How to Troubleshoot a Whirlpool Electric Hot Water Heater

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There are several problems that can arise with a Whirlpool electric hot water heater. There may be no hot water in the house at all. Often there is some hot water available, but it runs out quickly. In some cases the water is too hot. At times people see puddles or hear popping sounds near water heaters. Other conditions cause the water from a water heater to smell bad. Troubleshoot any electric water heater that displays one of these conditions.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Slotted screwdriver
  • Voltage tester
  • Work gloves
  • Rubber sole work shoes
  • Check for leaks from the tank. There is no fix for a water heater with a leaking tank. It must be replaced.

  • Check the breaker to be sure power is on for the water heater. It is necessary to check the working condition of a water heater with power supplied to the unit. Put on rubber sole work shoes and be sure the floor near the tank is completely dry.

  • Unscrew the cover plates on the upper and lower access panels with a Phillips head screwdriver. Put on work gloves to remove the insulation cut-outs.

  • Check the limiter switch. Some problems will cause the heat limit switch to trip and cut power to the unit. Press the "Reset" button to restore power. Continue testing to find the problem that tripped the switch.

  • Troubleshoot water heaters that put out cold water. Check the power running to the upper element. If the voltage tester shows power, but the element is not heating, then the element is bad. If there is no power coming to the element, then the thermostat has failed and must be replaced.

  • Troubleshoot water heaters giving warm water or small amounts of hot water. Check the temperature setting. Adjust the setting with a slotted screwdriver if necessary. Set the temperature between 110 and 125 degrees F. Check the cold intake tube and fastener ring. If cold water is pouring into the upper tank it reduces the output temperature. Make sure both thermostats are pressed firmly against the tank. Check the power at the upper thermostat connection terminals that transfer power to the lower thermostat. If the tester shows no power at these terminals, then the upper thermostat is faulty. If power registers, then test the terminals at the lower element. If no power shows, the lower thermostat has failed. If there is power but no heat at either element, then that element is bad.

  • Troubleshoot a water heater that puts out overly hot water. Check the temperature set screw. It should not be set above 125 degrees F. If the temperature is properly set, then one of the thermostats is to blame. Check for power at both elements. Any element that is getting power while the water is too hot has a faulty thermostat.

  • Correct the problem of popping sounds. Elements that have mineral build-up make popping sounds when they are working. Drain the tank and shut off power and water supply to the unit before removing an element to clean or replace it.

  • Get rid of bad odors in hot water. Magnesium anode rods cause bad smells when exposed to some of the minerals common in tap water. Drain the tank, shut off the power and water supply and clean the tank thoroughly with bleach water. Replace the anode rod with one made of aluminum.

Tips & Warnings

  • Many water heaters guarantee all parts for the first 6 years and labor is covered for the first year. If your unit is having problems in the first year, call the manufacturer and ask for service.
  • Never test electrical connections while standing in water.

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