How To Test A Water Heater Element

100 thoughts on “How To Test A Water Heater Element

  • Awesome vid man. I'm a complete novice with this kind of stuff, but thanks to your vid I've located the defective element in my water heater. Now I just have to hope and pray that my results mimic yours lol.

  • Do the same numbers apply to other heating elements, like a dishwasher (DW) heating element or would a DW element have diff numbers on the multi-meter?  Thanks for all replies.

  • Jamie first thing I did was hit the like button, I appreciate you using a volt meter , close to mine made my understanding alot easier

  • That looks like the wrong size breaker for that heater. 4500 + 4500 = 9000 / 240 = 37.5 so it should be a 40 amp breaker. If both elements come on at the same time it could trip the breaker.

  • Great video. Any suggests on how to remove large amounts of calcium from the water heater itself? I just replaced my bottom element and the bottom of my tank is stuffed with white build up. I live in a hard water area and the tank is only a few years old.

  • I replaced both elements in elec.water heater next day water was too hot I turned temp from 150 to 125 without tripping my breaker off and today after I used all my hot water it won't heat did I mess something up by not turning elec off. I have reset
    An tested elements still no hot water

  • thanks….. even I can understand this video!!!
    ive switched out both elements and the thermostat… STILL no hot water. :/
    today…. i am going to recheck elements.

  • thanks…. but it is not the water heater elements or the thermostat. all checked out ok with the multimeter. found out it is the water heater power box….
    needs replaced :/

  • thanks…. but it is not the water heater elements or the thermostat. all checked out ok with the multimeter. found out it is the water heater power box….
    needs replaced :/

  • My upper element is reading 18 ohms, my lower element is reading 1900 ohms, is there something wrong? I think my lower element is bad.

  • why will my hot water heater not heat up after both elements and thermostats have Ben changed and there is power going to both of them

  • Nice !!!
    WTF !!!
    FIRST befor you touch anything is TEST THE VOLTAGE !!!

    Thats why peoples die !!!
    An elecrician have to learn aboud electric and safety around 4 years !!!
    Thats why you have to call an Servicetechnican to do that job…

  • Jamie Thanks for sharing, It's reayly nice when homeowners share knowledge like this. It saves people time and money,

  • Hi Jamie,

    Informative and helpful video. Thanks! Just an Fyi: Around marker 2:31 you mention that we should see between 10 and 16 oms on the meter's 200 scale across the element's screws. Other sources around the web mention that 10-16 range too. If I'm not incorrect, 10-16 is what you'll see on a working 4500 watt element. If however you have 3500 watt element like my 40 gal Rheem does, a new element will test at 18 ohms exactly. When I first tested my old elements, I was confused why I was seeing 18 on the top element and an open circuit on the (failed) bottom element. After I bought new elements and tested them, that uncertainty was answered.

    The takeaway here is that different wattage elements are going to have different normal resistance ranges across the wire hold down screws. Maybe someone more knowledgeable than I can post the ranges here for other people's benefit.

    Regards . . .

  • It's good you buy a new heating element instead of a new tank. I now lots of people that don't fix, just replace.

    So costly, wasteful and really hard work for nothing….

  • Does a bad heating element causes my hot water to reach temperatures above the selected range and cause the heater breaker trip occasionally?

  • You said the water was "burning hot" which led you to believe something was wrong with the heater. If the element was burned out and the breaker tripped shouldn't the water have been cold? Are you sure that there wasn't a problem with the thermostat sticking on causing the element to fail?

  • Thanks for this video. It helped me identify which element was burned out. Thankfully I even have the exact same multimeter so that part was almost dummy proof for me with the help of your video. I did have to go down to the auto store (O’Reilly’s coincidentally) to get a 38mm socket to break the old element loose. The ‘water heater element wrench’ didn’t quite get the job done. Thanks again!

  • Thanks – followed these instructions to figure out which element was bad on our Rheem Fury. Successfully fixed for $15.99

  • You should be removing the wires connected to the elements before testing. 15-20 ohms is good anything around 10 or below should be changed.

  • Hey mate. Nice video. Thanks for that. I’ve done as you’ve shown and according to my multi meter, everything is fine however I’ve still got no hot water. Would you be able to point me towards any other possible issues? My water heater is a rheem mpi-325. Cheers.

  • So I just had a shower and ran out of hot water before I finished my shower.. not an unusually long shower, not any longer than normal. And it was 4am and I was the only one awake so no one else in the house was using the hot water.. so it wasn't that. It's a large stand up hot water heater like you have in this video too, which should easily be more than enough capacity for one person to have a quickish shower. We had a bad connection to one of the elements about 4 months ago and I fixed that and it started working again so I got out there to test it. Both elements are showing continuity, but they're both testing 18~20 ohms.. you said in your video they should be between 10 and 16, so these two are out of range.. should we see about replacing them? Are they probably going to go bad soon?

  • Just tested both elements, the meter went nuts, into negative at first, then settles on 12. The other 14. Because it went nuts jumping around , isn't that a sign they are bad too?

  • I'm thinking my element needs replacing. I have set my ohms to the lowest setting at 200 and I'm getting a reading of 00.3 and I'm confused with the decimal. When I check to assure that my multimedia is working, I placed both probes together and got a reading of 00.5
    Am I suppose to be multiply this to get a greater number or is it really functioning at only 3 tenths? Thank you.

  • Does it matter if the tank is filled with water could you perform a continuity test , or it should be drained before testing , thank you.

  • So Jamie, I just installed a recirculator pump and recirculator valve into my hot water system. Now all of a sudden, I got no hot water and my tank doesn't seem to be heating after a couple of hours. I'm going to check the heating elements first thing in the morning. But in retrospect, I think that I made the mistake of powering my water heater before it was completely filled with water and before all air was purged. I guess its called "dry firing." Is this a really quick way to ruin both heating elements almost instantaneously??

  • Thank you very much! I am new to using multi-meters and new to fixing hot water heaters. You explained everything so well!

  • Thx for vid. Now, my question is related to resistance over described normal range. I have a 3 element 60 gal hw heater. Top reads 16.5, mid 21, bottom 74. What is that supposed to mean?

  • Be careful with those Harbor Freight Cen-Tech multimeters – I had one that the AC voltage setting stopped working – the DC/ ohm`s , ect still worked – just the AC would not read! Check your meter on a live circuit first!

  • I'm counfused unless the thermostat is bad shouldn't you disconnect the wires from the element because you going to get continuity regardless..

  • Wow I really appreciated this video. Finally someone that was clear, explained the meter. I just smashed the like button. Thank sir. From Clearwater Florida.

  • I'm assuming this water heater is electric being u have 2 heating elements because as far as I know gas units should only have 1.

  • Great video, thanks. I'm thinking mine is going out. Water is warm, but not hot.
    What would a failing one read, ohm-wise?

  • Here are some general rules:The bottom is usually the first to go as it does most of the work, hot water but runs out fast= top element, warm water that last a while = bottom element. If element is in water, it is possible to get a false reading, especially if water has a high iron content and element tube is split.

  • I skipped ahead past the breaker panel and was on the edge of my seat when I seen your fingers nearly touching the wires. Probably lost two years of my life for not watching the start of the video.

  • You mention that when using the multimeter it doesn't matter which probe to which terminal on the element.
    When you put the new element in, does it matter which wires go to which terminal on the element?
    I am about to hook the new one up and after screwing it in….have no idea which way it was originally.

  • Thank you very much for the infomation. Very well done and you have been a huge help. Thank you again.

  • Ok, so something is tripping the reset button and the water is much hotter than what I have the thermostat (relatively new) set for. Using my meter to test the R of the element and setting my meter to 200ohms, there is .5 ohms showing when touching the probes together. So I assume that when i take a reading, the resistance will show .5 ohms higher than what it really is, correct? If that's true and an element tested at 12.5 ohms, then it is actually 12 and the other is 15.3. Even then, both appear to be in tolerance.

    The elements don't show to be shorted.

    So I don't know why the water is hotter than the setting, nor why the reset button is tripping.

  • This video was perfect; both because it used the multimeter I own, and the way you clearly explained it in a way that is easy to grasp. Thanks so much man.

  • Your water was burning hot?
    I hope you tested the thermostat too then, because that's more than likely the reason your element burned out!

  • Paid $200 for a plumber to come and they didn’t even use a multimeter to check the element. They replaced only the bottom one and left. Not 10 minutes after they left, the breaker go out, again no hot water. Had to wait 3 more days. They came back for second time and the guy just acted like it was going to be yet another $200 to replace the top one without even pulling out a multimeter. Next step I am just replacing the top element and going to take out and test the old one .

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