Electric water heater - not enough hot water


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Old 01-01-09, 04:52 PM
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Question Electric water heater - not enough hot water

I bought my house in January of 2006, and in March, the existing water heater rusted through. The home warranty replaced it, but I suspect something has been wrong ever since. I know something has been wrong for over a year now.

I have a 50 gal American PROLine electric water heater. (I can post the model number if needed) That is PLENTY of hot water for 2 adults, right? Not quite. It's enough to get a couple of showers out of, but running a single tub full is enough to make it run lukewarm. I've been looking around at troubleshooting, and my current aim is to simply diagnose the problem.

First I want to test the breaker, see if the current is running full-out there. - Problem - I can't get the breaker box open so I can touch the terminals with the current meter probes. It's outside the house and I can lift the front hinged panel, but I'm not sure how to get the next part off to get to the terminals.

If that's fine, I want to test the connection running to the thermostat, and then from the thermostat to the heating elements. - Problem - there's a plastic shield covering the thermostat and the heating element.



I am not an electrician, and I know enough not to go messing around with replacing breakers and thermostats and elements without doing a whole bunch of research, but dang! It's like they're trying to force us to call an electrician/plumber for a repair that would cost $30 total.

Anybody willing to help a newbie out and suggest how to test these connections? I'd lean on my husband, but for such a manly man, he's hopeless when it comes to anything electrical (I had to replace the house thermostat - and that came with directions!) and he's leaving for months in a week or so, and is very distracted right now.
 
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Old 01-01-09, 10:59 PM
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Sorry, but you lack tools, experience and knowledge of electrical and plumbing problems. I'd say you don't have a prayer of accurately diagnosing the problem(s) and it might well be unsafe for you to try.

Your time would be better spent looking for an honest and competent repairman. Getting recommendations from friends, neighbors and relatives would be a good place to start.

A burned out heating element or bad thermostat might be the problem, so could a broken off dip tube. Another possibility would be a plumbing fixture that allows cold water to cross over and contaminate that hot water supply.

These varying possibilities need to be investigated and tested until the actual problem is identified, at which point it can be corrected. These require quite different skills to test and evaluate.


As I say, the smart move is to find an honest and competent repairman. Unfotunately, that may still be a significant challenge for the average homeowner to accomplish.
 
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Old 01-02-09, 05:09 AM
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Thanks for dismissing me completely. Is it because I'm female, or because I asked before I jumped in rather than tearing everything apart first and broke it to the point of needing an expert?

I have a basic knowledge of electricity, safety, and how this sucker should work. There are instructions in the heater manual on how to replace the thermostat and heating elements, so this is obviously an owner-level repair. Unfortunately all the manual says about the plastic cover is "remove it." Well, I have a screwdriver.

Yes, these are stupid little questions. I would rather look a little stupid and get a dumb answer of "just pop the cover off" than break something and have to buy a replacement. My whole intent is to a) test the current flow, b) do the owner-level troubleshooting, c) if that doesn't work, call a plumber about the fixture question. If I called an electrician, he would do exactly what I intend to and charge me $60+/hour plus materials.
 
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Old 01-02-09, 07:50 AM
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Just pop the plastic cover off.
 
 

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