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Thread: Water Heater only Luke Warm

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Konowl's Avatar
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    Default Water Heater only Luke Warm

    My water heater is only putting out luke-warm water. I put an OHM reader to the upper element and lower element at 1k OHM and both needles moved to infinity so I'm assuming both elements are ok. I just turned the heater on and the upper element is currently on but the lower element is not.

    I should note that this happened right after I replaced my well pump. I could hear a dripping when I emptied the pressue tank and couldn't identify where it was coming from. Waht I think might have happened is that due to no pressure in the system, the hot water tank could have lost a bit of water. After I turned everything back on, the hot water got REALLY hot - hotter than it's ever been - then went luke-warm. Sounds like the upper element burning out, right? So why is the multi-meter still showing movement. Maybe it's the thermostat?
    Last edited by Konowl; 08-27-2013 at 08:05 AM.

  2. #2
    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    How many watts are your elements? Are they 240 volts?

    Check thermostats for round red buttons.. these are manual reset high temp limit controls that pop at around 170 deg or so.

    Just for your info,, as most water heaters I've seen, only one element is active at any time.. the top thermostat is a 3 way switch.. when its satisfied, it turns off and send power to the lower thermostat. When the lower thermostat is satisfied, it turns off too but still has power available. Since thermal currents rise, as the heater cools off, the bottom becomes cold first.

    Hope that helps,

  3. #3
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    You need to measure on Rx1.

    If you are reading 1 K then they are bad.

    If you did not turn the power Off and the tank was out of water, then you probably cooked your elements. Water Cools them.

    When they melt they get real Hot for a short period of time.


    Good Luck.
    Last edited by DonL; 08-27-2013 at 10:32 AM.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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    DIY Junior Member Konowl's Avatar
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    Ok, turns out that big magical reset button I THOUGHT I pushed... I didn't. Pushed it, water came back on.

    Fast forward 4 hours, I measure hte temperature... 165 degrees Faranheit. Almost peeled the flesh right off my hands (but fantastic to clean dishes with). Thermostat is set to 130. Is that the problem now? COuld the thermostat blow because the water ran empty?

  5. #5
    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Konowl View Post
    Ok, turns out that big magical reset button I THOUGHT I pushed... I didn't. Pushed it, water came back on.

    Fast forward 4 hours, I measure hte temperature... 165 degrees Faranheit. Almost peeled the flesh right off my hands (but fantastic to clean dishes with). Thermostat is set to 130. Is that the problem now? COuld the thermostat blow because the water ran empty?
    Well this is unusual. It sounds to me like the contacts in your thermostat are frozen closed.. Either that, or the thermostat is not making contact with the tank.

    Check to make sure the thermostat is making solid contact with the steel water tank and that it has insulation surrounding it.. A water heater thermostat that says it should be at 130 should ABSOLUTELY NOT let the water get to 160+.. that's a malfunction. Max temps on most water heater thermostats that I have seen are about 145 or so.

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member Konowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murphy625 View Post
    Well this is unusual. It sounds to me like the contacts in your thermostat are frozen closed.. Either that, or the thermostat is not making contact with the tank.

    Check to make sure the thermostat is making solid contact with the steel water tank and that it has insulation surrounding it.. A water heater thermostat that says it should be at 130 should ABSOLUTELY NOT let the water get to 160+.. that's a malfunction. Max temps on most water heater thermostats that I have seen are about 145 or so.
    Should I just go ahead and replace it? The unit actually looks quite old.

  7. #7
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Konowl View Post
    Should I just go ahead and replace it? The unit actually looks quite old.

    If you did not kill the power to it when you worked on the well, Then Yes.

    The Button you pushed most likely Poped again.

    Many people forget the turning off the water heater step, and it is important when the water is turned off.

    The heater needs to be disabled or smoke may occur, and dirty sock smell also, when the element melts.

    Did You turn if Off ? Before you started ? or after you was hearing the elements cook ?


    Many Variables in a formula make it hard to figure. And theory works easier in a vacuum.



    Good Luck.
    Last edited by DonL; 08-27-2013 at 05:10 PM.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member Konowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    If you did not kill the power to it when you worked on the well, Then Yes.

    The Button you pushed most likely Poped again.

    Many people forget the turning off the water heater step, and it is important when the water is turned off.

    The heater needs to be disabled or smoke may occur, and dirty sock smell also, when the element melts.

    Did You turn if Off ? Before you started ? or after you was hearing the elements cook ?


    Many Variables in a formula make it hard to figure. And theory works easier in a vacuum.



    Good Luck.
    I never thought to turn it off when I replaced the pump. . It was on the entire time.

  9. #9
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Konowl View Post
    I never thought to turn it off when I replaced the pump. . It was on the entire time.

    The Bottom element may be ok, depends how much water came out of the tank.

    I would suspect the Top element may be melted and is shorting out.

    With the power turned Off You should be able to measure from the Ground to the element terminals with your ohm meter. It should read Open.


    Good luck.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  10. #10
    DIY Junior Member Konowl's Avatar
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    When I tested the element the ohm reader read open. I just replaced the thermometer and so far so good. Temperature is where it should be. Is it normal for the element on top to be on constantly? It's a 240 v element when I change the temp and force the element on it reads 240 v when thermometer shuts the elemennt off it reads around 120v.

  11. #11
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Konowl View Post
    When I tested the element the ohm reader read open. I just replaced the thermometer and so far so good. Temperature is where it should be. Is it normal for the element on top to be on constantly? It's a 240 v element when I change the temp and force the element on it reads 240 v when thermometer shuts the elemennt off it reads around 120v.

    If you are reading across the element terminals then that is not normal. Are you reading the voltage to ground ?
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  12. #12
    DIY Junior Member Konowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    If you are reading across the element terminals then that is not normal. Are you reading the voltage to ground ?
    Across the element terminals on the top element, that's correct.

  13. #13
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Konowl View Post
    Across the element terminals on the top element, that's correct.
    If it Always has Voltage across it then you have a problem.

    It will always be heating water, and it should not.

    A element would have to be shorted, or it is wired wrong if one leg of the 240v is finding a way to neutral or ground, giving you 120V across the element.

    Is the water still getting to hot ? What is your heater model number ?
    Last edited by DonL; 08-29-2013 at 04:49 AM.
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  14. #14
    DIY Junior Member Konowl's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonL View Post
    If it Always has Voltage across it then you have a problem.

    It will always be heating water, and it should not.

    A element would have to be shorted, or it is wired wrong if one leg of the 240v is finding a way to neutral or ground, giving you 120V across the element.

    Is the water still getting to hot ? What is your heater model number ?
    It's not getting too hot, that's the odd thing. Staying right around 130.

  15. #15
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Konowl View Post
    It's not getting too hot, that's the odd thing. Staying right around 130.
    That is a good thing.

    It sounds like your elements may be hooked in series if you have 120 on them. Or maybe it is a 120V unit. That is why I asked for a model #. But why they had 240 on them don't make sense. Unless you were working in your breaker panel wiring your new water pump. If the new thermostat is wired wrong, that could cause 120, but you would need to be swapping wires. Also some units may do that for efficiency. Model maters.

    I am clueless at this point. But still suspect the top element if no wiring was changed. Because of the fact that it may have been on with no water to cool it.

    Just make sure your Pop Off Valve is good and has a place for the water to go.

    Sometimes it is best to download the manual for what you are working on, Before you start working on it. Then You can understand how it works, and be Safe working on it.

    Water Heaters are really fairly simple if you know how they work.

    For safety reasons if you do not know how they work then you should not work on it.

    Read your Meter manual also, so you know what you are reading and measuring.

    If I am wrong then please tell me, in a PM if needed.


    Terry's site has good info, But He and Myself like for everyone to be safe when working on a DIY project.


    Good Luck.
    Last edited by DonL; 08-29-2013 at 09:10 AM.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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