How to Test an Electric Hot Water Heater Thermostat


There are few things more annoying than stepping into a cold shower because there is no hot water. The electric hot water heater has two thermostats controlling two separate heating elements. A multimeter will be necessary to test the thermostats to determine which one is faulty. Once you have determined the faulty thermostat, you can replace the thermostat and have your hot water heater working again.

How to Test an Electric Hot Water Heater Thermostat
(Eric Ferguson/Demand Media)

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Flat head screwdriver
  • Multimeter
Step 1

Turn the water heater circuit breaker off inside the home electrical panel.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media
Step 2

Remove the upper and the lower access panels with a Phillips head screwdriver. The access panels are on the side of the electric hot water heater and usually have an electrical warning label attached to them.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media
Step 3

Pull away any insulation that is covering the thermostat and the heating element. Be careful not to pull any wires while moving the insulation.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media
Step 4

Use a flat head screwdriver to turn the temperature setting to the highest setting on the upper thermostat. Set the scale on a multimeter to the RX1 setting.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media
Step 5

Place one probe on the left screw terminal with the white wire and one probe on the terminal directly above the white wire. The reading on the multimeter should show zero. Any other reading on the multimeter indicates a faulty thermostat.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media
Step 6

Set the upper thermostat to the lowest setting using the flat head screwdriver. You should hear a click from the thermostat during this process. Place one probe on the terminal above the white wire on the other probe on the terminal that the black wire connects. Again, the reading on the multimeter should be zero.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media
Step 7

Leave the upper thermostat in the lowest setting and test the lower thermostat. Use the screwdriver to set the lower thermostat to the highest setting. Touch one probe of the multimeter to each terminal on the lower thermostat. The lower thermostat has only two terminals. The reading on the multimeter should be zero.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media
Step 8

Replace the faulty thermostat and place the insulation back over the thermostats and the heating elements. Replace the access panel covers securing the covers with the retaining screws. Turn the circuit breaker back on to the electric water heater.

Eric Ferguson/Demand Media

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Tips & Warnings

  • Always disconnect power from electrical appliances before attempting repairs.


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