It's Getting Watery In Here

What Causes The Heating Element In An Electric Tank Water Heater To Burn Out?

Electric tank water heaters use heating elements for water heating. When you turn on the unit, electric current flows through the element and gets converted into heat. The heat warms the water to the pre-set thermostat temperature, after which the unit stops heating. One cause of water heater malfunctions is a burnt-out heating element. When burnout occurs, the flow of electrical energy is interrupted, and the water heater stops working. Below are three causes of burnout in electric water heater elements.

Sediment Buildup on the Element

Do you have hard water in your home? Hard water may cause your water heater element to go bad quickly. Hard water has minerals such as calcium and magnesium dissolved in it. During heating, the minerals in the water solidify into small particles and coat the heating element. The coating acts as an insulator that causes the water heater to work harder and overheat. Excess heat in the system eventually overheats the element and damages it.

Hard water not only damages heating elements but also shortens the lifespan of tank water heaters. Therefore, as you replace the element, think about installing a water filtration system to get rid of debris and minerals in the water. Install the filter near the main shut-off valve to access filtered water in your water heater.

Heating Element Corrosion

One primary cause of element corrosion is scale buildup in the water tank. If you have hard water, the minerals in the water accelerate corrosion and prevent electrical energy from flowing through the element. However, this isn't the only cause of heating element corrosion. Other causes are:

  • A worn anode rod: The anode rod is a sacrificial metal rod that corrodes in place of the water heater and extends the unit's lifespan. If the anode rod is severely worn, the water tank and the heating element will corrode.
  • Old age: Heating elements have a limited lifespan. Therefore, they are bound to suffer age-related corrosion gradually.

Flush your water tank regularly to get rid of scale and sediment buildup. Replace the anode rod every few years to protect your heating element from corrosion. If you have an old water heater, remember to replace the old element to restore water heating efficiency.

Electrical Problems

Improper installation of the water heater's electrical wiring can cause damage to the heating element. Also, if your home experiences frequent power surges due to inclement weather, the voltage fluctuations can cause electrical damage to the water heater. Therefore, invest in a surge protector to protect the element from failure. Avoid DIY water heater repairs, as they could cause faulty wiring.

If you have a faulty water heater element, replace it immediately to restore hot water in your home. Contact a water heater repair service for more information.