Finding burnt elements in electric water heaters

I looked at another inspectors summary and he had called one burnt element of a two-element water heater.
It looked like he ran the hot water and checked it’s temperature at specific intervals… five and ten minutes in this case.
Is this a good procedure for finding burnt elements in water heaters? What’s a good digital thermometer for checking water temp.? -Kent

The easiest way to determine if the heating elements are operational is to place an Amp clamp on one of the wires connected to the element being tested. Turn the temperature up on the element you are testing and turn the temperature down on the other element. Open up a nearby hot water faucet to allow cold water into the unit. You should hear the thermostat click when it activates. The Amp clamp should indicate current flowing. If not, you have a defective element or thermostat or you forgot to turn the circuit breaker on. Now try the other element. This test is beyond the NACHI SOP but an easy one to perform if you have any questions about the operability of the water heater elements.

How much time do you have to spend at an inspection .
I do not check for burnt out elements.

Roy Cooke sr

Fellas, Fellas, Fellas,

My goodness! How technical do you want to break down electric water heaters? Do you do the same for electric furnaces or Heat Pumps? How about the coolant level of the refigerator? Freezer too perhaps? How many ice cubes will the ice maker make in two and a half hours and how do you test for that? The list can be endless don’t you think? I try to do the following and you may want to try this too and see if it works for you. I look at the date on the water heater…I look to see if it is leaking or has any signs of leakage…Then I look for hot water at every faucet. If the unit is more that six years old, I SUGGEST that it be serviced and have the sacrificial anode rod replaced. That way I don’t spend an hour testing for burned out anythings and I don’t have the need for an amp meter either.

Changing stat settings will get you in “Hot water” ! :-0

Agree with this being waaaay outside the scope of a home inspection. I do however discuss with the customer the problem of burned out heating elements and faulty thermostats, point out to them where these component reside and inform them of the possibility of having to replace them at some future date and I even tell them the components can be purchased at most hardware stores and home centers. I check the hot water, check the temp of the hot water and record it in the report. Why check the temp you say? So I have documentation that the unit was working at the time of the inspection and if it is set too high they need to know and adjust it to avoid someone (especially a small child) from getting scalded. I routinely find temps in excess of 130 degrees. It only takes about 30 seconds at that temp for scalding. A small child playing in the tub could easily harm themselves. At 120 degrees it takes about 5 minutes. Plenty of time to notice unless you are passed out drunk in the tub.

Water heaters leave the factory set at 140 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. It takes 2 seconds for a child to receive third degree burns from water at 150 degrees. It takes 5 seconds if the water is at 140 degrees, and 30 seconds at 130 degrees.

In Canada as of Jan 1 2006 ??? it is required that all heaters set so that they can not be lowered to below 150 degrees .
This is to stop Legionaries disease?
If a person does any work on a hot water tank they must be set at this also .
All new installations ( or changes to existing ) now require a Tempering valve to lower the temp at the taps to 120 Degrees
Roy Cooke . RHI…

The easiest way to test a water heater element is as follows. Turn power off to water heater. Remove the wires from each screw. Using an OHM meter place a probe on each screw. If the element is bad then electricity will not flow through the element. If you do have flow then the element is most likely okay.

Seemed like letting the hot water run and checking the temperature at two timed intervals wouldn’t eat into inspection time too badly and wouldn’t involve changing settings or removing the element access covers.

Looks like nobody uses that method though. Maybe it’s doesn’t work. Intervals would probably change with tank capacity and with pipeing size, since that would effect the volume of flow at a particular fixture.

I don’t remove any panels. I simply point to them and inform the client the locations. I take a temp reading at the kitchen sink with a digital thermometer. Allow the water to run and when the temp maxes out, record it. I do this while inspecting the kitchen, sink, drains, disposal,etc. Takes all of a minute or two, tops.

I guess we should leave electrical work to electricians.
What could the out come be if we had an old water heater and the element went to ground in the center of the element the reading would say it is OK.
What could the out come be .

Can you say sure glad we had a working tpr .

Roy Cooke sr…

…or at least a *visible *TPR.

As a plumber, water heaters are the most controversial issue out there. Rules change, every day. In NH we use 120 at tubs and 130 at faucets. If you can’t keep your hand under the tub spout without burning it is too hot, simple but it works, as for sinks, you can keep you hand under the faucet for about 5 seconds befor discomfort and the slight scalding begins. Water heaters are coming from the factory usually set low so you have to turn them up.
On home inspections I usually like to see what kind of water heater the house has because it allows me to know what to check for when running water in the baths. If the heater can’t fill a standard 5’ tub at least Half way up, refer to a plumber. I was hit by a 30 amp element 9doing a plumbing repair, not an inspection) that a home owner tried to fix and it didn’t tickle. The element cover is screwed on for a reason.