Water Heater ON/OFF switch question

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by JerryR, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. JerryR

    JerryR Member

    Messages:
    251
    Location:
    Florida
    Are there any issues or concerns if i install a simple double pole wall switch, rated at 30 amps, to turn a 4500 watt element water heater off when home is unoccupied for several weeks?

    30 AMP DP Switch such as this!


    Currently I throw the 25 amp breaker when we leave the property. I am concerned that the breaker is not built to handle the multiple on/off cycles.

    In addition to throwing the breaker when leaving, I turn off water at the main. When we return, I turn on the water main, run the hot water for a minute to confirm the heater water is topped off before putting power to it so I don't dry fire the elements.

    Jerry
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2012
  2. Ted M

    Ted M New Member

    Messages:
    12
    Location:
    Northern New Hampshire
    I've been doing what you do for 25 years. No problem wearing out a CB.

    If we go away for one night or more the water heater CB goes off.

    Also, the well pump is turned off, although it has its own power switch near the captive tank.

    Ted M
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,843
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    If I were to do that, I would use a "pull out" disconnect switch rather than a toggle switch to do it.
  4. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,333
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Put it on a GFI Breaker, and just press the test button, for vacation mode.
  5. JerryR

    JerryR Member

    Messages:
    251
    Location:
    Florida
    If I could find a Squard D, QO, double pole, 25 amp, GFI Breaker it would probably cost as much as a water heater. :)

    Even after pushing the test button, to reset a GFI you would still have to flip it to OFF before resetting. This would not change cycle times.

    Jerry
  6. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,333
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    What you are doing is just fine.

    Make sure you wear the proper PPE for the task...
  7. JerryR

    JerryR Member

    Messages:
    251
    Location:
    Florida
    With my luck, either my wife would throw away the pull out or the dog would eat it when was left out of the panel.

    Pull outs seem to make great sense when servicing equipment rather than using a flip switch, because you can take the pull out with you to prevent accidental activation of the circuit by a bystander.

    Jerry
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2012
  8. JerryR

    JerryR Member

    Messages:
    251
    Location:
    Florida
    Thanks Don,

    Throwing the breaker shouldn't require any special PPE. Replacing it is a different story.

    I think I'll continue to throw the breaker for vacation mode. Worst case, if it fails I have a spare breaker in my spares kit that I could install. Standard breakers are inexpensive, ~$13.

    Jerry
  9. Hackney plumbing

    Hackney plumbing Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,174
    Location:
    Alabama
    I have a toggle switch at my electric water heater in my home. Looks like a regular light switch but a tad bigger. No problems.
  10. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,333
    Location:
    Houston, TX

    Depends on the definition of "Special" PPE.

    Safety Glasses and Gloves are a good place to start. (And a volt meter to double verify, before working)

    All breakers should be cycle tested, but most breaker never see "OFF" and may never see it, because it is not protecting.
  11. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,333
    Location:
    Houston, TX


    What precautions do you need to take to bring the water back up to temperature, So you do not die from Water Poisoning ?
  12. Speedy Petey

    Speedy Petey Licensed Electrical Contractor

    Messages:
    996
    Location:
    NY State, USA
    If throwing the breaker is working for you just keep doing it. There is NO reason to add a switch other than location convenience. Even then, for a vacation home the breaker is still your best bet.
  13. Hackney plumbing

    Hackney plumbing Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,174
    Location:
    Alabama
    I have no idea what your talking about.
  14. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades Master of one

    Messages:
    4,333
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    Stuff growing in the water.

    Does it not ?
  15. Hackney plumbing

    Hackney plumbing Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,174
    Location:
    Alabama
    No problems...why would the switch cause things to grow in my heater? LOL
  16. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    4,067
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    Given that it will cost you more than that to wire in the switch, I think it's a no-brainer.
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,843
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; but most breaker never see "OFF" and may never see it, because it is not protecting.

    Most circuit breakers will NEVER see "OFF" because the house was wired correctly, and there is no "over current" to trip it. By definition, a circuit breaker ONLY trips because of an unusual situation.

    When you pull the block on a pullout disconnect, you do NOT put it where the dog or wife can get to it. You turn it over and put it back in. That way, if you lose it, it is because YOU were a dummy, not the wife. No one will wire a switch for free, but installing a pull out just entails mounting it where the wires come out of the wall, and then connecting the in and out wires to it.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2012
  18. JerryR

    JerryR Member

    Messages:
    251
    Location:
    Florida
    HJ,

    Duh. It's been so long since I saw a "pull out" service disconnect in one of my houses, I now feel like a dummy. :(

    Installing a surface mounted switch box where the wires come out of the wall and reconnecting the BX to the switch in that box is something I can handle on my own.

    For now I will just use the panel breaker. Some day when I get bored I may install a switch.

    Jerry
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2012
Similar Threads: Water Heater
Forum Title Date
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Removed Electric Hot water Heater - Breaker Filler Plate? Mar 6, 2014
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Gas water heater bonding Jan 8, 2014
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Wiring in a 220 circuit for Tankless water heater - Cunduit from behind the wall? Nov 21, 2013
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog Grounding Whirlpool Tub Motor and Heater - Bonding Panel to Electric Water Heater Feb 5, 2012
Electrical Forum discussion & Blog 66 to 50 Gallon Electric Water Heater Problem Dec 30, 2011

Share This Page