If your water heater loses power, your water heater’s reset button can be used to turn the appliance back on. However, your reset button serves as a safety device and turns the unit off when the water temperature gets too hot. So, if you are frequently resetting your water heater to get the power back on, there’s an underlying problem.
In this article, we’ll explore four common reasons why your reset button keeps tripping:
- Bad thermostat
- Burnt out heating element
- Bad reset button
- Loose wiring or a bad breaker
It’s important to get to the source of the issue and contact a professional who can determine what’s causing the exact problem and troubleshoot.
Reason #1: Bad Thermostat
Electric water heaters have 2 thermostats, an upper and a lower one. The reset button is a feature on the upper thermostat.
You have two thermostats because the heater has an upper and a lower heating element. Each element has its own thermostat which “talks” to the other, ensuring that only one heating element is turned on at a time. 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.
The fix: A professional plumber can identify which thermostat has failed and replace it.
Reason #2: Burnt Out Heating Element
Your water heater’s heating element is what actually heats your water. Your heating element may experience a short. This often happens if the element’s metal casing cracks and the element’s live wires are exposed to water.
If there’s a short in your heating element, the power will continue flowing in the element even after your thermostat turns off its power. So, your heating element will continue increasing the tank’s water temperature until it reaches 180°F. At this temperature, your reset button will trip to prevent your water from getting any hotter for safety reasons.
The most common sign that your heating element has burnt out is that your water simply isn’t as hot as it used to be.
The fix: A professional can replace your water heater’s bad heating element.
Reason #3: Bad Reset Button
If your water heater reset button keeps tripping, the problem may be with the button itself.
Your water heater’s reset button is designed to cut power to your unit if your water temperature exceeds 180°F. However, over time the reset button’s switch can wear out and struggle to accurately read the water’s temperature. When this happens, the switch might cut power to the water heater even if the water temperature is low.
The fix: As mentioned above, your appliance has two thermostats and the reset button is a part of your upper thermostat. So, if your reset button is the problem, a professional plumber will most likely replace the entire upper thermostat.
Reason #4: Bad Wiring or a Bad Breaker
Your problem may be electrical. If you have loose wiring, it can be a critical safety hazard. Fortunately, your water heater is well equipped to protect against electrical hazards. When a wire is loose, excess heat is produced. Since your reset button can sense the heat generated by the loose wire, it will then trip.
Other wiring issues may arise if you have aluminum wiring in your home and copper wiring in your water heater. In this case, a special lug connector is required where the wires meet. Without the proper lug connector in place, the two dissimilar metals’ connection can cause the water heater’s breaker to trip.
Alternatively, it’s also possible that your home’s breaker has worn out, causing the reset button to trip.
The fix: If a plumber cannot identify any issues with your water heater’s functionality, have an electrician look at your wiring and your breaker.