Electric Water Heater

I recently inspected an electric water heater in Calif. that had just been replaced. The breaker on the electrical panel was off when I arrived so I turned it on. Other than that, does an electric water heater have an on/off switch? Also, I did not see a thermostat on the exterior of the appliance. I don’t usually take appliances apart to inspect them. Question: would there have been thermostat under the cover plate?

The thermostats for each element are behind the cover plates .

If I arrive to an inspection and the water heater is off, it stays off. Since this is an electrical water heater it’ll take a while to fully heat up anyways. As to your question, it should have a reset button and the water temperature settings should be preset. Testing an electrical water heater with no water or low water can damage the heating element, always check water level first.

You are very lucky there was water in the tank when you flipped the breaker. My rule is if you don’t know why the breaker is off, don’t turn it on.

It is my understanding, I could be wrong, and ofton am, that a disconnect is needed at the water heater IF the breaker in the panel is not visible fromn the heater.

Are you sure Juan. My electric only has one thermostat behind the botton cover. Why would you ever want to have the top and bottom elements set at different temps?

Yes I am sure. If your model only has one, then it only has one. My point, to the OP, was that yes, the thermostats are behind the cover plates. I have read different arguments for the temperature settings. I am content leaving mine the same.

If you use all the hot water then the Bottom element has to heat the complete tank .
With the top coming on at a lower temp you get hot water ( about 1/4 of the tank sooner) Then the bottom heater comes on to heat the lower section of the tank been this way for ever … Roy

Most water heaters have 2 heating elements but there are some that only have one. Most manufactures recommend setting the lower thermostat to a lower temp to reduce electric use.
The top element is left at factory default and will turn on when the temp in the top quarter of the tank is below the top thermostat level. Once temp is achieved at the top thermostat it then shuts off and the bottom thermostat takes over. If bottom water temp is below bottom thermostat setting then the bottom heating element is energized until the temp reaches the bottom thermostat temp.

Only one element can run at a time and the top thermostat needs to be satisfied before the bottom can energize.

Edit: Roy and Juan have it. I was typing this when they posted.

Bingo !

Cool ! Roy
I never knew that

Contrary to popular belief, not all water heaters operate this way!

I inspected a home this week that had a water heater with only one element and thermostat.

WH’s make was Giant, dated 2003, capacity 22 gallons and 120V.