How to Test Your Water Heater Element

A water heater.
  • 1 hours
  • Beginner
  • 0-25
What You'll Need

The water heater element is what heats the water up in electric water heaters. This is the most important part of your water heater and it's a good idea to check it's working from time to time. The element works on exactly the same principle as the element in your kettle.

Testing the water heater element now will ensure that it won't let you down on the coldest days of the year when hot water is not just a luxury but essential. You should ideally test the hot water heater during the summer when you won't actually need to switch it on at all.

Step 1 - Turn Off the Power

The first thing you need to do is switch the water heater off. You should never work on a water heater when it is hot. Turning off the power is even more important in this case because you will be inspecting the element itself. Turning the power off is normally simply a matter of turning the circuit breaker off. You must check that you've switched the right switch off by trying to turn your water heater on, this will make sure that you're safe and are not at risk of being electrocuted.

Step 2 - Remove Access Panels

Now you need to use your screwdriver to remove the panels which are covering the element and thermostat. There are typically two different panels, one of these will be at the top of the heater, the other should be towards the bottom. Locate the access panels and carefully unscrew them.

Step 3 - Find Elements

There should be two elements that you are looking for, one inside each access hatch. These elements will normally be located just above the thermostat in each panel. If you're not sure what the elements are then consult your manual or hire a professional heating engineer.

Step 4 - Remove the Elements

Take one wire off your heating elements using the screwdriver so that the entire element can be removed from the housing.

Step 5 - Test Resistance

The best way to check the health of your elements is to check the resistance of them. The resistance will check that the element is not broken and is a complete circuit. Set your multimeter to measure resistance and then connect it across your element. Test the resistance to find out whether or not the element is snapped or damaged. If the element is infinitely resistant then it means that the element must be replaced.

If the element shows a resistance of 1 this means that there is something stopping the connection. The resistance must be a reading of one or less.

When the meter is connected you will need to look for the needle moving. If the needle doesn't move at all then the element needs replacing.

Step 6 - Replace Elements

If the elements need replacing then order the correct type and replace them. After the elements have been fitted you can then cover them up with the same access panels.