How To Test A Hot Water Heater Element?

Most of our daily chores depend on hot water, and sometimes there’s a significant drop in the water’s temperature supplied by your water heater. Having lukewarm water doesn’t always work in our favor.

There are a plethora of factors that upset the normal functioning of your electric water heater, one such factor is a damaged element.

This is one of the leading causes behind the ineffective functioning of the water heater.

There are many reasons which bring forth the expiration of water heater element, like for instance buildup of minerals, a defective thermostat, faulty wiring, power surge, etc.

You can always seek professional help to rectify this issue, however, it’s not going to be cheap. 

You can always seek professional help to rectify this issue, however, it’s not going to be cheap

Keeping your water hot and flowing smoothly with a new heating element.

That is why we brought you this DIY guide to troubleshoot the issue by yourself, and if needed can replace the faulty component.

Just follow these steps and you will be able to test the water heater element with the help of a digital multimeter, despite having no electrical work experience.

So without further ado.

Check This Differences & Comparisons: Gas vs Electric Water Heater – Differences and Comparisons.

Steps involved in testing a hot water heater element 

But before we get to that let me tell you about the list of tools that you need.

  • Safety goggles.
  • Gloves.
  • Screwdriver.
  • Digital multimeter.

Step 1: Turn the breaker off

You can turn it off from inside the main electrical panel. Most of the water heaters make use of 30 amp dual pole circuit breaker.

Step 2: Unscrew the screws of the panels

Depending upon the size of the water heater you may find either one or two panels on the side of the water heater. Just remove the screws to take out the panel.

Step 3: Take out the insulation

The insulation will get exposed once the side panels are removed. The insulation is a compact cell extruded polystyrene fiberglass or foam, while removing it make sure you are wearing your safety gear.

Step 4: Now remove the safety covering

The safety covering which is present on the element’s front, pull it off. Often the cover turns on and off the element and thermostat.

Follow These Causes Of Water Leakage: Causes Of Water Leakage In Tankless Water Heater?

Step 5: Make sure there’s no electricity left

Use the multimeter and connect it with the cables attached to the face of the element, then into each cable attached to the thermostat.

In case there’s still any electricity present in the water heater, the multimeter will make a sound and the light starts to flash.

You can also use a voltage detector for this purpose, if you have one.

Step 6: Make note of the element wattage

To find that you need to remove the wires present underneath the element screws (you have to loosen those two screws of element).

Now you will be able to see the element wattage written on the flanks of the element face.

Step 7:  It’s time to measure the reading

It’s time to measure the reading

Taking the time to test your hot water heater element can prevent unexpected cold showers.

Take the multimeter and now turn the handle to Rx 1k (which means resistance 1,000 ohms).

Take one of the probes of multimeter and touch the screw present on the element’s face. Now touch the other screw with the other probe.

A typical 3,500 Watt element should be able to register 16 ohms in multimeter, while a 4,500 Watt element should be able to measure somewhere between 10 and 11 ohms.

However, if the element fails to register with the required value on the multimeter, then it is high time that you had it replaced.

Step 8: Make sure if the element is grounded or not

Make sure if the element is grounded or not

It's important to test your hot water heater element for optimal performance.

For this keep one of the probes on either of the screws and then touch any metal part of the heater with the other probe.

If the needle moves then it means the heater is grounded, in other words, it’s time to replace it.

Note: You need to test both screws of the element.

Step 9: Check the element

Lay the multimeter probes on both screws, after that place the other probes on the metal part of the element from where the water enters into the heater. If the needle moves then you should replace the heater.

Now it’s time to put the whole thing back the way it was, once everything is back in its place turn the breaker on.

Multimeters are an effective tool, so buy the one which works well for the long haul, as all sorts of multimeters work perfectly with the water heaters.


As mentioned earlier many reasons affect the normal functioning of the element, but before replacing the part, it is advised that you have it checked with a multimeter by following the above-mentioned steps.

Remember to wear the safety gear first, and make sure that the power is completely off.

Just to be on the safe side unplug the heater from the power source and turn off the breaker as well.

Don’t check the heater if you just turned it off, give at least 2 hours for it to cool down.

Always remember, safety comes first.

About Author

Thomas Hair

Thomas Hair is a distinguished authority in the realm of creating cozy, inviting homes. His expertise lies in transforming living spaces into havens of comfort and warmth. Through his insightful writings, Hair shares practical tips, design ideas, and lifestyle suggestions, inspiring individuals to cultivate inviting atmospheres that embrace tranquility and contentment. With a passion for interior design and a keen eye for detail, he guides readers on a journey to craft spaces that exude harmony and relaxation. Hair's work resonates with those seeking to infuse their homes with a sense of coziness, establishing him as a trusted and revered figure in the domain of creating inviting living environments.

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