Water Heater w/ no heat

Discussion in 'Electrical Forum discussion & Blog' started by smnabilene, Dec 30, 2008.

  1. smnabilene

    smnabilene New Member

    Messages:
    4
    I installed a 60 gal electric water heater on a 30 amp breaker with a 10/2 ground wire into a 4 prong receptacle (black and white on sides ground in cirlce hole; nothing in L-shaped). This matched the cord they old me which is a 4-wire (black, white, green, red). An "electrician" at Lowe's told me to hook up black/black, red/white, green/neutral screw and leave white wire loose. Receptacle reads 240volts. Filled tank with water and plugged in. Both elements are putting off heat. Hot water copper line is warm to the touch. But with the temp. gauge turned to the highest setting on both elements the water is luke warm at best. Water seems to be heating a bit but not to the level it should to give me hot water. If there was no power or no heat coming from the elements, I would be abe to figure it out. But everything seems to be at least partially working. Could it be an electrical issue (white wire)? Temp settings not working? Faulty elements that are heating but not getting hot enough? About ready to call in reinforcements.....

    [Quick edit: 72 gal (not that it matters) and the hot water copper line is fairly hot to the touch. Not scalding, but if you hold on to it for 5 sec. it begins to become uncomfortably warm.]
    Last edited: Dec 30, 2008
  2. thassler

    thassler New Member

    Messages:
    106
    Location:
    Tennessee
    Sounds like you might have wired the pigtail to supply only 120v instead of 240v. I've never seen a receptacle/pigtail used for a water heater install. I'd call in an electrician to wire in a proper disconnect box and supply for your water heater.

    * I'm Not A Pro!
  3. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,529
    Location:
    North Carolina
    It is not compliant to wire a water heater with cord and plug.

    I agree that the correct voltage is not getting where it should but then again it takes some time to heat 72 gallons of water.
  4. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I think I know the problem but this unit should be hard wired...Is both the plug and receptacle rated for 40 A. Did the "electrician" show you his license? or was that a smock man posing as an electrician?
  5. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Why did you hook it up this way???
  6. smnabilene

    smnabilene New Member

    Messages:
    4
    Wow, that makes me nervous. It seems you are all in agreement. Yes, master electrician and city inspected. I walked through with the electrical inspector on the rough-in and final. I know in Texas we do some things that don't make sense, but I know this meets code. And I have helped changed out electric water heaters 3x and they all have plugs going into a receptacle so many feet off the ground to be above the water supply. I guess I will call the city and another electrician to verify. Thanks for the help and your time! It is nice to have a forum of professionals that actually reply to us DIYers.
  7. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    I don't know if you have done much electrical work, but if you have, you will have noticed that electrical things with cords and plugs all used stranded wire. Stranded wire is flexible and designed to bend, be plugged in/unplugged.

    Solid electrical wire is not designed to be bent like this. It is like a coat hanger. Bend the coat hanger wire back and forth several times and it breaks!

    Then before installing an outlet/plug/cord for something like this, you should understand what each connection is for on the outlet (hot, hot, neutral, ground), understand what each connection on the plug is for, understand what each color on the cord should be used for, and understand what each wire on the water heater is for and what should be connected to what.

    Then the voltage of the water heater as well as the amperage. And that the outlet, plug, and cord are rated (designed) to carry the voltage/amperage and will be protected by the circuit breaker.

    So it is not just a matter of connecting this color to that screw. There is a LOT more to all this wiring business!
  8. jwelectric

    jwelectric Electrical Contractor/Instructor

    Messages:
    2,529
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Well when you call the city and and another electrician here is you some ammo to use to prove your case. :D

    Your information

    422.16 Flexible Cords.
    (A) General. Flexible cord shall be permitted (1) for the connection of appliances to facilitate their frequent interchange or to prevent the transmission of noise or vibration or (2) to facilitate the removal or disconnection of appliances that are fastened in place, where the fastening means and mechanical connections are specifically designed to permit ready removal for maintenance or repair and the appliance is intended or identified for flexible cord connection.

    Water heaters are not listed for cords
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2008
  9. Ian Gills

    Ian Gills Senior Robin Hood Guy

    Messages:
    2,780
    Location:
    USA
    In some states it is done like that (e.g. Texas) and I have heard it is not uncommon in Florida too.

    But water heaters are defined as an appliance, by the definition of appliance in Article 100. The article that covers appliances in the 2002 NEC is 422. Water heaters are specifically mentioned in 422.13. Section 422.30 requires a disconnecting means for appliances in accordance with Part III of Article 422. According to 422.31(B) "the branch-circuit switch or circuit breaker shall be permitted to serve as the disconnecting means where the switch or circuit breaker is within sight from the appliance or is capable of being locked in the open position." The past practice of using cords and plugs is covered in 422.16(A), which limits the use of flexible cords to connect appliances to those applications that meet certain conditions. Condition (1) is "to facilitate their frequent interchange or to prevent the transmission of noise or vibration." Water heaters do not require frequent interchange nor do they usually transmit vibration or noise through the wiring methods. Condition (2) is where "the appliance is intended or identified for flexible cord connection." Usually in order to determine if an appliance is intended to be cord-and-plug connected, the appliance would come with the cord attached from the factory, or "identified for flexible cord connection" it would be listed and labeled for cord-and-plug connection. See the definition of identified in Article 100 and the fine print note (FPN). In most water heater installations a disconnect switch is located adjacent to the water heater to meet the disconnect requirements of 422.30.

    Unless specifically stated by a manufacturer's manual therefore, a storage type water heater cannot be cord and plug connected (per NEC). If it is allowed (most are not), it must be the correct type of flexible cable (I would not like to see unprotected Romex) and plug (listed for that application).

    * I am not a pro *
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2008
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,258
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    heater

    I have never seen a heater connected with a cord and plug, but there is no reason it could not be done using a dryer cord. But, without testing the heater to be sure you have it wired correctly, and your description implies that it was, there is no way to tell why you have the problem. One possibility, if this was a replacement for an older heater doing the same thing, is that you have a hot water leak under the floor which is draining the hot water faster than the heater can produce it.
  11. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,460
    Location:
    MD
    "digital" temp measurement

    You can get burned in:
    30 seconds @ 54°C,
    5 sec. @ 60°C,
    1 second @ 71°C.
  12. jar546

    jar546 In the Trades

    Messages:
    432
    Location:
    USA
    Here is the issue in Texas.

    Each municipality can adopt whatever code version they want.

    FACT: There are municipalities in TX that are still under the 1984 NEC. Others are only as far as: 1990, 1993, 1996, 1999, & 2002.


    Only 2% of the TX muni's are under the 2008

    As it stands right now, about half of TX is under the 2005.

    This has bearing on what type of electrical work gets approved where you live.
  13. Billy_Bob

    Billy_Bob In the Trades

    Messages:
    422
    Another interesting thing about Texas is that some areas (at least in the past) had no zoning!

    You would drive through a residential neighborhood amd there would be a bar or business sitting right between two houses!
  14. Bill Arden

    Bill Arden Computer Programmer

    Messages:
    584
    Location:
    MN, USA
    I don't see any physical problem with using a cord as long as...

    1. There is a separate ground wire
    2. The cord and outlet is rated for the current.
    3. It's wired properly.

    Code is anther issue. :rolleyes:

  15. Eh ??

    Did you ever see burnt out 30 amp dryer receptales that ran on electric waterheaters ??

    I allready ran into few of that.

    If ya doubt about this just ask any electricians in this forum if they did see it they will know what I am talking about.

    It don't matter if ya on Americian or European verison I did see both of it.

    Merci,Marc
  16. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,460
    Location:
    MD
    I think any receptacle can burn out when the contacts lose their spring tension and so contact impedance goes up.

    Since 30² = 900 and 15² = 225, the same amount of contact impedance should be 900/225 worse for these receptacles than for a regular wall outlet.
    Hopefully the initial contact force for these high current sockets is also 900/225 higher than for normal wall outlets.
  17. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,258
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    heater

    In the first place the most common water heaters draw about 19 amps, even with a 30 amp breaker, and that is approximately the same, or less, than a dryer.
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