Out of ideas!

The Tank Out of ideas!

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    Excuse this long post. Water heater is a Rheem, 50 gal electric.

    Innocent family handy man called to help out a friend of a friend. He has had very little hot water for the past year. He puts in a new water heater, in approx 2 months, water is not hot enough for a shower and his power bill is thru the roof. Swaps heater out. 2 months the same thing happens. Repeat 2 more times then I get volunteered to check it out.

    Initial Findings: Water heater bkr had been turned off for weeks. (since it was not heating water sufficiently) Turned bkr on. Found 239vac at top element screws, 18.5 amp draw, temp set at 125f, tstat snug against tank side via the clips. Bottom tstat set at 125f, contacts closed with 120vac to ground at both element screws, 0v across bottom element screws. Changed DVOM to ohms and had 12.6 ohms across bottom element. Everything seems normal at first look. Watched ammeter on top element for approx 2 hrs. Top Tstat did not swap to the bottom element. Waited 2 more hrs. Same thing. Replaced top thermostat. Same thing. Since I had 1 with me, I replaced the 2 pole 30 amp bkr and the 5 feet of #10 romex from bkr panel to wtr htr. Same thing. Top thermostat does not swap to bottom. Drained tank did not see any debris since tank is new, checked dip tube then replaced both elements. Verified cold water came in the cold inlet, vented tank via kitchen faucet and TP valve during refill and turned bkr on. Same thing. Swapped bkr to a different location in the panel. Same thing. Turned top tstat down to lowest setting. Top element went off and bottom element came on. (18.9 amps)

    Conclusion: At normal setting, the top element is not getting water hot enough to turn tstat off. note: The old top element had some buidup of a white coating. Bottom element not so much. I am at a loss as to which direction to go in now. Any help out there? 🙁

    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: Things aren’t adding up. A big power bill and very little hot water don’t go together…. unless there is also a big water bill caused by a plumbing leak, or the power draw is elsewhere. You’ve done a lot of checking electrically and found the same results with multiple heaters. To me this basically rules out the heater as the problem. You find good power from the main panel. So, something isn’t true. It could be an intermittent fault or it could be a misbehaving meter. I’d start by getting a simple analog meter and checking power coming into and from the main panel. I’d make sure all connections are good. I’d make sure there isn’t a neutral somehow mixed into the equation 😯

    Does everything else electrical in the house work as it should? That info may help you find where to focus attention. From your conclusion, it sounds like the 240 volt heater is only getting 120 volts and your meter is playing head games wif you… and now me 😎 In any event, there are still some things to have a look at. This is classic troubleshooting, where all assumptions must be tossed out to get to the problem.

    Yours, Larry


    Sorry if I clouded the issue. No other electrical problems have been reported. The top element is drawing a tad over 18.6 amps and is recieving 239v to its screws which equate to about 4450 watts. This wattage does not heat the water enough to open the top tstat. I have not considered a leak which I will look into. This would equate to the element trying to heat a moving stream of water. Thanks. Any more ideas?


    Turns out to be a hot water leak under the slab. This has been going on for a year. Seems like a lot of wasted money on water and electricity plus hot water heaters, thermostats, elements and having to heat water for a bath. I have no idea how he will repair this leak. I am out of the picture. Thanks eleent for pointing me in the right direction.

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