Troubleshoot And Fix Your Home's Electric Water Heater Yourself

Posted on: 22 January 2015

Electric water heaters are very simple household appliances. While they look a bit odd, a water heater is actually very easy to troubleshoot and fix.

The secret to fixing your hot water heater is to understand the root cause of the problem.

Here are three common water heater problem scenarios and their fixes:

No Household Hot Water

If you turn on your hot water faucet and the water never gets hot, then your hot water heater is having a problem.

No hot water coming out of your tap is caused by:

  • no power to the water heater
  • water heater tank failed
  • water heater elements failed

The first step is to go to your water heater and see if you can locate any water leaks. If you do not see any signs of leaking, then you can be sure that the tank of your water heater is fine.

Walk over to your power panel and check the breakers for your water heater. If the breaker has flipped, then you should flip it back to the "on" position. Wait for an hour, and you should have hot water again. 

Power panel breakers flip because of an interruption in the power flow. If your breaker has flipped, your hot water heater's elements could have failed. If it happens again, you'll want to determine which elements have failed and replace them.

To do this, simply:

  1. turn-off the power panel breaker
  2. drain the water heater's tank
  3. remove the failed elements
  4. replace the elements with new ones
  5. fill the water tank 
  6. turn back on the power at the panel

It is very important that you fill your water heater's tank before turning back on the power. If you do not do this, then the elements will fail immediately.

Warm Household Water Only

If your water is warm, but it never reaches a hot temperature, then you have one of the following issues:

  • failed heating element
  • thermostat adjustment problem

There are two elements within all hot water heaters. If one of the heating elements is no longer working, then the tank can never reach a high temperature. To fix this problem, replace the heating elements, using the steps listed above. You should replace both elements at the same time, to get the longest life possible from your hot water heater.

If someone has turned down your water heater's thermostat, or one of your animals bumped against it, then you may need to reset the thermostat. To do this, simply move the dial to the temperature you want your water to be.

No Household Water At All

If you do not have any water at all flowing to your home, then you are having a problem that is not related to your hot water heater.

You very likely have a:

  • broken pipe
  • broken pump
  • frozen pipes

To troubleshoot this type of problem, take a walk around your house and look for leaking water. If the temperatures have been below freezing, then check for any bulging pipes that may be blocked with ice. 


It's always a drag to have your home's hot water malfunctioning. The good news is that now you can troubleshoot, and fix, the problem yourself. If you do not feel comfortable working with your water heater, you should contact a local, licensed plumber for water heater installation and repairs.