How to Test Hot Water Tank Element Without Removing


When you are not getting the hot water you expect, test the water heater element. Unlike other appliance heating elements, you can test the hot water heater elements without removing the elements from the tank. You will need an ohm-meter to test the elements. Once you test the elements, you will know whether they need replacing or if the issue is somewhere else in the hot water system.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Ohm meter
  • Turn the power off to the hot water heater. The circuit breaker for the hot water heater is in your home electrical panel.

  • Open up a hot water faucet, and allow the water to run until the water is lukewarm or colder. You should test heating elements at or below room temperature. Testing a hot heating element may give inaccurate results.

  • Go to your water heater, and find the two access panel covers that cover the thermostats and the heating elements. The covers usually have an electrical warning label on them. Use a Phillips-head screwdriver to remove the securing screws, and set the access panels out of the way.

  • Locate the upper heating element in the top access. The heating element is above the thermostat, and all you will see is a round disc with two wires attaching to the disk.

  • Set your ohm meter to the X1 or RX 1 scale to measure the continuity of the heating element. Touch each of the ohm meter probes to each of the terminal screws on the heating element. A positive reading indicates a good element. If there is no reading, the element is faulty.

  • Test for a possible short in the heating element with the ohm meter. Touch one ohm meter probe to one of the heating element terminals. Touch the other ohm meter probe to the bracket that secures the heating element. If you get a reading of zero, the element is good. If there is any positive reading on the scale, the element is grounding itself and will require replacement.

  • Test the lower heating element exactly as the upper heating element.

  • Place the access doors back on the water heater tank, and secure them with the screws.

  • Turn the power back on to the water heater.

Tips & Warnings

  • Always turn power off to the water heater before attempting any service or repairs.

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