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testing heating element


CheckItOut
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Please correct me if I am wrong...

Here is how I test electric water heaters:

I run hot water at the kitchen sink into a coffee mug with a thermostat in it (is just my method, follow me). I record the temp after about 2 min. I then monitor this temp for about 10 minutes while I check other items in the kitchen. If I note a significant drop in temperature, I suspect a heating element problem.

If I suspect a problem, I then remove the cover(s) on the WH and check for voltage at the element(s). If none, I turn the thermostat up. If still no voltage, I write it up as a thermostat or element problem and thus in need of repair.

This has proven fine. But I got a call today from a Realtor who said that the home warranty guy checked the WH on a house I'd found a problem at and said all was good. So, the seller wants me to pay him $60 for the home warranty guy's trip fee.

Is my method flawed?

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

Originally posted by Chad Fabry

Wow. I just turn on the hot water to see if it's hot.

Me, too. I didn't go to HI jobs to work on things. I went to report on the condition of things just as they were when I found them.

WJid="blue">

Would that tell you if one of the heating elements/thermostats is not working?

About half of the water heaters I look at are electric. I always;

Remove both access covers,

Look at the wiring/terminals and condition of the exposed portion of the heating elements, check for leaks, corrosion, burned insulation...

Note the temperature settings and show the client how & where to adjust the temperature if they wish,

Turn up the temp. on the lower element until I here the click from the thermostat that tells me it's engaged, then listen,

(if just turning the temperature up isn't enough (temp was already maxed out) you may have to run hot water for a few minutes)

in 99.9% of the cases I can hear the sizzling sound of the element heating up the water,

Then, as the lower is heating, turn up the temp on the upper and listen that the lower shuts down and power goes to the upper,

Whahlah, Both elements and their thermostats are working,

Turn them both down and run the hot water till it sets off the lower element, a few to five minutes at best and now I know the dip tube is installed and intact.

Whole shebang takes about 10-15 minutes... I call this working for my money. Few things aggravate people like a dissatisfying shower first thing in the am... they take it personal and hold a grudge. Make sure the water heater is working.

If your lower element wasn't coming on it could be that the dip tube was broken off or not installed at all and the cold water is being deposited at the top of the tank activating the upper element. Home warranty idiot probably wouldn't have figured that out.

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Thanks for the responses guys. The other big reason I actually test, and report the water temperature, is to warn about a potential burn hazard. Above 120, I report as unsafe. I see 140 all the time and have seen 160 several times. Look at the sticker on the water heater - it will tell you how long exposure to those temperatures will take to give someone a severe burn. An elderly person or small child could easily get hurt with these temperatures.

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I will show the client how to operate some things. It's just a courtesy. Many people have never even thought about where the hot water comes from let alone one end of wrench from another. I do not take things apart. If something happens after then I am to blame.

I check for activation, water temp, proper flue and draft, proper connections and a dirt leg. End of water heater inspection. My inspections are a couple of hours minimum now. If I started taking things apart who knows how long it would take.

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Originally posted by CheckItOut

Thanks for the responses guys. The other big reason I actually test, and report the water temperature, is to warn about a potential burn hazard. Above 120, I report as unsafe. I see 140 all the time and have seen 160 several times. Look at the sticker on the water heater - it will tell you how long exposure to those temperatures will take to give someone a severe burn. An elderly person or small child could easily get hurt with these temperatures.

A conundrum: anything below 140 degrees promotes the Legionnella bacteria that can cause Legionnaires disease.

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Originally posted by SonOfSwamp

[Interesting. In 5000 HI jobs, nobody ever complained about an unsatisfactory shower, and nobody ever seemed to hold a grudge.

But don't go by me,

WJid="blue">

You seem to throw this quote around every time you want to defend performing a less than thorough home inspection.

There could have been plenty of problems over the years that never got back to you. You probably did a thorough job of explaining what you were and were not inspecting up front, so the client was fully aware of the limitations of the inspection. Not everyone will hold a grudge.

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Hi,

Well, I'm not so sure that not dinking around with a water heater for 15-minutes to check whether the upper or lower thermostats are working properly is a "less-than-thorough" inspection or not but I think my time can be better spent.

Mine is a visual examination of the exterior of the water heater for elevation from a garage floor, proper plumbing, tight connections (water or electrical), signs of leaks, proper sized breakers and wiring to the unit, safe wiring to the unit, disconnect next to the unit or within sight of the unit or with a lockout in the box, proper seismic bracing and blocking, kinked/damaged pipes or connectors, properly insulated connectors, properly configured TPR valve and discharge line, proper/safe gas line configuration with tight connections, the presence of a flue spiral thingy (don't know what the thing is supposed to be called), the proper configuration of the draft diverter, the proper type of vent connector and vent, signs of condensate damage to the vent or water heater, signs of back drafting, plenty of combustion air from the right source, temp setting at no more than 120° on electric or gas water heaters - based on the controls and feel, not on taking the temp with a thermometer - and a visual examination of the burner plate, underside of the tank, pilot and thermocouple. I also quickly explain to the client that he/she should drain the muck off the bottom of the tank once a year and replace the anode rod about halfway through service life (about 5 to 7-1/2 years into the life of the tank around here). I'm not going to then spend more time dinking around trying to diagnose a problem that I think might exist. Why would I; I certainly wouldn't be getting paid to do that?

One is supposed to remove covers that are designed to be removed, so I don't see any issue with taking the covers off an electric water heater, checking for leaks around the element bosses, looking for signs of scorched wiring, signs of damage to either thermostat or the rest, and then checking the temp setting, but I think that's where it needs to end, lest you step into the role of a water heater service person whose doing a technical analysis of the device.

As far as temperature goes, when I was in the Army those who lived in Government quarters were under standing orders never to turn a water heater up past 125°F because at that temperature a child or a woman with soft skin (or a dainty guy too, I suppose) would receive a 3rd degree burn in less than 3 seconds. If a kid were burned because some GI cranked his hot water up we'd prosecute the troop for disobeying a lawful order. That kind of ingrained the 125°F thing into my head. Ever held your hand under a faucet at 125°F for 3 seconds? It's painful, even for someone with heavily callused hands, so I don't think a thermometer is necessary to know when the water is too hot - Mrs. Housewife or her kid won't have one to test the water.

We generally feel the hot water and then start the hot water running in the tub or shower as soon as we enter the bath and then go about checking toilets, sinks, and whatever other fixtures there are for leaks. That pulls a lot of water off the hot water heater. If, by the time we get around to the tub and shower again, the water temperature has dropped a lot, it's pretty obvious that something is amiss - either there's a broken dip tube, there is only one element working or something else is going on, but I don't really care what it is; I'm going to report something is wrong and recommend they get it checked out - no teacup test necessary.

Bottom line, if I stick my hand under the hot water at the farthest fixture from the water heater and it's uncomfortably hot it will clearly be hotter - too hot - closer to the water heater. If I've checked the settings and the temperature on the control valve or the thermostats is set to a safe temperature, but it's too hot for me to comfortably hold my hand under, something is obviously wrong. Very simple, no protracted test involved - recommend they get it checked out by a plumber. I think that's what the customer expects to get for what they pay me.

Rick, please don't take this the wrong way, 'cuz you're good people and we like you here, but if you think that being on site two hours for an inspection is a long time you need to do some ride-alongs with some experienced/reputable old hands to see how things should be done, 'cuz I think you may be missing some critical steps. I've been doing this 12-1/2 years now and I've never done an inspection in as little as two hours; hell, I did a 353 square foot condo the other day and that took me 2-1/2 hours. Of course, I suppose one could move faster; I just don't see how to do it without skipping necessary steps. Then again, I am the guy who is supposed to be long-winded.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Well, the advice of some inspectors is always entertaining. [:-bigeyes

"I just turn the water on and see if it's hot."

"My whole HW inspection with gas takes about 1 minute."

" hot water comes out the faucet, hot gas goes up the vent. Water heater's functional."

Man, and I thought we actually had to inspect these appliances. Thanks for saving us all so much time.

I suppose from now on we could just flip any nearby switch, and if a light turns on, the electrical system's OK. After all, no one has complained yet....

Dom.

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A conundrum: anything below 140 degrees promotes the Legionnella bacteria that can cause Legionnaires disease.

What I've read is that you are supposed to periodically turn up the water heater to kill off any bacteria in the tank at a certain temp. for a certain amount of time. I can't remember the specifics, but there are instructions floating around somewhere in cyber space I'm sure.

Of course, I believe dishwasher manufacturer's recommend a min. of 140 deg. at their unit's............

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Man, and I thought we actually had to inspect these appliances. Thanks for saving us all so much time.

Hi Dom,

To be clear, I don't just turn on the hot water and then say that everything is OK. My fault for making it seem so. I pull the burner cover, check the installation, look at the wiring and venting. However, spending more than ten minutes or so total on a water heater isn't necessary. I like to spend my time on things that cost more than 1,000 bucks and aren't designed to be replaced more often than outdoor furniture. As it is I'm frequently on site for 6 hours or more.

Running 40 or 50 gallons of hot water that someone else has to pay for isn't in my SOP. Frankly, I think it's rude.

I don't check oven thermostat accuracy, I don't change the refrigerator settings to see if the compressor responds, I don't cook food or heat water in the microwave, I don't field test the toilets, and I don't wait until dark to see if the photosensitive lighting responds.

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Buncha wusses, all of you.

Doesn't anyone else drain the tank, remove an element and look inside with a slim mirror. If not, you're all doing a piss-poor inspection and not spending nearly enough time on the job.

No amount of time & effort it too much for me to spend on doing a good job for my customer. Heck, I spend 4 or 5 hours just looking at the water heater. After all, that sucker might cost $300 to replace if it's in bad shape.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Originally posted by Jim Katen

Buncha wusses, all of you.

Doesn't anyone else drain the tank, remove an element and look inside with a slim mirror. If not, you're all doing a piss-poor inspection and not spending nearly enough time on the job.

No amount of time & effort it too much for me to spend on doing a good job for my customer. Heck, I spend 4 or 5 hours just looking at the water heater. After all, that sucker might cost $300 to replace if it's in bad shape.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

You soooo funny, G.I.

OT - OF!!!

M.

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Funny. I don't recall performing a "less than thorough" home inspection

Then, perhaps you should stop saying things like this:

I hardly ever saw an electric water heater.
(on a post about electric WH)

and

The whole WH inspection takes about one minute with gas -- hot water comes out the faucet, hot gas goes up the vent. Water heater's functional. WH inspection over.

If your post is supposed to be "sarcastic and funny" it really comes off as "condescending and arrogant".

Sometimes clarity is more important than self-image.

Dom.

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Where can I find your publications, so that I might be enlightened via your studies on HI work, clarity, self-image and such like?

WJ[/blue]

As is typical in this business, when an inspector feels superior to everyone else in the trade, they feel compelled to degrade and belittle the rest of the profession with odd statements and references to self-importance.

Good luck, and Godspeed on your quest for perfection.

Dom.

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I say this mirthfully: I never considered fiddling with a water heater to be part of an my job. The customers can -- and should -- get a handyman if they need somebody to wrench on something. I'm just there to write something like, "The water heater is functional." Maybe it's just me, but I see a bright line between inspecting/describing and messing with stuff.

Apparently you never have seen an electric water heater. No wrenches involved in removing the access covers. Four little philips head machine screws, it's really not that hard, but honestly if you don't feel confident in your abilities in this area, I would encourage you, tell your client they need to pay a handyman to come in and remove these covers for you (there's important stuff to see in there). I happen to have a philips head screwdriver and lots of other tools used in building houses. Many of them were once my fathers or my grandfathers and I'm quite certain that I can remove four little screws and turn up a thermostat without causing a national crisis or unfathomable legal liability.id="black">

I hardly ever saw an electric water heater.id="blue">

1) Well since the question was about electric water heaters, why exactly did you feel the need to answer???

2) I find this an odd statement for someone who spends so much time correcting everyone else's grammar.id="black">

Call me quirky, but I left all that to the man-on-fire stickers, warning labels, owner's manual, etc. For some odd reason, my customers never expected me to show them how to work their water heater. That's a demonstration. I was inspecting (an eyes only job).id="blue">

I'm speechless.id="black">

With gas, it's turn on the dishwasher, go to the water heater and listen for the whoosh.id="blue">

And again, he was asking about ELECTRIC water heaters - They don't go "whoosh"

Mr & Mrs. Client. The water heater went whoosh, it's functional. - My god.id="black">

Interesting. In 5000 HI jobs, nobody ever complained about an unsatisfactory shower, and nobody ever seemed to hold a grudge. I guess I made 'em understand that they were in charge of their own showers and the outcome of those showers.id="blue">

Sounds like a great business ethic.id="black">

[blue]The whole WH inspection takes about one minute with gasid="blue">

And Elvis has left the building......

Um, once again, we were talking about electric water heaters here. You know, wires, not pipes.id="black">

[blue]But don't go by me,id="blue">

Oh, worry not, I won't.

Jamison, Don't let this dissuade you from asking questions and trying to better your methods for your clients. We don't get like this often.id="black">

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OK.

A huge part of this biz is being consistent and equally proficient in all areas, (a never-ending task I'll admit).

If one is going to spend that much time on the water heater, will he then apply the same standard of care to every other component he inspects?

Shall we start performing NFPA Level II inspections on all the chimneys? Duct blast testing for duct leakage?

If you're performing that service on the water heater, God bless you and may the wind be at your back. I would hope you're performing equal level inspections on everything else.

And by the way, I never once suspected any personal attacks from WJ.

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Originally posted by randynavarro

OK.

A huge part of this biz is being consistent and equally proficient in all areas, (a never-ending task I'll admit).

You'll have to explain that better to me. Sounds like communism.

Anyway, some people are just better at some things than others and I don't believe you can or should dumb down the things you are more proficient at.

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