Latest Discussions : Plumbing


09:03AM | 03/25/04
Member Since: 03/24/04
1 lifetime posts

We have an electric water heater(Rheem - 50 gallon).The water in our shower starts out hot, but turns cold before the end of our showers.(Approx.1 1/2 mins.)This has just started occuring, what could the problem be?

Jim D

11:30PM | 03/25/04
Member Since: 01/06/01
342 lifetime posts
Ministerswife - hi, based on your brief description of your situation, it sounds like you've got either a bad heating element or a bad thermostat. I'll assume your water heater has two heating elements - an upper and a lower. If you look at the heater and see little access doors near the top and near the bottom, that's where you'd gain access to the elements. Since you have hot water for a short while only, that tells me your upper element is working but your bottom element (or its thermostat) has failed. The bottom element is the one that does most of the heating of the water in the tank - the top element keeps the water warm and doesn't run as much as the lower element. I'd recommend checking both elements anyway.

To test the elements, you'd need a volt-ohmmeter (VOM). You have to turn off the electricity to the heater, switch the VOM to measure OHMS, and touch the leads to the bolts where the wires connect - those bolts are the ends of the element. You want to see a very low ohms reading - less than 25 or so. If you see a very high reading, then your element's bad. You can turn the power back on to the heater after you've checked the elements.

If the element's good, then the thermostat controlling that element has probably gone bad. Of course, checking its setting is the first step. It's normally set at the factory to between 110 - 120 degrees. You could try setting it to its highest setting (use a small screwdriver to turn it) and see if you hear the heater make a noise like a teapot starting to get warm. No noise means a bad thermostat. Some noise could still mean a bad thermostat - you can slowly turn the thermostat back towards the original setting and as soon as you hear the noise stop, check and see where you stopped. Maybe it's gone bad at the "factory" setting but is still good at higher settings. Older posts in this area, and in the "Appliance" or "Miscellaneous" areas, talk to how the upper and lower thermostats should be set...I believe the upper is set slightly higher than the lower but I could be wrong. They should be set properly when the heater left the factory, so you can write down the settings you see on yours to use as a guide if you have to replace either of your heater's thermostats.

Your local "big-box" home improvement stores carry elements and thermostats, as do the local plumbing supply stores. Be sure to take your heater's model number and serial number with you, as it'll allow the sales folks to get you the correct part(s). Replacing the element means draining the water heater down below the level of the element (turn off the incoming water and use the drain at the bottom of the heater), and cutting off the power to the heater before you attempt to remove the element. Once the new element is installed, fill the water heater back up (turn the incoming water back on) BEFORE turning the power back on. Powering up the element without water on it will destroy/severely damage the element. If it's the thermostat, you won't need to drain the heater - just turn the power off, wire in the new thermostat, and turn the power back on.

That's the "Reader's Digest Condensed Version" of what you should/may have to do. A local handyman can do the above troubleshooting easily within 10 minutes and install a new element or thermostat normally within 30 minutes. I hope this is helpful to you - regards! Jim D/Heathsville, VA

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