How to Check a Water Heater Element with a Multimeter

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How to Check a Water Heater Element with a Multimeter

Unlike the old days when people had to lit fires to heat water, things are now different in this modern time with the invention of water heaters. A water heater is an appliance you need in your home or office with a high demand for hot water. From showering and bathing to cleaning dishes, washing clothes, and more other uses. However, you not only need a heater, but you need one that is functioning well.

If you have a well-functioning water heater, it can serve you for a long time. Nevertheless, if some of its components are faulty or broken, it can lead to the failure of the water heater, which can be very frustrating. One of the key components is a heater element, and once it is broken, your heater may stop producing hot water. 

What does a water heating element do?

A water heater element is a tool inside the heater and provides heat to the water in the container. Generally, it is a rod metallic in nature that is dipped in the water and is either spiral-shaped or straight. To activate the heating elements, you require an electrical supply.

Inside a water heater is a thermostat controller connected with the heating element. The thermostat is responsible for controlling and maintaining the temperatures of the water. Water heaters are of various types. That is electric water heaters that are powered by electrical power and gas water heaters that use gas for them to work.

Common problems in a water heater

  1. Getting cold water despite your heater is on. The essence of having a heater in your home or your business is to access hot water. Therefore, if you are getting cold water, then your heater is faulty.
  2. You could be getting hot water that is discolored or dirty. This is mainly due to the rusting of the water tank.
  3. You can be getting warm water and not hot or get boiling water. This is an indicator of a faulty water heater.

If you are experiencing any of these problems, the most likely cause could be broken heater elements. So, you need to check the elements to ensure they remain in the best condition. Though there are many devices used to test, a multimeter is the best device.

What is a multimeter?

A multimeter is an electronic device used to measure resistance, voltage, current, and other values. Multimeters are preferable because you can use them to do simple tests as well as sophisticated tests to detect faults in electronic items. Multimeters are of different types, analog multimeters, and digital multimeters.

Analog multimeters

These are multimeters that use analog techniques to display measurement readings. They have graduated scale and a needle that moves over it. Analog multimeters are mainly used in detecting slow voltage changes. They have sensitivity and low resistance, which makes them exceptional.

Digital multimeters

These are electronic meters whose measurements readings display on an LCD screen. They are common because they are small in size and quite easy to operate. Digital multimeters are preferable due to their high accuracy, high digital resistance, and the fact that they are easy to read.

Digital multimeters are preferable than analog multimeters mainly because they do not have movable parts, thus, preventing them from wearing out quickly. However, they are more expensive than analog multimeters.

Measuring resistance in a water heater element using a multimeter

When testing whether the heater elements are working well, the most important thing you need to measure is the resistance. Once you get your values, you will be able to tell if your heating elements are faulty or in good condition. Here are the steps to follow when using a digital multimeter to check the resistance in the heater elements.

  1. Switch off the breaker supplying power to the water heater. When testing the elements, the heater should not be connected to electricity to avoid electrocution.
  2. Use a screwdriver to get rid of the covering on the water heater’s elements.
  3. In case your water heater has plastic calculations, and insulations, pull them out. However, not all the heaters have these coverings. If yours doesn’t have, move to the next step.
  4. Before you start your test, use a non-contact voltage sensor to check sure the electrical power connecting to the water heater is off. If electrical power is present, then the voltage sensor will flash its lights and emit an alarm.
  5. Find the tips of the heater elements within the open panel. Most water heaters have two heating elements, though there are some with only one element.
  6. Set your meter to ohms mode for resistance and set the dial to the lowest range.
  7. Each heater element has two wires that run to the screws holding together the heating element. Find the loose end of one wire from the element you choose to test first.
  8. Take one probe of the multimeter and hold it to one screw of the elements and attach the other probe to the remaining screw. If the heating element does not register on your meter, replace it.
  9. Check the reading on your meter. If your meter indicates a resistance of 10 to 30 ohms, then your heating element is working well. If the reading is zero, then your element is faulty, and you need to replace it.
  10. Repeat the above procedure to test the other heating element.
  11. Once you finish testing your elements, reconnect the wires to the elements, and put back the coverings in the water heater. Reinsert back the screws that hold the metal panel.
  12. Switch on the breaker to allow the flow of electricity to your water heater.

To wrap up

In conclusion, this article has clearly explained the simple steps you need to follow to check your heating element. Waiting until you detect a problem with your heater to fix it then can be a headache. Therefore, to avoid these frustrations, constant, and regular testing is necessary if you want to ensure that your heater does not fail you. With these steps, you can do the test yourself, whether at home or in your office.

About the Author Dan

Just a random guy who likes to build things. Providing tool knowledge, appliance/device testing tips, and DIY project info in an easy-to read & non-intimidating style.