Why Would My Electric Hot Water Heater Keep Tripping The Breaker?


34 Answers

Tess Langley Profile
Tess Langley answered
Electric boilers or heaters can be very dangerous if they are not working correctly and the best advice would be to switch it off and call out a boiler expert straight away.

It may cost you a fair bit for even just the call-out charge, however it is worth the money to ensure yourself and whoever else you live with is safe.

If you do not have a regular boiler man you use then it is fairly simple to find one. First you could ask around friends and family to see if they use anyone in particular and you can also then find out roughly how much they charge. It is worth trying to get a good deal, but you must be sure they are fully qualified.

If you've asked around and nobody has given you any names, then you can look in your local directory. Under boiler repairs you should see many names and numbers for your local area. It is even worth ringing them first and asking how much their standard call out charge is so you don't get any nasty surprises.

If you don't have access to a local phone directory then you can head to Type in 'electric boiler repairs' and your local area. You should find many names and numbers once more and so again you can ring a few and ask their availability and rates.

This electric heater issue should not be left to see if it sorts itself out, your health and even life can be at risk if it is a major problem with the boiler. It is always worth getting it checked over by a qualified person.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Most of the time, the element burns out, most often the lower element.
A water heater is simply a sealed tank, two elements, two thermostats, and a pressure release valve.  If it isn't leaking around the seams, I would change out the 2 elements with same or lower wattage elements, change both thermostats, and the pressure release valve, if the water heater is not nearly new.  Be sure to flip the breaker, drain the tank, and get an "element wrench" (which you can get at Home Depot  - just a 1 1/2 deep socket), and teflon tape....may need a vise to
get the nipple off the pressure release valve with a plumber's wrench.  Be sure to change ALL the above (the thermostats need to be the same brand, generally as the new elements, so if you are changing from Apcom to another brand, change them all...its inexpensive.   If you don't change the pressure release valve, it may be corroded open (allowing wasted water out, or even worse, corroded shut, in which case, if your thermostat doesn't shut down the heat it can blow up!).  Be sure to change all 5 of the above....approx.  $75.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
It is a newly installed heater
trace noe Profile
trace noe answered
THERMOSTAT IS USUALLY THE FIRST THING TO CHECK IF BREAKER IS BEING THREW. Thermostats that are bad will throw a breaker. Heating elements that are burnt all most threw will also throw breaker. I have also had this problem and it was just a bad breaker its self.
thanked the writer.
laurie winkelman
laurie winkelman commented
This has been going on for like 4 months now and we keep pushing the red button in on the heater. If I wait 20 minutes I have hot water. If it was the heating element would it not work even after hitting the red button?
laurie winkelman
laurie winkelman commented
Also it's in a mobile home. Only 1 element.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Sounds like the thermostat is bad. Too high of temperature will dislodge particles that you would normally not see. Shut off the breaker and the incoming water, drain completely, flush with "clean" water. Install new thermostat, refill HWH and turn the breaker back on. NOTE while unit is drained, it would be a great time to replace the elements in the heater. This also could be the problem.
Rev. Dr. Charles Rogers Profile
It sounds as if the thermostat on the water heater may need replacement, given what you say.
Keep in mind however, circuit breakers tripping can occur with age. As the breaker ages it also loses it rated capacity and the slightest surge (as when the water heater either comes on or is on for prolonged periods of time) causes the breaker to trip.
I would try lowering the temperature setpoint on the WH thermostat and see if that has an effect; if it doesn't, check the age of the circuit breaker.
Good Luck...
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
Change the breaker as soon as possible but don't forget to match the voltage on breaker with the voltage on the unit. Your breaker might be too small for the job. Also check the wiring dear. And don't forget to check the website given below:
Jim Witness Protection Profile
Your old water heater had certain amp draw elements in them, wired to circuit that traces back to fuse /breaker panel.( I'm sure you knew that). One of two things has happened; Your new elements are of a higher amps rating than the old ones you replaced and trip the breaker for safety. Or you crossed a wire someplace. My guess is number one - elements do not draw same amps.
Tom Dasher Profile
Tom Dasher answered
Possible shorted heating element. Turn off power to water heater, disconnect both upper and lower elements and ohm with meter. If shorted, will show 0 ohms on meter.
Hello Boss Profile
Hello Boss answered
Higher amperage draw is the usual answer, check your breaker rating, then check the amp rating on your new elements. I'll bet you find that you will have to upsize your breaker to handle the problem. Also, lowering the temperature will not help, it will only cause cooler water to flow.
kelly manfredo Profile
kelly manfredo answered
It maybe an old water heater and isn't up to the new fuse standards or there is a cross in the wires somewhere be careful with that one.I'd call an electrician if I were you.
Glen Thornbury Profile
Glen Thornbury answered
I was a plumber!
It sounds like you thermostat???? Check it First then shout me!
The liner just broke too?? If it keeps leaking RUSTY water get a NEW ONE! It's BAD!
YOUR suppose to drain it, and you've NEVER done That Either! OR your on well water!
Nick Shaw Profile
Nick Shaw answered
Probably a short or cross in the wires. Good chance its in the thermostat. Rust could be from a bad line or some deposits that have broken up from the increased heat and pressure. An electrician could tell you what's what though.
Jann Moor Profile
Jann Moor answered
Anyway, it's not a good sign, possibly a rusted tank also. Most likely this water heater is old and could need a replacement. As you know electric water heaters can be costly these days, use gas if you can get it hooked for that.

John Profile
John answered
You have a short or overload in the circuit. Get a is a page with a sample answer for this problem.
samual answers Profile
samual answers answered
The thermostat is a switch. When the temp drops to the preset setting, it allows current to flow until the preset temp is reached then opens and current flow stops. The limit switch is what protects the water heater from overtemp(should the t-stat fail to open). After that, the pressure relief valve will open dropping the pressure in the vessel if it reaches 150 psi or 210 degrees. Now, if it keeps tripping on limit, the problem lies in the part of the circuit before the limit . You've replaced the t-stat. What is the water pressure going  to the water heater? Is the t-stat wired correctly? The heating elements are operated by the t-stat. It opens or closes the hot leg. I think your problem is the t-stat wiring. Either you have a junk t-stat again or somehow the t-stat is being bypassed allowing the current to flow to the elements and because the current never shuts off, the limit switch has taken over the role of t-stat everything is in series in the control of the hot legs goes to the elements, continues to the t-stat, then to the limit. Find where it bypasses the t-stat allowing voltage to continue and you will have solved the problem.
Susan Rothman Profile
Susan Rothman answered
Just sounds to me like its time for a replacement has come. The electrical circuitry is overloading and the current seems to be uneven, when you have super hot water one time and regular temp water with metallic residue the other. I think you should call in an expert to evaluate the heater and be prepared for a repair bill. Metal in the water is not a good sign; overheated water should not happen. You should not even touch water that is attached to the circuitry, I think. You could have an exposed corroded heating element, I am guessing.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
It could be the breaker is on an overloaded circuit.  Most appliances that produce a lot of heat should be on their own circuit breaker and not share it with other loads.  Check to see what else goes out when the breaker trips.  It may be sharing the circuit with something that can be moved to a different circuit.

Now if it's an electric water heater with a built in breaker, then it's bad and needs replaced.

Rena Chisholm Profile
Rena Chisholm answered
Sounds like the breaker , (reset button), itself is worn out and needs to be replaced.
  Hot water heaters draw a lot of amps when they are heating. If the breaker is old and tired, it will usually trip.
laurie winkelman Profile
Electric heater keeps tripping on water heater itself not actual breaker box. We push red button on heater, wait 20 minutes and we are able to take a shower again. We have to do this everyday. Not sure how old it is. Husband replaced element about 3 yrs ago. Don't see any leaking. What do we need to replace? It's a state ind 30 gal electric heater. Model # sci 30 1hms8e
Brandon Spalding Profile
Their are several reason for it to be flipping the breaker. But I would need to know a few things about to answer your question. Is it new or old? Has it been there and it just started doing it? Was it just installed? After answering these questions I would love to help you solve your problem.
thanked the writer.
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Anonymous commented
It was installed in 1994. Was working fine until 2 days ago then no hot water. Changed an element and the hot water heater came on but just as it was getting warm the breaker shut off.
Anonymous commented
It was installed 1 1/2 years ago it just recently started tripping the breaker...when you run the water in the kitchen it makes a loud noise and the faucet trips the breaker about 10/15 times a day...can you help...
Anonymous commented
We bought this house last year and the water heater was new and has worked fine until last week
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
It could be caused from hard water deposits in your tank. It will cause it to rust and short out the elements. If it blew the breaker that is not a good sign. Mine did that last month and I had to get a new one and it was only three years old.
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
If this is an electric heater the element has rusted and is exposed to the water. It will then create a short to ground and trip your breaker
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
I change the breaker to my water heater and the breaker is working but once I plug in the heater and turn it on it trips the breaker
tom j Profile
tom j answered
Probably have a burnt out heating element or your tank is leaking a little you just don't see it yet
Rosemary Lou Profile
Rosemary Lou answered
Just began tripping, older tank, has never tripped before. There is a lot of slack in the breaker...
Cliff Marrero Profile
Cliff Marrero answered
The life expectancy of water heaters are approximately 5-10 years. Usually there will be a little leakage from the bottom of the tank. Water heaters work with 2 rods within the tank. An upper rod and lower rod. It seems your rods are working overtime and I don't like the fact that it tripped your fuse box. Call a plumber and see whether he can make an assessment over the phone. Good luck!
Anonymous Profile
Anonymous answered
If the wiring to the thermostat is fine, the likely culprit is a faulty heating element. There are usually two heating elements; an upper & lower. Lower elements have a habit of shorting out because they sit in crud at the bottom of the tank. Drain the tank, unscrew and replace the element... Really easy & cheap. Good Luck
Charles Ben Vance Profile
An electrical short, the heating element could have burnt out and is touching something, or a wire could be frayed and touching together, or the breaker could be bad. Be careful dealing with a hot water heater and breaker boxes, water and exposed wiring is a dangerous combination. You might want to look and see if there is a number to call on the water heater, most service men leave a colorful stamp with their company name and number on things they fix. Otherwise the yellow pages is a good place to find a reputable repairman.
Sharon Profile
Sharon answered
A hot water heater is like a bomb just wait for an agitator to set it off.
The danger this can cause is deadly. Please contact someone who has expertise in the diagnosing of Hot water heaters. There are so many reported accidents in the failing of the heater to work, including deaths of children and teachers in a school.  I am not telling you this to scare you, but to protect. Even if you skilled in the repairs, apparently the problem is something you have not yet mastered.  Call someone quick and don't attempt to light it again until a qualified worker comes.

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