Heating Elements Keep Burning Out


  #1  
Old 06-22-11, 09:01 AM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 6
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Heating Elements Keep Burning Out

I live in an older manufactured home with some limestone problems from the well. I was having to replace the water heater element every couple of weeks. It got bad so we purged the hot water heater and have to physically scrape limestone out of it. We went ahead and replaced the hot water heater unit and now the elements are lasting about 4 days. The last one I pulled out had some lime buildup but it almost looked like it melted. We've checked it with an amp meter and it seems fine in that way. We make sure to fill it up before turning the electricity to the element back on. The water pressure is fine, I don't have any other electrical problems. I am having unusually high electric bills (about $300 for 2 people when my last place was close to $100). I'm having the electric company come out and take a look. What could it be?
 
  #2  
Old 06-22-11, 09:24 AM
B
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 9,460
Received 47 Upvotes on 43 Posts
One of the Mods might move this to "Water Heaters" if that is what we are discussing.

The easy guess would be your electric bills are related to your heater problem and I'm going to assume this is your water heater (forum topic is a bit misleading). Check the label on the water heater to see what voltage it is rated for and tell us what the breaker that controls it is rated for, 110V or 220 volts. Water heaters are usually 220V, but I ran into an old 110V years ago and it was in a mobile home. The water heater pros can confirm if that is a possibility or not as I have never seen one again.

If it is running on the right voltage and operating properly, those elements should be fine. You said "We went ahead and replaced the hot water heater unit", was that with a brand new water heater and it is doing the same?

Check the voltage rating and let us know.

Bud
 
  #3  
Old 06-22-11, 10:06 AM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 6
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Yeah it is an Electric Water Heater. I had an electrician work on it and he said all the voltage is right. Yeah we replaced the whole Hot Water Heater and still having the same problems. When we moved in there was no hot water. We were able to get it working for awhile but recently we're having to replace the heating element every couple of days.
 
  #4  
Old 06-22-11, 12:17 PM
D
Member
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: USA
Posts: 4,344
Upvotes: 0
Received 1 Upvote on 1 Post
Maybe it's time for a water softener.
 
  #5  
Old 06-22-11, 12:50 PM
B
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 9,460
Received 47 Upvotes on 43 Posts
Drooplug, I can understand hard water having a long term effect on a WH, but a new heater going right into a cycle of burning out elements (?), that's some hard water.

Geng, are both elements failing or top or bottom and how are they failing? Is it a case that you are running out of hot water? What is the temperature setting on the heater and is it maintaining that temp when it is working?

Also, it is difficult to compare electric use from your last place to this place. Having said that, $300 is still high. What else do you have in the house that runs on electric? AC, stove, pool pump, well, any other big users.

Bud
 

Last edited by Bud9051; 06-22-11 at 12:50 PM. Reason: correction
  #6  
Old 06-22-11, 01:57 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 6
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
It only has 1 element (on the bottom of the tank). While the element is working we have a good amount of hot water, we aren't running out quickly or anything. The thermostat is at the default 125 degrees F. It seems to be maintaining that temperature when it's working.

Well our last place was about 1200 square feet and now we're in a 1300 or 1400 sq foot residence. We have an Electric Stove, Washer, Dryer, 1 Window Shaker, a couple of fans, 2 TVs, Fridge. Nothing really out of the ordinary. My wife and I are out of the house during the day and we shut everything off (including the hot water heater) when we're not home. We run the AC well we're awake but turn it off and a run a ceiling and box fan when we sleep. We do a couple of loads of laundry a week but nothing out of the ordinary. I could imagine it being 50 or 75$ more than our last place but 3 times as much is weird (as well as expensive).
 
  #7  
Old 06-22-11, 02:35 PM
B
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 9,460
Received 47 Upvotes on 43 Posts
No, I see $100 a month where you are, so there is clearly an issue somewhere. Are you getting these high bills with turning things off as stated above? Do you have an electric power meter where you can see what the whole house is using? Not that you need to see the actual amount, but a dial turning or numbers advancing such that when you flip a breaker off and stop something you might see the change. If you can get readings, even better. But take a look and see if it looks like it is advancing too fast. Sometimes your power company will have a web site that explains how to read your meter.

The test here is to cycle different functions off and see if one of them makes a noticeable difference on how fast the meter is advancing.

Check your cloths dryer vent to be sure it isn't blocked. When blocked the cloths take forever to dry and it uses a ton of electricity. At your use this is a low probability.

Check all 220V breakers, including the well.

What is the make and model of that water heater?

Bud
 
  #8  
Old 06-22-11, 02:36 PM
F
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: Wet side of Washington state.
Posts: 16,321
Received 39 Upvotes on 31 Posts
There are only two things that cause elements to burn out quickly, too high a voltage or energizing them without being immersed in water.
 
  #9  
Old 06-22-11, 02:50 PM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,500
Received 68 Upvotes on 62 Posts
The only hw tank I have ever seen that was equipped with a single element was a 120 volt one.

What does the burnt out element look like when removed from the tank?
If it is encrusted in a thick layer of scale then that would cause the element to overheat because it would not be able to transfer the heat to the water fast enough.
If it has a fairly thin layer of scale you could have possibly a 120 volt element on a 220 supply.

Check the voltage rating by reading what is printed on the old element, not what the tag on the tank says.

You can take a clear close up pic of the burnt element and post it on a free site like Photo Bucket then we can see what you see.
 
  #10  
Old 06-22-11, 04:53 PM
B
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 9,460
Received 47 Upvotes on 43 Posts
Thanks Greg, I thought I had seen a 120V water heater. I think that is a likely cause given the high electric bills and melted elements as he described.

Bud
 
  #11  
Old 06-23-11, 07:23 AM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 6
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
The panel box says :
100 Amps Max
120/240 Volts AC
1 Phase 3 Wire
208Y/120 Volts AC
1 Phase 3 Wire

The element documentation says:
Element - 3500 Watt/240 Volt

PICT0007 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
PICT0006 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
PICT0005 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!
 
  #12  
Old 06-23-11, 07:38 AM
Gunguy45's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 19,281
Received 8 Upvotes on 8 Posts
flicker is having an issue apparently...can't even get to the main page.

Since the WH was replaced with a brand new one with factory elements (assuming it was installed correctly) it has to be a problem with the electrical supply somehow. How qualified was the electrician?

As to the electric bill....did you stay in the same general area? Electric costs can vary widely from one part of the US to another...but not normally within the same region.
 
  #13  
Old 06-23-11, 09:58 AM
H
Member
Join Date: Sep 2006
Location: NJ
Posts: 163
Upvotes: 0
Received 2 Upvotes on 2 Posts
I tend to agree with Greg. I used to replace quite a few water heaters, elements, etc. Only ever saw one 120VAC model in a really old mobile home. Is there a single breaker or double?
 
  #14  
Old 06-23-11, 10:15 AM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 6
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
We moved about 10 miles away from our last residence. The electrician I had over it was pretty well qualified. His main trade is working on electrical systems for hospital equipment. The fuse running to the hot water heater is twice as thick as most of the other fuses and is 20 amp. We replaced that fuse in the last couple of months. Before there was a duplex of a 20 amp and a 30 amp together. The Clothes Dryer and Hot Water Heater was both hooked up to that duplex box. Running the Dryer and How Water Heater at the same time was tripping the breaker but was caught on the front panel so it wasn't able to trip.
 
  #15  
Old 06-23-11, 10:28 AM
Gunguy45's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Dec 2007
Location: USA
Posts: 19,281
Received 8 Upvotes on 8 Posts
I'll let the Pros try and figure it out...but like I said...it's obvious its the wiring where the issue is...at least to me.

I don't even know what you mean by the description of the circuit. 20A for a WH? No way! And you mention breakers and fuses?

Your WH isn't your big issue IMO...someone has done some messing with the wiring.

If those elements are only 4 days old....theres some sort of electrolysis thing going on. Bad grounding, neutral, something.
 
  #16  
Old 06-23-11, 01:06 PM
I
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Feb 2005
Location: Near Lansing, Michigan
Posts: 9,785
Upvotes: 0
Received 45 Upvotes on 43 Posts
My first thought is that the thermostat in the water heater is bad leaving the element on too long and overheating the water, maybe even boiling which would allow the element to melt. You would expect to see some hot water and steam leaking from the T&P safety valve in this case. The water might evaporate quickly so look for signs of deposits and leak traces. After the tank has been on a while and is up to temperature you should check with your multimeter to make sure the thermostat has opened the circuit.

Originally Posted by genghistron
The element documentation says:
Element - 3500 Watt/240 Volt
No matter how it's hooked up electrically, a residential electric service couldn't blow up this element unless you're getting very high voltage from the utility company on the mains. Even it was accidentally hooked up wrong the worse you would get is a tripped breaker or warm (not hot) water. Take your multimeter and set it to the AC voltage setting (250V or higher) and measure the voltage between the two incoming hot wires from the power company. It should measure right around 240V.

Electrolysis and grounding should not be an issue because a brand new element should not be leaking any current into the water. The only thing I could think of in this regard would be if the water has some unique chemistry that is really corrosive to the heating element. Perhaps you should have a water analysis done to make sure it's okay. It would be an unusual situation, but maybe some type of chemical or salt is leaching into the well.
 
  #17  
Old 06-23-11, 01:07 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,008
Received 210 Upvotes on 181 Posts
Can you post a pic of the breaker wiring for the WH and whatever else was on the old breaker? Do you really mean fuses?
 
  #18  
Old 06-23-11, 02:33 PM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,500
Received 68 Upvotes on 62 Posts
This is a very simple device with I am sure a simple solution.
I think something here isn't being communicated properly.
I am also sure your electrician is qualified but I too work in a hospital and on some fairly complicated equipment but I have made mistakes.........well maybe only once! ..........maybe he missed something.


1. In spite of what the documentation says, what specs are written on the element that has failed?
2. I asked you what the scale build-up looks like........can you describe it......thick or thin?
3. What does the failed element look like?.........Has it burst open, does it look like one area has just overheated slightly or can you not see anything out of the ordinary?
4. If you can not see anything on the element have you verified the element is blown with an ohmmeter?

5. If this doesn't get us anywhere can you take some pics to see what info we are missing.
 
  #19  
Old 06-23-11, 02:52 PM
pcboss's Avatar
Forum Topic Moderator
Join Date: Jul 2002
Location: Maryland
Posts: 14,008
Received 210 Upvotes on 181 Posts
Greg, the pics linked to worked for me.
 
  #20  
Old 06-23-11, 02:54 PM
B
Member
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: New England
Posts: 9,460
Received 47 Upvotes on 43 Posts
Post #11 has pictures. Part that concerned me looking at the melt down was the rating listed there of 120v/240v. If it is capable of running on 120v and ends up wired for 240v, I would expect the melting as shown. As you said, it isn't a complicated device.

And thanks to all for coming over.
Bud
 

Last edited by Bud9051; 06-23-11 at 02:54 PM. Reason: add thanks
  #21  
Old 06-23-11, 03:05 PM
GregH's Avatar
Super Moderator
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Manitoba
Posts: 9,500
Received 68 Upvotes on 62 Posts
Sorry, I missed the pics!
Mistake #2 I guess.

Scale is not the problem unless you cleaned the elements.
It appears to be either that the voltage was wrong to the elements or they ran dry.
You will have a similar thing happen if the scale had built up on the bottom of the tank up to and around the element.

Only weird possibility I can think of is if the tank connections were reversed.
Under certain circumstances this could drain the tank.
 
  #22  
Old 06-23-11, 03:12 PM
NJT's Avatar
NJT
NJT is offline
Member
Join Date: Oct 2006
Location: USA
Posts: 19,710
Upvotes: 0
Received 8 Upvotes on 6 Posts
Moving over to the "Water Heater" forum...
 
  #23  
Old 06-23-11, 04:18 PM
G
Member
Thread Starter
Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: USA
Posts: 6
Upvotes: 0
Received 0 Upvotes on 0 Posts
Originally Posted by Gunguy45
I'll let the Pros try and figure it out...but like I said...it's obvious its the wiring where the issue is...at least to me.

I don't even know what you mean by the description of the circuit. 20A for a WH? No way! And you mention breakers and fuses?

Your WH isn't your big issue IMO...someone has done some messing with the wiring.

If those elements are only 4 days old....theres some sort of electrolysis thing going on. Bad grounding, neutral, something.
Yeah I figured it wasn't the hot water heater itself since we just replaced it. I'm not very knowledgeable when it comes to electricity and terminology so please bear with me.

PICT0008 | Flickr - Photo Sharing!

That's the picture of the breaker box. I guess that's what it's called.

Originally Posted by ibpooks
My first thought is that the thermostat in the water heater is bad leaving the element on too long and overheating the water, maybe even boiling which would allow the element to melt. You would expect to see some hot water and steam leaking from the T&P safety valve in this case. The water might evaporate quickly so look for signs of deposits and leak traces. After the tank has been on a while and is up to temperature you should check with your multimeter to make sure the thermostat has opened the circuit.

No matter how it's hooked up electrically, a residential electric service couldn't blow up this element unless you're getting very high voltage from the utility company on the mains. Even it was accidentally hooked up wrong the worse you would get is a tripped breaker or warm (not hot) water. Take your multimeter and set it to the AC voltage setting (250V or higher) and measure the voltage between the two incoming hot wires from the power company. It should measure right around 240V.

Electrolysis and grounding should not be an issue because a brand new element should not be leaking any current into the water. The only thing I could think of in this regard would be if the water has some unique chemistry that is really corrosive to the heating element. Perhaps you should have a water analysis done to make sure it's okay. It would be an unusual situation, but maybe some type of chemical or salt is leaching into the well.
Yeah I hadn't noticed anything around the T&P Valve. I have a multimeter but I'm not so sure how to use it.

-----After the tank has been on a while and is up to temperature you should check with your multimeter to make sure the thermostat has opened the circuit.---
I know how to "attach" the meter to the wires but what setting do I put it on?

-----Take your multimeter and set it to the AC voltage setting (250V or higher) and measure the voltage between the two incoming hot wires from the power company. It should measure right around 240V.----
This would be the electric wire coming from the power pole to the breaker box?

The water heater works perfectly fine as far as pumping out hot water until the element burns up. I don't know what could have changed the water chemistry as this is a recent problem. We've been here since early February and have only had these serious problems in the last month.

Originally Posted by GregH
This is a very simple device with I am sure a simple solution.
I think something here isn't being communicated properly.
I am also sure your electrician is qualified but I too work in a hospital and on some fairly complicated equipment but I have made mistakes.........well maybe only once! ..........maybe he missed something.


1. In spite of what the documentation says, what specs are written on the element that has failed?
2. I asked you what the scale build-up looks like........can you describe it......thick or thin?
3. What does the failed element look like?.........Has it burst open, does it look like one area has just overheated slightly or can you not see anything out of the ordinary?
4. If you can not see anything on the element have you verified the element is blown with an ohmmeter?

5. If this doesn't get us anywhere can you take some pics to see what info we are missing.
Sorry if I'm not communicating well. I don't really have a firm grasp on this situation and terminology. Yeah about the electrician I know, nobody's infallible so it could be something he overlooked or didn't think about.

1. The element has:
1052
3500W 240V
RC02203524

written on one side and:
Alt Rating
2500W 208V

written on the other side.

2. The scale build up is pretty thing. It flakes off easily around the edges but is somewhat thick on the inside of the metal rods. I included pictures in an earlier post.

3. Of the two latest elements that failed:
1 of them was cracked on the metal piece. It fell apart after I pulled it out. Around where it was cracked there was melted pieces of metal.
The other one some metal came off of the rods and there was lime buildup inside of the rod.
They both are coppery and green colored. Seems to be some black closer to the part of the element that screws into the hot water heater.

I've included picture of the breaker box in this thread and the elements in an earlier one. Is there anything else I can take a picture of that will help?

Originally Posted by Bud9051
Post #11 has pictures. Part that concerned me looking at the melt down was the rating listed there of 120v/240v. If it is capable of running on 120v and ends up wired for 240v, I would expect the melting as shown. As you said, it isn't a complicated device.

And thanks to all for coming over.
Bud
It isn't a complicated device but it's definitely beyond me. I really appreciate all the help I'm getting and the patience of these posters.

Originally Posted by GregH
Sorry, I missed the pics!
Mistake #2 I guess.

Scale is not the problem unless you cleaned the elements.
It appears to be either that the voltage was wrong to the elements or they ran dry.
You will have a similar thing happen if the scale had built up on the bottom of the tank up to and around the element.

Only weird possibility I can think of is if the tank connections were reversed.
Under certain circumstances this could drain the tank.
I didn't clean the elements before taking those pictures.
There shouldn't be much buildup on the bottom as the tank is only a month old or so now. I also have a hose hooked up to the drain valve and a hole drilled into the floor to drain it. I either turn off the electric, open the valve and then turn off the water or I keep the electric on, open the valve and just keep the water running to purge.

Tank connections? Are you talking the cold water flow into and hot water flow out of the tank?

---------------------------------------------------------------------------

I really appreciate all the help you all are providing. Thank you. Sorry to be a bother.
 
  #24  
Old 06-23-11, 06:42 PM
CasualJoe's Avatar
Member
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: United States
Posts: 9,887
Received 189 Upvotes on 169 Posts
The elements in your pictures are all high watt density elements. You might try a low watt density element that almost doubles the actual length of the element. They reduce the surface temperature of the element at any one point, but provide almost twice the surface area to heat the water. This particular element is listed as for moderately hard water.
Water Heater Element - Water Heater Elements - Water Heaters - Plumbing : Grainger Industrial Supply

If this doesn't help, the only other thing I see is the high lime content in the water insulating the element from the water and causing premature burnout.
 
  #25  
Old 06-25-11, 12:01 AM
F
Member
Join Date: Mar 2006
Location: NE Wis / Paris France{ In France for now }
Posts: 4,364
Upvotes: 0
Received 2 Upvotes on 2 Posts
The other thing I may suggest if not too late is stainless steel heating elements they are not cheap but they work pretty well with hard water useage.

The other question I do not know if the OP's electrician did check this is the netural connection et grounding conductor if he have main breaker outside right below the meter socket if so check the cable or conductors carefully there may have some case have bad connection or stray current going on.

That is one of few items I can think of as others did suggest about the idea to slove the problem so far.

This one trick I done from time to time is turn every thing off that including the main brekaers and any other breakers in the mobile home meter pedastal and grab a clamp on ampmeter and read the netural et ground conductor if present and check the current drawage if you get a bit of number then you have other issue going on.

Bon Chance to find this curpit.

Merci,
Marc
 
 

Thread Tools
Search this Thread
 
Ask a Question
Question Title:
Description:
Your question will be posted in: