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Water Heater Elements: How to Test Them and Why

By February 7, 2024Home Maintenance
Testing water heater elements

The frustration of stepping into a chilly shower is an experience everyone hopes to avoid. Whether you’re a homeowner, landlord, renter, maintenance professional, or property manager, understanding how to test water heater elements can save you time, money, and discomfort.

Wondering where to start with testing water heater elements? This article will clarify the process, ensuring that the shock of a chilly shower remains a thing of the past.

Why Test Water Heater Elements?

The heating elements in a water heater are crucial for providing warm water whenever it’s needed. Over time, these elements can wear out or malfunction, leading to inadequate water temperature and heating time. By regularly testing the water heater elements, you can determine if they need to be replaced or repaired, thus ensuring a consistent hot water supply.

Moreover, proactive testing and maintenance can extend the lifespan of a water heater, improve its efficiency, and help to avoid potentially costly emergency repairs. It also allows for better management of energy bills, as a well-functioning water heater operates more efficiently and uses less energy.

Importance of water heater elements

Step-by-Step Guide for Testing Water Heater Elements

Safety First

Before proceeding with any testing, ensure that you turn off the power supply to the water heater at the breaker box. This step is crucial to prevent any potential accidents or electrical shocks during the testing process.

Access the Water Heater Elements

Locate the access panels on the side of your water heater. These panels cover the heating elements. Use a screwdriver or appropriate tool to remove the panels and expose the elements.

Test for Power

Utilize a voltage tester to check if there is power running to the heating elements. Touch the tester to the terminals of each element, and if it lights up, it means there is power. If the tester doesn’t light up, make sure to turn the power supply back on before proceeding further.

Inspect the Water Heating Elements

Carefully examine each heating element for any signs of damage, such as corrosion, rust, or discoloration. If you notice any visible issues, the water heater may need a new element installed.

Perform a Continuity Test

Utilize a multimeter set to the resistance or ohms setting to check the continuity of each element. Place one probe on each terminal of the element and note the reading on the multimeter. A reading of infinity indicates an open circuit and means that the element is faulty and requires replacement.

Check for Grounding

While performing the continuity test, ensure there is no continuity between either terminal and the metal casing of the element. If there is continuity, it indicates a grounding issue, which also calls for replacing the element.

Person conducting maintenance on a water heater and checking on the elements

Other Recommended Maintenance

In addition to testing the water heater elements, several other maintenance activities should be considered to ensure the longevity and efficiency of your water heater. These activities include draining and flushing the tank to remove sediment, inspecting the pressure relief valve for proper functioning, checking for leaks around the base and fittings, examining the anode rod for corrosion and replacing it if necessary, and insulating both the water heater tank and the pipes to conserve energy.

When to Call a Professional

Despite your best efforts, there might be situations where it’s wise to enlist the services of a professional plumber. These instances include when you’re unsure of how to perform a test or maintenance task when there’s a persistent issue that’s not resolved through basic troubleshooting, when you hear unusual noises emanating from the water heater, or if there are signs of serious corrosion or leaking that may require parts replacement or a complete unit replacement. A professional plumber possesses the experience and tools necessary to diagnose and fix any issues efficiently.

Water Heater Repair and Replacement Costs: What to Expect

Understanding the costs involved in water heater repair and replacement can further inform your decision on when to call a professional. On average, repairing a water heater ranges from $150 to $700, while replacement typically costs between $1,300 to $5,500​. The exact price may depend on the specific issue, your location, and the type of water heater you have.

Comparing the repair cost against the price of a new unit can help you determine the most cost-effective solution, whether that’s fixing the existing unit or opting for a replacement.


As a homeowner, testing water heater elements is a pivotal skill. It can shield you from unexpected cold showers and potentially high repair costs down the line. By incorporating these maintenance tasks and calling an expert when needed, you can you water heater’s life considerably. Adhering to a regular maintenance schedule and addressing issues promptly will enhance the overall performance of your water heater, granting you peace of mind and the comfort of reliable hot water whenever you need it.

If you notice a larger issue with your water heater or you’re unsure where to start with testing, reach out to the professionals at Atkinson Inspection Services in Clermont, FL, and surrounding areas today.