Hot Water Heater Tripping a Circuit Breaker?

by Michael on September 20, 2009 · 3 comments

A few weeks ago, I jumped in the shower and was greeted with cold water. I was late, so I showered as quickly as possible, dried off, and got dressed. We have an electric water heater, so I stopped to check our electric panel before rushing out the door. Sure enough, the water heater had tripped the circuit breaker.

Hoping that this was some sort of random anomaly, we decided to reset the breaker and keep an eye on it. Well… All was well until this past Friday night when the water heater once again tripped the breaker. We reset it one more time, and it once again tripped the breaker. Uh-oh. There must be an actual problem…

Why did our water heater trip the breaker?

There are several things that could cause a water heater to trip the circuit breaker. For example, there could be a wiring problem, or you could have an improperly sized breaker. Assuming that your water heater has been installed and operating properly, however, it’s much more likely that the heater itself is having problems.

After a bit of digging, it seems that the most likely problems are a faulty thermostat or a bad heating element. While both of these are problems are fixable, you have to weigh the related expenditure against simply putting your money toward a new unit. This is especially true if your water heater is starting to get old.

Replacing our hot water heater

In fact, our water heater is actually a cheap-o builder unit that’s original to our eight year old house. We thus decided to go ahead and replace it with a better (and more efficient) unit rather than risking a costly repair to what may well be a dying appliance. We ended up going with a 50 gallon Sears Kenmore water heater. With four kids in the house, we would’ve preferred a bigger one, but our water heater is located in our crawl space, and we thus had to go with a “lowboy” model.

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