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Thread: Another electric water heater thread

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member Joe Garfield's Avatar
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    Default Another electric water heater thread

    (I tried searching but didn't find anything that specifically addressed my problem)

    I have a GE (Rheem) electric water heater. It was built in 2005 and is a 12yr warranty model. It is a 50gal dual element unit and it came with the foreclosed home I purchased in December. The upper and lower thermostats are set to about 140deg.

    I live alone, don't take very hot showers, and showers are probably less than 10min, maybe a few min more for a 'long' shower.

    I get hot water for maybe 1-2 minutes, then it turns lukewarm, and just getting cold (not ice cold) at the end of a shower. When I shower I start with a ratio of about 80/20 hot to cold, and within minutes I need full hot water. This has been consistent between showering downstairs in a makeshift shower (utility sink valves) during renovating, and now in my new bathroom upstairs (Kohler rite temp valve).

    I have replaced both elements and the bottom thermostat. I just went to check the 'reset' button (it was not tripped) and I noticed the bottom of the tank (inside) is hot, the top is hardly warm.

    I do not see a mixing valve anywhere in the house.

    I don't really understand the function of the upper thermostat - could that be the culprit? I thought the upper thermostat is what tells the bottom to heat. It almost seems like a bad upper element but it was replaced with the lower element.

    Thanks for reading and any thoughts

  2. #2
    DIY Senior Member Murphy625's Avatar
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    Why not just put a meter on the heating element and the thermostat and see if they're good?

    Also, check your hot and cold lines going into the water heater and make sure they are not reversed.

    One other thing to check is to make sure you have 240 volts going to it and not 120.

    There is a dip-tube on the cold water inlet that directs the incoming water to the bottom of the tank.. if this tube somehow got broken off, your hot water wouldn't last very long as the cold water would end up collecting at the top of the tank where the hot-water discharge pipe is at. That might explain things.
    One way to check:
    Turn on the hot water and let it run... use a meter and monitor the top and bottom thermostats.. the bottom one should click and activate first and the bottom of the tank should become cold first... If you find the top of the tank gets cold first, then the dip tube is probably broken. I'm not sure if it can be replaced with a new tube or not..

    Hope that helps,

  3. #3
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    +1 on the broken/corroded dip-tube theory, given the age of the unit. Low volume users will get SOME thermal stratification of the tank, but with a 140F storage temp it shouldn't be enough to limit the showering-hot to sub-2 minutes. (A typical showering temp is ~105F +/-2F.) But rapid mixing of the incoming water in the upper 1/4 of the tank could hit tepid output temps in that time frame.

  4. #4
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Garfield View Post
    I don't really understand the function of the upper thermostat - could that be the culprit? I thought the upper thermostat is what tells the bottom to heat. It almost seems like a bad upper element but it was replaced with the lower element.

    Thanks for reading and any thoughts

    Yes it could be the upper thermostat. Were your original elements bad ?


    I agree, a VOM would help to troubleshoot the problem.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    If your upper thermostat, or element, is faulty, you will not get any hot water. If the lower element is working, the top of the tank HAS to get hot because hot water rises to the top of the tank. Until you test both elements and both t'stats, you will have absolutely no idea what, if anything, is faulty with the heater. 2005 was outside the window for bad dip tubes.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

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