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electric water heater reset button

If you don’t have hot water, there’s a good chance your water heater has tripped and needs to be reset. Knowing how to use an electric water heater reset button will, in many cases fix the problem and get your water heater working again. 

There’s a variety of different reasons a water heater will need to be reset, and although some are serious and should be addressed by a professional, many times a simple reset will fix the problem. This article will cover why you need to reset your water heater as well as how to perform this simple task.


How to Reset an Electric Water Heater

If your electric water heater tripped, there was a reason and you should determine why. Although, sometimes a power surge can cause your water heater to trip and resetting it is all you’ll need to do to fix the problem.

Other times, your water heater will trip again after you’ve reset it and you’ll need to do a little more troubleshooting. Here’s a good place to start.

Resetting the Water Heater

The reset button is located on the upper thermostat which can be found behind an access panel on the side of your water heater. Before removing the panel, be sure to turn off the breaker to your water heater at the electrical panel.

After removing the insulation, look for a bright or dark red button on the thermostat. In most cases, you shouldn’t need to remove the plastic protective cover that sits over the thermostat in order to use the reset button.

Next, press the red reset button, and replace the insulation and access cover.

Then, flip the breaker and verify that your water heater is working again. 

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What Does a Reset Button Do?

An electric water heater reset button is a safety device that shuts down the flow of electricity to the water heater, thus preventing the water from reaching dangerous temperatures.

The reset button will trip if there’s an issue with the water heater. With the power shut off, the water heater will no longer be able to heat water.

Electric water heater reset buttons are sometimes called “high limit safety thermostat switches” or “Emergency Cut Off Switches” (ECO).

If the water gets too hot, the pressure within the tank will increase and eventually cause the Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve to trigger to lower the pressure within the tank.

The Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve is another safety device on the water heater and will prevent the tank from exploding.

What Causes the Reset Button to Trip?

Although it’s possible that a power surge caused the reset button to trip on your electric water heater, there’s also a good chance that it was something more serious.

There are actually 4 common reasons electric water heaters trip the reset button.

Faulty Reset Button

The problem could be the reset button itself. It’s always possible that the daily wear-and-tear has taken a toll and the button is no longer able to work properly. 

Even if the water temperature is at a safe level, the reset button may continually trip.

However, keep in mind, if you misdiagnose the problem and keep resetting the water heater, you may have something else seriously wrong that needs to be repaired. For this reason, you should always replace the part as soon as possible to rule out other potential issues.

If this is your problem you’ll need to replace the entire upper thermostat.

Loose Electrical Connection

If your water heater has a loose electrical connection the temperature of the water within the tank may still be at a safe level. However, the heat created by the loose wire could trip the reset button in order to prevent a fire.

If you notice an electrical smell around your water heater, but the reset button hasn’t tripped, you should immediately turn off the unit at the breaker and call a professional. 

Keep in mind the reset button will only trip if it senses the heat from the loose electrical wires. 

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Faulty Thermostat

Most electric water heaters have an upper and lower thermostat that’s responsible for keeping the water within the tank at the set point temperature.

The thermostat heats the water by turning the heating element on. However, if the thermostat isn’t working properly it may not be able to turn the heating element off. This will cause the water temperature to continue to rise until the reset button cuts the power to the water heater.

If one of the two thermostats is faulty, you’ll need to replace it with a new one. You can learn how to test and replace your thermostat HERE.

Faulty Heating Element

When a heating element develops a short it won’t be able to turn off when it should.

This means when the thermostat shuts off the power to the heating element, the heating element will continue to heat the water. 

The heating element will continue heating the water until the reset button eventually trips and shuts down the water heater.

If you have a faulty heating element, you’ll need to replace it with a new one. You can learn more about heating elements HERE.

Watch the Video

Learn how to diagnose some common reasons why your reset button keeps tripping and needs to be reset. 


When to Call a Professional

When ever working with safety devices it’s a good idea to call a professional to ensure everything is functioning as it should. 

If after resetting your water heater it trips again, chances are good that there’s something wrong. We highly recommend contacting a professional plumber to troubleshoot and repair the problem.

Water heaters operate on 240 volts of electricity which can be extremely dangerous to work on yourself if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Always keep in mind, your water heater needs to be reset for a reason and it’s important that you get to the root cause of the problem.

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