Changing 5500W Elements with 4500W

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Steve Adams

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We recently had a plumber come out to fix the HW Heater and he told me that it was a bad Circuit Breaker on the top element that was causing the issue with the heater. What was happening was the reset for the top thermostat was popping causing the heater to stop working. There were no issues with the breakers or input lines and he said the thermostat tested bad. He also salad it would be wise to replace the Element while he was in the tank. He did not however replace the lower element (which failed a few weeks later). It seemed to me that his biggest push was to get me to buy a new heater rather than repair the existing one as he was very adamant about not being able to warranty his work. This is a large reputable plumbing organization here in Virginia. I found that odd but had him do the repair. Once the second element went out I replaced it myself after doing a little research and testing the element out of circuit with no continuity. The only element my local Lowes had in stock was a 4500W 240V unit. I decided to replace both elements to keep them the same wattage and everything was good for about a month. Now the tank is back to tripping the overload on the top thermostat. What should I do next?
 

JerryR

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I would replace the lower thermostat. The tripping is an over heat trip, not a circuit breaker.

If your lower thermostat gets stuck and continues to heat the water the. Hot water rises to the top of the water heater and the upper thermostat overheat will trip.
 

JerryR

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I would replace the lower thermostat. The tripping is an over heat trip, not a circuit breaker.

If your lower thermostat gets stuck and continues to heat the water the. Hot water rises to the top of the water heater and the upper thermostat overheat will trip.

You should be fine with 4500 watt elements unless you find you are running out of hot water. The 4500 watt elements will just cause a slightly slower recovery when using hot water
 

Fitter30

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Like JerryR wrote change lower thermostat. Upper thermostat calls for heat first when satisfied lower thermostat gets powered heats lower 1/3 of heater if it doesn't shut off it will trip high limit. Limit trips at 180*.
 

Steve Adams

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I would replace the lower thermostat. The tripping is an over heat trip, not a circuit breaker.

If your lower thermostat gets stuck and continues to heat the water the. Hot water rises to the top of the water heater and the upper thermostat overheat will trip.
Luckily I picked up a spare lower thermostat when I got the elements. I will install and see how it does. The heating Cycle of top then bottom would explain why I wasn’t seeing 240V on the bottom element when I installed them. I did have 240v on the top one so I thought it might be something I did wrong. Hard to mess up with only two wires.
 

Phog

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I agree with everyone else about the lower thermostat. Many plumbers will always replace replace everything (2 elements + 2 thermostats) as standard practice whenever any single part goes bad. Not because they're trying to take advantage of customers, but rather because long experience teaches them that replacing everything usually produces fewer complaints & keeps customers the happiest. Sounds like you're basically re-learning that lesson right now ;). Also FYI, electric tank water heaters usually last 10-15+ years, depending on your incoming water hardness & pH. (Your neighbors are the best people to ask to figure out whether your area's water eats tanks up in 10yrs, or is mild and gives you 15+. )
 

Steve Adams

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I agree with everyone else about the lower thermostat. Many plumbers will always replace replace everything (2 elements + 2 thermostats) as standard practice whenever any single part goes bad. Not because they're trying to take advantage of customers, but rather because long experience teaches them that replacing everything usually produces fewer complaints & keeps customers the happiest. Sounds like you're basically re-learning that lesson right now ;)[/QUOTE

I would have no problem with the tech replacing both thermostats and elements at the same time as I agree it keeps follow up calls to a minimum and also shows you are more concerned with getting it right the first time. However this tech did not do so. He only replaced the upper thermostat and heating element. I replaced the lower element after testing the original squiggly element and having no conductivity through the element. Oh well I guess we live and learn and believe me I will not be calling that firm again. Thank you all for the good insights and help. I have replaced the lower thermostat so we will see how it plays out over the next few days.
 
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