Why Does My Water Heater Element Keep Going Bad?

Dealing with a damaged water heater is a frustrating experience, especially if you’re getting ready to hop in the shower or prepare a meal. When the water coming through your faucets is cold, the water heater is usually to blame. It could be the heating element in the unit, which can give out and require replacement. However, if your water heater element continues to go bad, it’s important to know what might be causing this ongoing issue.

What Causes a Heating Element to Burn Out?

  • Wiring

Only electric water heaters rely on heating elements to warm up the water in the tank. A gas-powered unit has a burner at its base. If your water heater is electric, the element will come into direct contact with the water, which means items in the water could be causing the issue. However, the wiring to your electric water heater could also be to blame.

Heavy gauge wires provide electricity to the components of your unit, so a poor connection between the wires and the water heater could result in the element giving out. A wire that has slipped out of place or becomes damaged may also be problematic, and it’s important to get this issue checked out by a plumber as soon as possible. A hot wire could create a safety hazard, especially if it grounds through the metal tank.

  • Power Surges

Since an electric water heater is connected to an outlet in your home, a sudden surge of power can also cause damage to the heating element. Power surges can occur during electrical storms or if the power company suddenly experiences a surge on the other end. Every electrical water heater has a voltage rating, so exceeding that rating can burn out the heating element.

You can prevent this from happening at your home by having surge protection installed by an electrician. Certain types of plugs can also prevent power surges from causing damage to items plugged into them, so you may want to consider one of these options if your heating element continues to burn out after a sudden and unexpected surge of power.

  • Pockets of Air

A water heater element doesn’t work unless it’s fully submerged in water. If it did operate without any water in the tank, it could produce enough heat to burn out its core in a short period of time. The element must have water to transfer the heat in order to prevent significant damage.

If air pockets develop in the tank, often due to a failure to bleed out the tank completely before filling it up, the element may be burning itself out without enough water. As a result, the heating element could be failing faster and more frequently than it should. A plumber can look inside the tank to determine whether air pockets are causing an issue and make sure the element is properly submerged in the water.

  • Minerals in the Water

Like any other component in an appliance, the heating element in your water heater isn’t designed to last forever. The presence of mineral deposits in the water actually speed up the demise of this component because the process of heating the water causes the dissolved minerals to return to their solid states. Those minerals often create a coating over the heating element, which insulates it and prevents it from transferring heat to the water.

Minerals can also collect at the bottom of the tank, creating a layer of sediment. When this occurs, the element has to work harder to heat up the tank, putting more pressure on it. As a result, it often fails faster, resulting in the need for replacement. You can prevent this from happening by shutting off the power to the tank and draining the water out once every few months. This helps get rid of the sediment layer and extends the life of the components, including the heating element.

Need to Replace Your Hot Water Heater Element?

If you think your electric water heater may need to have its heating element replaced, it's a good idea to leave the job to a qualified water heater repair technician. At Arctic Air Home Services, we offer top-quality plumbing services and can diagnose and repair issues with your water heater, especially if you continue to have trouble with your heating element. If you're in the Bradenton, Florida area, give us a call today at (941) 757-8282 to request service.