Electric Water Heater trouble shooting..???

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by Randyj, Dec 31, 2006.

  1. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    Anyone know of a site where there is a good electric water heater troubleshooting flow chart? or any other good such of a thing.

    I can check out a water heater's thermostat and elements with no problem but lately have run into a few small single element 30 gal heaters which had been working flawlessly then suddenly they still get hot and deliver hot water for a while but seem to run out very quickly.... my own is one of them! Everything checks out but I run out of hot water 1/2 way thru a quick shower.

    It has a plug where I could possibly add a second element and upper thermostat... thinking about doing it....that would be something new to me.
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    It's winter and the incoming water is colder cooling the tank water faster and talking longer to heat up.
  3. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    I thought of that then questioned why it ran out so quickly.... guess it's just the colder water coming in and very slow recovery time.... think I'm gonna study adding an upper heating element .... never done it before but don't see a serious problem/challenge to it. Any helpful hints appreciated.
  4. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    What is the wattage of the one now?
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    heater

    Some heaters have an active boss for an upper element, but I have seen some where it is a dummy and the heater shell is behind the plub. In any case it will require rewiring, and might not give you much of a difference because it would not turn on until the top of the tank starts to cool down and by that time it might be too late for it to contribute to the water flow.
  6. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    It's a 3500 watt... thinking about cranking up the watts to give quicker recovery.... I wonder if it will handle a 5500 watt element. My switch box on the power pole outside is already overloaded. I'm trying not to invest any more time or money in this dump than absolutely necessary ... trying to get a house built here.

    [​IMG]

    my front yard.... this is why I am building where I am!
    [​IMG]
  7. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Messages:
    89
    Location:
    Renton, WA
    You would need a 30 amp circuit breaker and a 10 gauge conductor to run a 5500 watt element. Some older weak 30 amp breakers will trip with 5500's. Adding an upper element will do nothing for your limited hot water situation. The upper element is simply there to heat a small pocket of water quickly (about the top 1/3 of the tank's capacity) so you don't have to wait 2 hours for hot water to wash hands, etc.

    One alternative would be to wire the heater for simultaneous operation of both elements, but you would need another 30 amp circuit (it voids the UL rating if you do that). Sounds to me like a larger heater may be in order.

    Of course... if gas is available.. go tankless today! ;)
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2007
  8. barrybpdx

    barrybpdx New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    portland, or
    any chance the tube is leaking and cold water is being refreshed closer to the top of the tank?
  9. GoTanklessToday

    GoTanklessToday In the Trades

    Messages:
    89
    Location:
    Renton, WA
    The dip tube could be gone, or as you suggested cracked or half gone. Remember that you only get 2/3 of the capacity of a tank style heater. 30 gallons gives you 20 gallons, or about 10 minutes in the shower with standard 2.5gpm heads. Introduce the much colder water this time of the year, and performance goes nowhere but downhill. Sometimes one needs to turn the stat up a little this time of year, but I never recommend that without the usual "scalding" disclaimer.
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