How to Test Water Heater Circuit Breakers

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Water heaters fall into the group of major home appliances, in that they require 220 volts of electricity to operate. The higher voltage is needed to run the two heating elements (one at the top and one at the bottom) in the water heater. The circuit breaker for a 220-volt appliance will be a larger double-pole breaker. Using a multimeter will help you determine if the circuit breaker is functioning properly in both the off and on positions.

Things You'll Need

  • Screwdriver
  • Multimeter (Digital or Analog)
  • Locate the main service panel in the house, which is usually located in the garage or utility room. Identify the water heater circuit breaker by following the labeled guide just inside the service panels door. The circuit breaker will be a large double pole (meaning one large switch connecting two poles/switches together).

  • Remove the screws in each corner of the cover panel, using the screwdriver. Set the cover panel and screws aside, using care to not touch any of the internal wiring.

  • Turn the multimeter on and rotate the selector dial to point at the 220 Volt AC (Alternating Current) setting.

  • Verify the breaker is turned off, as the breaker switch will be pointing to the labeled "off" side.

  • Touch the red test probe to the red wire connected to the breaker, and the black test probe to the black wire connected to the breaker. The reading on the meter should be zero. If there is any other reading on the multimeter, the breaker is faulty and will need to be replaced.

  • Turn the circuit breaker to the "on" position. Once again, touch the red test probe to the red wire connected to the breaker, and the black test probe to the black wire connected to the breaker. The reading on the meter should be 220 volts. If the meter reads anything else, the circuit breaker is faulty and will need replacing.

  • Replace the cover panel door and secure it by tightening the screws with the screwdriver. Turn the multimeter off.

Tips & Warnings

  • You can purchase a multimeter at your local hardware store or electronics store.
  • Do not touch the metal ends of the test probes while you are testing the circuits as this could lead to accidental shock or electrocution.

References

  • Photo Credit multimeter image by dinostock from Fotolia.com
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