Electric water heater - upper tstat keeps tripping?


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Old 01-26-10, 08:29 AM
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Electric water heater - upper tstat keeps tripping?

Good morning, everyone -

So I've been having issues with my hot water heater.

I bought my house last May, and the upper t'stat on my Bradford White (age unknown, looks newer) hot water heater was tripped on the day I moved in. No problem - pushed the red button, and boom - hot water. In the weeks that followed, my showers would start to cool off a bit towards the end, but I could live with it, seeing as it was just me.

Enter new boyfriend, who has started spending more time at the house and, yes, showering in the mornings. We'd run out of hot water at the end of our showers, only much faster. Again, we lived with it.

A few weeks ago, water heater tripped two days in a row... then quit working entirely. I called my handyman, who came over, drained the water heater, flushed it, stuck in some nice new elements, and wired up a timer on the water heater so that it's only running during peak times (which I thought was pretty neat) - screwed the timer box to the wall, works like a charm. I mentioned to the handyman that I wondered if my thermostats were going bad - he said probably not. After he was all done, hot water heater refilled, fired up, seemed to work great.

The upper t'stat is now tripping CONSTANTLY, a few times a day, every day, usually after a shower or after I use an appliance that needs hot water (laundry, dishwasher). And to give you an example of my shower experience, this morning I got BLAZING hot water for the first two minutes of my shower, tolerable water for the next six minutes, and downright miserable for the last two (and I timed it!). And the t'stat tripped either during or after my shower.

So - I went to Home Depot last night and picked up an upper and lower t'stat for my water heater - might as well replace both, right? Before I call my handyman to come stick them in, two things:

1) DOES this sound like my t'stats are shot, or could it be something else?

and

2) My DIY skills are okay, but not great - is this something I could shut off the breaker and do on my own, or should I let the handyman do it, anyway, because of the high voltage and potential for, I don't know, maybe blowing something up?

Advice, commiseration, etc. is most welcome.

Thanks in advance -
Suz

EDIT: I forgot to add that I tried turning down the temperatures on both thermostats, and that did not make any difference whatsoever.
 
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Old 01-28-10, 12:28 AM
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Yes, it could be a thermostat problem or it could be a "grounded" element that continues to heat even though the thermostat has opened the circuit. You will need an ohmmeter to check for a grounded element.

Changing thermostats is not difficult, just make sure to connect the wiring the exact same way. Make a drawing or take a close-up picture with your digital camera. Make sure the picture is clear before taking any wires loose. Since you had only a few minutes of really hot water it is more likely that it is the upper thermostat (or element) that is at fault.

To determine the age of your water heater check this page.

Bradford White Age
 
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Old 01-28-10, 06:08 AM
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Thanks for getting back to me. A lot has happened since I asked my question.

The thermostats I bought were not right - apparently, the "universal" ones were not universal enough. I did end up chickening out and calling my handyman, who then got in touch with someone who deals in Bradford White parts and got the right ones.

Meanwhile, I also went online to the BW website and downloaded the operator's manual for my water heater, which had tstat wiring diagrams. When handyman had been over previously, he suspected it was wired wrong... and he was right, it was! The inside of the cover for the upper thermostat had the WRONG diagram in it - the inside cover for the lower thermostat had a completely different diagram, which ended up being the correct one when we checked it against the BW manual. We also stuck in a new upper and new lower thermostat, just for good measure.

So, the heating elements have now been replaced, the tstats have been replaced, and this morning... I again had about five minutes of decent hot water for my shower, and then it quickly became lukewarm again... not cold, but just cool enough to get me pretty angry. I marched down to the basement and checked both thermostats... the upper was going, but the lower one failed to kick on. I checked the temp setting, and it was at the lowest setting, so I increased it to "hot" to match the upper tstat. I also noticed it wasn't really well-seated against the tank, so that might have been it, too. I smooshed it up against the tank, and closed it back up. We'll see how it goes tomorrow, I guess.

OH, and thank you for the link. Discovered that my water heater was built in June of 1994, so maybe it's time to think about a replacement, huh??
 
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Old 02-01-10, 10:02 AM
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I've officially arrived at a point of frustration.

Replaced the elements.

Replaced the thermostats.

Even called Bradford White tech line to make sure they're wired in correctly.

WHY do I still start with hot water and end up with lukewarm water at the end of a shower?? After ten minutes, I have it turned all the way to the hottest position on the faucet, and it's still only lukewarm.

HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!

p.s. - My handyman says that although my tank is older, it's been maintained well and that it's still in okay shape.
 
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Old 02-26-10, 09:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Suz934
I've officially arrived at a point of frustration.

Replaced the elements.

Replaced the thermostats.

Even called Bradford White tech line to make sure they're wired in correctly.

WHY do I still start with hot water and end up with lukewarm water at the end of a shower?? After ten minutes, I have it turned all the way to the hottest position on the faucet, and it's still only lukewarm.

HELP!!!!!!!!!!!!

p.s. - My handyman says that although my tank is older, it's been maintained well and that it's still in okay shape.
How many gallons is the heater rated at (30? 40? 50?)? Did you replace the high temperature limit control (red button switch)? Are the top and bottom thermostats set to the same temperature? What temperature are they set at?
 
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Old 02-27-10, 08:42 AM
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Replaced both thermostats, and the red-button high limit control (which I think was part of the upper thermostat?). Top and bottom are both set at the same temperature, slightly BELOW factory suggested setting because water just came out too darn hot.

I'll check, but I believe it's a 40-gallon heater.

Thinking that maybe it was a shower/faucet issue, I also performed this test with the kitchen sink; did my dishes by hand the other day and, sure enough, ran out of hot water by the end.

Getting mighty salty because my handyman keeps coming out here and charging me to fix stuff on a hot water heater that may just need to be replaced - he insists it's still good.
 
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Old 02-27-10, 11:41 AM
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...slightly BELOW factory suggested setting because water just came out too darn hot. ... I believe it's a 40-gallon heater.
That's your problem.

A tank-type water heater can only supply about 70% of its total capacity of water before the water will go significantly colder. For your 40 gallon tank that means you have only about 28 gallons of water before it turns cold. That's 11 minutes from a standard 2.5 gallons-per-minute shower head.

The recommended temperature setting is usually 120-125 degrees and this is actually law in many places. Of course a homeowner may set the temperature wherever they decide but in rental housing or public facilities it cannot be set any higher than the specific setting required by law. This relatively low temperature if for safety against scalding.

What can be done to increase the amount of usable hot water is to raise the temperature setting and blend more cold water with the hot to obtain the desired temperature. This can be done automatically with a "tempering valve" which is plumbed into the hot water piping as it leaves the heater and will blend in cold water to maintain a set temperature. The water heater thermostats are raised to about 140-150 degrees after installing the tempering valve.

Or you can install a larger water heater.
 
 

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