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Thread: Electrial Requirements for Hot Water Heater

  1. #16
    Nuclear Engineer nukeman's Avatar
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    Guys,

    Here's some background on the install. Might answer some questions.

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/show...-Trips-Breaker

  2. #17
    DIY Junior Member safeire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    AGREED, but I would convict the OP of hit and run!
    Wow...not sure how I could be convicted of hit and run when I just posted the additional details yesterday morning and I cannot check my email from work. I will look at the wire as suggested and take a picture if needed. The installed was a licensed plumber and the electrician licensed and had high ratings on Angie's list. I'm not doing this as a DIYer. And, actually, the electrician's quote was for several electrical items, not just the WH, but replacing the line was the only thing he recommended. I found it odd that he never actually used any diagnostic tools at the breaker or at the WH. I did look at the breaker and it does show 30A.

    Thanks to everyone who responded.
    Safeire

  3. #18
    DIY Junior Member safeire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nukeman View Post
    Okay. Now let's check the breaker. Find the one for the WH and it will have a number on it (25, 30, etc.).

    It may be that the old WH had a smaller element and the thing is on a 25A breaker, although 30A breakers are typically installed for WHs. Your new WH would take a 30A breaker.

    After you check the breaker size, take a look at the wiring coming into the WH. If it is Romex (flat looking cable), it should have some numbers printed on it. Look for numbers such as 10/2, 10-2, 12/2, 12-2, etc. and see what it says. If you aren't sure, you could take a couple pics and post them up on here and we might be able to help you figure it out.

    If the breaker and wiring are both correct, then I would get someone (other than this guy) to come out and take a look. Maybe have him replace the breaker (if it is weak) and have him look the WH connections over and make sure something isn't shorting out.

    Although not as likely, it could also be a defect in the WH with a bad t-stat or element causing a short when that t-stat cycles on.
    Thank you, Nukeman, for the recommendations. I will take a look and see what I can find.

  4. #19
    DIY Junior Member safeire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LLigetfa View Post
    If a qualified electrician sees a serious deficiency such as an undersized wire, there is not much point in up-sizing the breaker since it all has to be code compliant. There is no point in playing with meters or any diagnostic tools until the most expensive part of the deficiency is dealt with.

    So, who installed the new water heater and connected to a purportedly undersized wire?
    Thank you, LLigetfa, for your response. He is a licensed electrician with 35 years experience so my expectation was that he would do some testing to diagnose where the problem was coming from. But, if 35+ years (or really, any # of years since I'm not a licensed electrician) experience allows him to eyeball the problem, I guess that's good enough then. I'm just trying to do my due diligence so I don't waste my time or set my house on fire because I didn't do my homework.

  5. #20
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    We appreciate your feedback! We want to know the answer almost as bad as you! Perhaps you could just ask the electrician: " is something wrong with my cable or breaker?" He should not be offended by a question like that

  6. #21
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    We appreciate your feedback! We want to know the answer almost as bad as you!
    Yes, the plot thickens...

    If one electrician declares the wire as undersized but the former electrician did not, there is an obvious difference of opinion. Code is code however and must be met for the sake of safety. Wire size could be a code issue if it is 30A breaker but wire size would not cause more current. Undersized wire can cause a voltage drop and subsequently higher current on impedance loads such as a motor but on a resistive load it would cause less current. This is evidenced by the rating plate that states that at 208V, it draws 4125 Watts and at 240V, it draws 5500 Watts.

    I think the electricians have some 'splainin to do.

  7. #22
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; It could be that the electrician that deemed the wire as needing to be replaced, also spec'd a larger breaker but the OP may have fixated on the highest cost part of the job, that being the running of a new line.

    Tru, but if "All he did was walk around the basement but never actually checked anything with any meters or other diagnostic tools", then that implies a superficial evaluation, and may NOT have anything to do with the real problem.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  8. #23
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    ...that implies a superficial evaluation, and may NOT have anything to do with the real problem.
    This is true but let me play Devil's advocate. If I were a licensed electrician called to a job and found undersized wiring, I would first expect that the deficiency be brought up to code. In my work we have a responsibility called "Due Diligence" where I am obligated to point out serious deficiencies. If I fixed one thing and deliberately ignored an obvious deficiency which later caused harm, I could be held liable.

    If I were a mechanic and you took a car to me for a muffler and I saw that the car had no brakes, I would refuse to work on the car unless the brakes were included in the repair. If you had an accident as you left my shop with a new muffler and no brakes, I could land in court for failure to exercise due diligence.

    I'm not saying the electrician was right in calling out the wiring and purportedly leaving the impression that the wiring was the cause but if it is true that the wiring is undersized, under due diligence he can refuse to fix the cause for the tripping breaker if the wiring is not brought up to code.

  9. #24
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    It all comes down to this: the WH will have a stated need for power, if the wiring AND CB are capable of supplying at least that amount, the system should work. If it doesn't, there's either a short somewhere or the CB or panel's bus are bad. It takes a lot of expensive equipment to really test a CB properly, and I doubt few, if any electricians actually have any on hand. If it is thought to be defective, often it's just a lot easier and cheaper to install a new one. Note though, that the CB could be fine, but if the bus it plugs into has problems, then it won't work reliably. If a new CB is installed where the bus is compromised, the new breaker could fail soon, too. Long periods of max current or slight overloads may not trip a breaker, but the heat cycling can create problems, weaken the spring contact, and cause it to fail. A bad bus (corroded, pitted, etc.) can prevent a CB from working properly. A CB often doesn't trip for awhile when the current is slightly over the rated value, but will trip immediately upon a direct short or where the current peaks rapidly. This is one reason why the equipment to test them can be expensive and not commonly available outside of a factory.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  10. #25
    DIY Junior Member safeire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jimbo View Post
    We appreciate your feedback! We want to know the answer almost as bad as you! Perhaps you could just ask the electrician: " is something wrong with my cable or breaker?" He should not be offended by a question like that
    Thank you all for your responses. I contacted the original electrician with that question but have not heard anything back from him. I have called another electrician to assess. Based on everyone's feedback and my inspection based on those comments, I feel I need another opinion so that I actually fix the correct problem. I'm not intimidated by the cost, I just want to make sure the equipment is up to code and works properly so I don't have a fire or ruin the equipment.

    Once I have them out, I'll post the outcome.
    Safeire

  11. #26
    Consultant cwhyu2's Avatar
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    Try an AMP meter to see what AMPs it is drawing.

  12. #27
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    You still haven't indicated what gauge wire is feeding the WH. This is potentially the critical thing. The CB can only be as big as the wiring allows (although the CB can be smaller, it should never be larger than the wire can handle). The manual for the WH will state what size CB must be used to feed it.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  13. #28
    DIY Junior Member safeire's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by safeire View Post
    Thank you all for your responses. I contacted the original electrician with that question but have not heard anything back from him. I have called another electrician to assess. Based on everyone's feedback and my inspection based on those comments, I feel I need another opinion so that I actually fix the correct problem. I'm not intimidated by the cost, I just want to make sure the equipment is up to code and works properly so I don't have a fire or ruin the equipment.

    Once I have them out, I'll post the outcome.




    Safeire


    UPDATE
    The second electrician was here today. He diagnosed two primary issues-he found that the plumber had some exposed wire around a cap when he opened the thermostat controls on top of the WH. Second, he replaced the existing 20/20 breaker with a 30/30 breaker. Everything is working perfectly now.

    The first professional who was here told me I needed to replace the wire and never tested anything on the WH or the panel. The second looked at the wire and said it was 10/3 and that it was sufficient. I'm glad to have had the feedback from everyone here. It really helped me understand all of the techbical terms to ask the right questions.

    Thanks to all who responded. I'm glad I had the second gentleman do the work rather than the first.

    Safeire

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