Picture this. It’s a subzero Monday morning. You’ve hit the snooze button six times—and if it weren’t for your spouse threatening to suffocate you in your sleep, you would’ve hit it a seventh time. Instead, you sigh deeply, toss back the covers, and scurry to the bathroom. You turn on the shower, wait for the glorious steam to bubble over the curtain, and hop in. And then, two milliseconds after you soap up, your nice hot shower practically turns to sleet. “GAAAAAAAAH!” you scream. “What the bleepity-bleep-bleep happened to the hot water?!”
OK, admittedly, there are worse plumbing “situations” one could have. But that one? The one with shampoo streaming into your eyes? The one in which you’re groping blindly for a towel in an attempt to stop your teeth from chattering? That definitely makes our list of Top 10 No-Fun Moments in Home Ownership.
Why Electric Hot Water Tanks Quit
So, what causes Hot-Showerus Interruptus? If you have an electric hot water tank, it’s possible that the unit’s reset button tripped. Every once in a while, those buttons randomly trip. Often, though, it happens because:
- The unit’s thermostat is faulty.
- The reset button itself is malfunctioning.
- The part of the unit that prevents water from getting too hot—the high-limit switch—is no longer working.
- The heating element has a short.
- There’s a loose wire somewhere.
Keep in mind that a hot water tank’s reset button serves an important purpose—interrupting power in the event of a malfunction, such as a power surge or a faulty thermostat. If your hot water tank loses power repeatedly, there’s likely a problem that should be addressed by a professional Calgary plumber. And please remember that the combination of electricity and water is dangerous—even deadly. Never hesitate to call in a pro to check things over.
For the purposes of this post, we’re assuming your hot water tank typically minds its manners and this isn’t a recurring issue. With that understanding, let’s walk through two simple steps to get it going again.
First, check your electrical panel.
Head to your electrical panel (usually in the garage, basement, or storage closet), and locate the circuit labeled “water heater.”
- If the breaker’s in the OFF position: Flip it to ON. If it stays there, you can probably assume all this unpleasantness was a fluke and you can go on about your business. But if it flips back to OFF—either immediately or shortly thereafter—call an electrician.
- If the breaker’s in the ON position: Flip it to OFF.
Then, push the hot water tank reset button(s).
Somewhere on your electric hot water tank, you’ll find a reset button. It’s usually red and often located near the thermostat. It may also be hidden behind a removable metal panel on the unit—and then behind some insulation. Once you find the button, push and release it. While you have the access panel off, see if there’s a second thermostat and second reset button.
If the button trips again immediately after you push it, something’s not working correctly, and you should call in a pro. Otherwise, replace the access panel, then flip the relevant circuit breaker back to ON.
- If your hot water tank now has power, you’re all set. (Way to go!) Just keep in mind it’ll take a few hours to reheat the water in the tank.
- If your hot water tank still doesn’t work, flip the breaker to OFF, and call us so we can determine what’s happening and get hot water flowing again.
- If your hot water tank starts working but the reset button trips again, switch that breaker back to OFF, and let us have a look. Again, your reset button is a safety feature, so if it keeps tripping, something’s not quite right.
Is Your Hot Water Tank Trying to Tell You Something?
One suddenly cold shower is (sort of) funny. But when it keeps happening, that’s an aggravating problem. We’d be honored to stop by and figure out what’s going on, so
Somewhere on your electric hot water tank, you'll find a reset button. It's usually red and often located near the thermostat. It may also be hidden behind a removable metal panel on the unit—and then behind some insulation. Once you find the button, push and release it.Why will my hot water heater reset button not reset? ›
A faulty thermostat is the most common reason but there may also be other common causes of this problem. Loose wiring that is comprised in some way may also be the reason behind this problem. Heating elements that might have a short on one or both sides may also be the cause of continuous tripping.What trips the reset button on a electric hot water heater? ›
Your thermostat monitors the water temperature in your tank and turns off the heating element when it reaches your set temperature. However, if one of these thermostats malfunctions, it may get stuck ON and fail to turn off the element it serves, which causes the reset button to trip.How long does it take an electric water heater to reset? ›
Average Water Heater Recovery Times
60-70 minutes (for a gas tank water heater) 120 minutes (for an electric tank water heater)
If an electric water heater is not producing hot water, it could be a simple problem like a blown fuse or tripped circuit breaker. Additionally, some electric water heaters have a circuit-style safety switch located near or on the thermostat.Why would a hot water tank need to be reset? ›
When your thermostat stops working correctly, it can fail to regulate the temperature in your electric water heater properly. This, in turn, will cause your water to heat up to dangerous levels, which will cause the reset switch to trip.How do you reset a tripped water heater? ›
If your water heater reset button keeps tripping, one of your heating elements may be broken or worn out. As this component is used to heat water, your hot water heater won't work without it. When the reset button on a water heater thermostat keeps tripping, the metal casing of the heating element may have cracks.How do I test my water heater reset switch? ›
How to Check the Reset Button. If your electric water heater reset button is lit up or has tripped, you will need to reset the thermostat. The reset button will be right next to one of the thermostats (usually the top one), and it is normally red.When should you hit reset button on water heater? ›
If your water heater stops producing warm water, resetting the heater will usually solve the problem. As long as you can find the water heater and identify the reset button, the process is simple. All you need to do is open the heater, press the button, and close the heater again.Why is the red button tripped on my water heater? ›
It gets “tripped” and cuts off the thermal energy elements of your water heater as soon as it detects dangerously high temperatures. This little button keeps you safe – but it can also malfunction, causing it to trip for no reason. Mostly, the cause involves your thermostat.
If your cold water pressure is fine but your hot isn't, a partially closed valve is a likely cause. Your hot water heater has a shut off valve that can become partially closed.How do I know if my electric water heater is not working? ›
Decreased or Varying Water Temperature
If you notice that the water temperature from your hot water heater is not as consistent as it used to be, or if the water temperature is noticeably lower than it used to be, this could be a sign that the unit is beginning to fail.