How to Test Electric Hot Water Heater Elements

Lynn Rademacher

A water heater is a home appliance used for heating and storing warm water until you need it. When a water heater element fails to function properly, it becomes difficult for the entire tank of water to stay warm. You can test and replace water heater elements, and it is much less expensive to do so than to replace the entire hot water heater.

Step 1

Turn off the power to the water heater at the main electrical panel.

Step 2

Remove the screws holding the access panel on the water heater, and lift off the access panel.

Step 3

Disconnect one element wire, and set the multimeter to RX1000.

Step 4

Touch one of the multimeter probes to an element mounting bolt and the other probe to each terminal screw on the element. Each terminal should display infinity, or open circuit. If a reading other than infinity appears, the element is bad and requires replacement. It is possible to verify an element is faulty by setting the multimeter to RX1 and touching both probes to one terminal screw at a time. The multimeter should show a closed circuit reading. Any other reading means you must replace the element.