If you notice that your water heater keeps tripping the breaker, it’s time to take a closer look into the system. Water heater circuits usually don’t have any other device connected to them. This means if the breaker is tripping, it’s only because of the water heater.
Sometimes there’s no concrete reason behind these random trips, and you can simply reset it and let it work at its usual pace until it happens again. However, if this becomes an everyday phenomenon, you need to inspect the cause and take a closer look at the issue.
If you have no idea why your water heater keeps tripping the breaker, read until the end to find out what causes the circuit breakers on your heating system to trip and how you can fix the issue.
5 Reasons Why Your Water Heater Might be Tripping the Breaker
Once you’ve recognized the issue, you need to inspect the cause behind the repeated trippings. Fortunately, it’s pretty simple to investigate a faulty water heater.
Here are 5 reasons why your water heater keeps tripping the breaker with solutions.
1. A Faulty Thermostat
Every water heater has a temperature control switch limited to 180° Fahrenheit to prevent the water from overheating and scalding your skin.
Generally, these appliances also have two thermostats that are connected to individual elements that heat the water. The communication between these two thermostats enables only one element to heat up at a time.
However, a faulty thermostat will disrupt the communication, causing both elements to heat up together. This will cause overheating, and the circuit is overloaded with current, causing the breaker to trip.
How to Fix the Problem
You need to turn off the power supply and inspect the thermostat using a multimeter. The multimeter will be used to determine the resistance level in each thermostat.
For (NO) thermostat, the resistance should be close to zero ohms, and for (NC) thermostat, the resistance might be close to 0.5 ohms. If the limit exceeds these, you need to get the thermostats replaced.
It’s also important to replace the heating elements and the thermostat to ensure that they’re compatible.
2. Malfunctioning Heating Element
The pair of heating elements are responsible for warming up your water, and if either of them fails, they can cause a short circuit.
For example, when a heating element fails, the water won’t be warm. However, in unfortunate scenarios, the internal electrical components of the element might come in direct contact with the water, resulting in a short circuit.
Also, similar to the previous scenario, the water heating element can malfunction and continue to warm the water without a break, causing the circuit to overheat and trip.
How to Fix This Issue
To deal with malfunctioning water heating elements, you’ll again need a multimeter. Turn off the electrical supply and disconnect the wires from the faulty elements.
Then use the multimeter to measure the resistance on each side of the heating elements where the wires were originally attached. Depending on the wattage, you should get the resistance reading as follows:
- 3,500-watt element = 16 ohms
- 4,500-watt element = Between 12 and 13 ohms
- 5,500-watt element = Between 10 and 11 ohms
If the reading doesn’t match, the heating element is clearly malfunctioning. In this case, the only option you have is to get them replaced immediately.
3. Leaky Water Lines
Water line leaks can also cause the breaker to trip. If your water heater pipes are old and withered, they’ll naturally be weakened over the years, and you might develop leaks.
Along with that, excessive pressure in the water heating system and faulting valves can also cause a leak. In either case, the electrical components might come into direct contact with the water. Since water and electricity don’t go together well, it will cause an immediate electrical short circuit or a fatal electric shock.
In fortunate cases, the breaker will cut off the electrical supply to the system.
How to Fix This Issue
The only solution to this problem is to repair the leaky pipes. Once the electrical supply is cut off, inspect and locate the faulty pipe and fix it. Leaky water pipes are also caused by poor maintenance. You can find out the best maintenance schedule for your water heating system, here.
4. Faulty Electrical Connections
If the constituting parts of the water heating appliance are in perfect condition, then the problem is probably with the electrical lining.
If you feel this is the case, then you need to start your inspection with the connection between the water heating appliance and your house’s main electrical line. Sometimes a burnt wire, loose connections, or broken electrical components can be the possible cause behind a tripping breaker.
Arced wires are also a major concern. In this case, the electricity jumps from one wire to another, breaking the continuity in the line.
If you’re done inspecting the internal electrical wiring but don’t find a problem, then maybe the problem lies outside the water heater. Check the external wires that are connected to the appliance and look for signs of damage or burns.
5. Inspect the Breaker
If everything is in perfect shape, yet the breaker is tripping repeatedly, then the problem lies in the breaker itself. Sometimes breakers will wear out after long-term use and trip the slightest exposure to electricity.
In any of these cases, all that you have to do is repair or replace the damaged electrical component.
However, when you’re replacing the breaker, be careful with the rating. The replacement should have the same rating as the original component. Choosing a breaker with a higher or lower rating will disbalance the flow of electricity and disrupt the system.
If your water heater keeps tripping the breaker, there are many causes and solutions. Annual maintenance can help your heater last for many years.
Tripping breakers are a common issue in every household, and you have nothing to worry about. Just make sure if it keeps tripping that you don’t try to flip it back again and again. This will lead to overheating in the electrical lines and can even cause an electrical fire.
When it comes to electrical matters, it’s always best to abide by all safety precautions, and if you find the work too challenging for you, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional.
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