lower heating element first. With the power disconnected, access the lower
heating element to check continuity. You should measure about 13 ohms of resistance. If you
measure an open circuit, drain the tank and replace the heating element.
If the heating element is okay, we’ll check the lower thermostat.
On the lower thermostat, there are only two terminals. Put the meter probes on either
side. You should measure near zero ohms of resistance.
If you measure an open circuit, then replace the thermostat.
If you can’t find any breaks in the lower heating system, then the problem has got to
be in the wiring. You’ll need to repair it before the water heater will work correctly.
Well I hope this video helped you out today. Be sure to check out our other videos and
if you like them, subscribe!

82 comments on “No Hot Water: Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting”

  1. TK W says:

    What if there's power, the elements have been replaced, the t-stat has been replaced, the limit switch is pushed, the breaker has been replaced…we did ALL the things mentioned here. No hot water. 🙁 Thoughts?

  2. Robert Stinson says:

    Very helpful! Thank you.

  3. Don Davis says:

    Thanks for doing this video. Very easy to understand. Saved me a number of $$$ by following your instructions.

  4. Pat Lawler says:

    You mentioned that the final problem could be the transfer switch in the upper thermostat.  Was there a test for that?  You just said if it was bad then replace the upper thermostat.

  5. nvsbl2 says:

    This is amazing. I'm not good at fixing anything, and this was so helpful! I can't afford to hire someone, and this little old lady has been taking cold showers for a week! Only suggestion I have is…..shave off the beard. You'd look so much better. No offense.

  6. Ed Waggoner Sr. says:

    Great video.

  7. Olansky says:

    best tutorial ever, thanks sears

  8. Centaur says:

    I couldnt find any breaks. Still cant figure out what's wrong.

    I also tested continuity with 1 & 4 and 2 & 4 or the upper thermostat switch and got a reading of 27 ohms. Not sure if that's a problem.

  9. Centaur says:

    Home come other videos say you have to isolate the circuit by disconnecting the wires?

  10. Mark Geers says:

    Best self help water heater video out there. Thank you!!

  11. Rick Vickers says:

    New upper thermostat. The only thing I get different from the video is both elements, with wires disconnected, read 15 ohms. Circuit breaker trips after being on for 5 minutes. Could the breaker be bad???

  12. PBS #007 says:

    great video thanks

  13. PBS #007 says:

    do you have more videos ??

  14. Ron Dom says:

    THANK YOU …I watched at least 10 videos that were a waste of time & should be taken down from Youtube… I found bad Hi temp limit switch so I have the whole upper thermostat on order…

  15. FarginBastiges says:

    Great video. He reminds me of Hiwayne Suggs.

  16. Johnnie Norton says:

    This the best video out there. Didn't have to disconnect anything in order to troubleshoot problem. Just used multimeterlike he instructed problem solved. I am downloading this video for personal reference.

  17. 357 Mag Guy 2015 says:

    You are pretty awesome!! This was a great video and so easy to follow. Thanks very much. I just subscribed!! 🙂

  18. Chas Burns says:

    Mr. Wayne, I have same meter. Should the ohms be set at 200 for continuity? and I also noticed your lead placement on the meter was different from mine, does it matter? Thanks

  19. terry mccutcheon says:

    thank you

  20. Tom Ford says:

    Most accurate and detailed explanation I have seen yet. Thank you very much.

  21. Tim Edwards says:

    I have cold water kitchen and bathroom everything I've checked everywhere I know to the heater is working it has water in tank it's getting hot just no water going through the lines the line is not busted or cracked can someone help me figure out what's going on please

  22. frederick martin says:

    Great video

  23. Ben Suazo says:

    Odd that my heater elements show continuity but not 30ish ohms. New one is the same. What am I missing?

  24. Ruben DelaRosa says:

    the best video I like how this guy explain it very very good GREAT VIDEO

  25. Anne Yant says:

    Great video… best I've seen! Thank you for the clear, efficient presentation! I followed your instructions, and was quickly able to fix my water heater!!!

  26. Gabino Flores says:


  27. Gregorio Lozano says:

    Very helpful video. Didn't have to go past the first few steps to fix mine.

  28. Mark McPeak says:

    First mistake……not ALL water heaters are 240v…..although they are rare. I have a 120v. It is a 25 gallon for a small home. I'd say if you can't tell the diff from the wiring or volt check……hire someone who can.

  29. josephine thorn says:

    this guy is awesome.. best video ive watched on water heater repair out of 20!

  30. CM Vlogs says:

    It takes a YouTube video to get me to check the breakers lol. Feeling like a dumbass looking up how to bleed the heater

  31. palani vel says:

    Super sir

  32. Angelique Stidhum says:

    DANG! This guy is a BOSS at doing instructional videos!!!! They waste ZERO time , GREAT EDITING! I want to meet this guy. I'm subscribing and I don't even care if I need what he's teaching or not. lol

  33. Ralph Bruget says:

    thank you mr repairman !!!

  34. Shoemaker Levy9 micxz says:


  35. Isael Mercado says:

    great job, you sir are one of the BEST. GOD BLESS.

  36. twodogs716 says:

    Hot water coming out much less, whether by single or double knob control.
    Low pressure? Cold comes gushing out like normal.
    Anyone know what the PROBLEM might be?

  37. martin mcdermott says:

    excellent video wayne, well explained

  38. Brandon DPersonal says:

    This was EXACTLY what I needed. Thanks for being clear and to the point. My thermostat is bad.

  39. Stephen McDonald says:

    Thanks Sears I was able to repair my water heater by following your every move. This just saved me a $150. Service charge, minus repair fees.

  40. Man on the street says:

    My hot water heater turns off every few days. I push the reset button, and get hot water. After a couple of moths of resetting, I am wondering if my water is set too high, and when it gets too high, it turns itself off?

  41. Diana Silva says:

    my circuit breakers are not clearly marked. water heater sounds hollow. feels light too. pump for water has been out for a while. what next? I heard a fan like sound coming from it. I don't want it running if it is empty.

  42. SharpTheDemon says:

    Best video I've seen on this.

  43. Alex Alvarado says:

    Great video i live in a apt and have trouble getting maintenance out here but now I know what to do thanks

  44. ejaz ahmed says:

    just watched this video and fix my water heater. thanks you save my time and money.. bless you

  45. Rafael Armijos says:


  46. Gary Jackson says:

    this video is very detailed, step by step and easy to understand!! so much better than others I found which were confusing and left out important details,,,,,,,kudo's sears!!

  47. John L. says:

    SEARS/Wayne: We're a couple of days from hosting Thanksgiving visitors and the water heater stopped working; this excellent presentation lead me thru a methodical checkout of our water heater; fortunately, I got off with just resetting the internal breaker [maybe something going out??]. All I know is, water is heated and my wife is glad that i can shower. Thank you for this public service.

  48. rafa baraja says:

    Very nice vid dude I hope your alive and well still fixing people's things your vid helped this upcoming plumber of 7 years experience!!! Always learnin

  49. Sandram Pillay says:

    Thank you for this excellent tutorial. Will be referring to it to complete my project.

  50. Curtis Wallace says:

    Who the hell would give this a thumbs down? Very nicely done easy to follow video

  51. Mike2014 says:

    Mine was the BOTTOM HEATING ELEMENT. It tested BAD – 8.5 instead of 13 on the bottom heating element. I tested the bottom heating element because I got a bad read when testing 4 – 4 (Terminal 4 of the upper thermostat & terminal 4 of the Hi-temp limit switch). The bad read was 8.5 which is exactly what I got when I tested the bottom heating element. The symptoms was our circuit breaker would trip for our water heater only 1 or 2 times a week. When I switched the circuit breaker back on it would run fine for 4 or 5 days before getting tripped again.  Thank you for the tremendous help!

  52. Jim Caplinger says:

    Really comprehensive… but he didn't mention broken dip tube. I've read that can also be an issue, is that correct?

  53. Jovie G says:

    Thank you 👏👏👏👏👍💖💖💖

  54. Sergio Casillas says:

    I agree with all the comments that this is a great video. I'll add, if anyone has the same issue I did with a failing thermostat reset button not resetting, replace the thermostat. That fixed mine even though I had good resistance at all troubleshooting points. That was the only thing missing in this video.

  55. Henry Graterol says:

    Wow! Great video. Thank you!

  56. A Font says:

    I have little hot water, I'm getting e07 code. I changed the lower sensor. Still eo7, I changed the thermostat, still e07. I changed the lower heating element. Still e07, I dont know what else to do. I have power

  57. Deborah viner says:

    it says element on the front does anyone know what this indicates

  58. Deborah viner says:

    hi it says element, in tiny letters, no hot water and digital display keeps reading E04 , which research on line says it's the upper heating element , have reset the red button that's suppose to bypass the temp cap, no luck turned off the power than back on still no hot water , at this point i've purchased upper and lower heating elements and gaskets and the tool to remove them from amazon, hoping that online advice for my whirlpool model is correct and the whole after heater isn't shot, model number is whirlpool=
    this comment is in answer to a precious comment

  59. Larry Hutcherson Sr says:

    I really liked this video. It clearly covered just about every contingency. It also explained everything in clear detail. Thanks for the being thorough.

  60. Rhakeila Fullard says:

    Jeeeesus wish you could do every tutorial on YouTube your so descriptive shout out to you man😎👏👏👌

  61. gabriel biggs says:

    Thank you so much for this video. I fixed my water heater in 5 minutes!

  62. ChristianTRP says:

    When I want to take a shower in the daytime it once but when I take a shower at night time it was so cold

  63. Jerry Pollitt says:

    Is there any way to check dip tube

  64. Tim Koontz says:

    Excellent teacher! This technician knows exactly what he's doing and succinctly explains the diagnostic procedure. Thank you Wayne! 👍👍

  65. Hercules Skinny says:

    Detailed explanation, thank you

  66. uptownj15 says:

    Years later this helped me diagnose my issue. Thanks Sears

  67. Mara Schack says:

    Previous YouTube videos were not successful in helping me diagnose the problem. Your video is well done and helped me diagnose and fix the problem, thank you!

  68. Petersen Salas says:

    Thank you sir….great info… great vid..

  69. felix Larios says:

    Man this guy is the best.. I was looking for a video that can take me threw step by step. And with this video I found my problem. Awesome guy.. thanks

  70. Rob Plotts says:

    All do it yourself vids should have this guy explaining the details. I completely understood everything well done

  71. marcelorsc1 says:

    Excellent video, thank you!

  72. garfield lawrence says:

    I wish that guy was my neighbor..

  73. pinetarsoap says:

    Great beard….. just like Ronnie Drew <3

  74. Jared Johnson says:


  75. Josue Martinez says:

    Thanks it was very helpful I got my water heater working again thanks again

  76. kimmilil says:

    thank you so much . I fixed it myself 🙂

  77. r schlade says:

    wow! unbelievably thorough, thank you!

  78. ronald chong says:

    great video. thanks so much for this exceptional troubleshooting procedure and explanation. the high temp limit switch tripped on mine. i will monitor it and replace both thermostats if it trips again.

  79. Nudman says:

    You just solved my problem. Much Thanks!

  80. Jose Alberto Castro says:

    replace the entire kit and it still does not work help please !!!

  81. Dennis Heaton says:

    Incredible video, I thought it may be much more complicated than this. Found a bad upper thermostat and bad lower heating element (hot water lasted about 3 minutes!) Time to hit the hardware store for parts!

  82. Paul Secrest says:

    Mine keeps flipping my breaker.

  83. kumbackquatsta says:

    ht limit switch reset button won't click. does that mean it hasn't popped or does it mean the switch is faulty and needs replacement?

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