Why Is My Electric Water Heater Tripping The Breaker?

Your electric water heater may be tripping the breaker due to an overloaded circuit or a faulty electric element. This can happen if the heater draws too much power or if there is a short circuit in the system.

Electric water heaters can sometimes trip the breaker due to an overloaded circuit or a faulty electric element. An overloaded circuit occurs when the heater draws too much power, exceeding the capacity of the breaker. On the other hand, a faulty electric element can cause a short circuit, resulting in a tripped breaker as a safety measure.

In this blog post, we will explore common causes of tripped breakers in electric water heaters and provide some troubleshooting tips to help you solve the issue. By understanding these factors, you can effectively address the problem and ensure hot water availability in your home without any interruption. So, let’s delve deeper into the possible reasons behind your water heater tripping the breaker and find the best solutions to fix it.

Why Is My Electric Water Heater Tripping The Breaker?

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Understanding The Basics Of Electric Water Heaters

Electric water heaters are a common appliance found in many homes, providing us with the convenience of hot water for various household tasks. However, it can be frustrating when our electric water heater starts tripping the breaker. In this section, we will delve into the components of an electric water heater, how it works, and the importance of proper electrical connections.

Components Of An Electric Water Heater

An electric water heater consists of several key components that work together to heat and store water for everyday use. Understanding these components can help us identify potential issues that may cause the breaker to trip. Here are the main components of an electric water heater:

  • Heating elements: Electric water heaters typically have two heating elements – one at the top and another at the bottom. These heating elements are responsible for heating the water inside the tank.
  • Thermostats: The thermostats in an electric water heater regulate the temperature of the water. They monitor the water temperature and signal the heating elements to turn on or off as needed.
  • Dip tube: The dip tube is a plastic pipe that delivers cold water into the tank, ensuring it is distributed evenly at the bottom for efficient heating.
  • Anode rod: The anode rod helps prevent corrosion within the water heater tank. It attracts corrosive elements and prolongs the lifespan of the tank.
  • T&p valve: The temperature and pressure relief valve (t&p valve) is a safety feature that releases excess pressure or temperature from the tank, preventing potential hazards.

How Electric Water Heaters Work

To understand why an electric water heater may trip the breaker, it is essential to grasp how these appliances operate. Here are the key points regarding the functioning of an electric water heater:

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  • Water enters the tank through the dip tube, filling it from the bottom.
  • The heating elements, triggered by the thermostats, heat the water inside the tank to the desired temperature.
  • Once the water reaches the set temperature, the heating elements shut off to conserve energy.
  • When hot water is used, cold water enters the tank, triggering the heating elements to turn on again.
  • The t&p valve ensures that pressure and temperature inside the tank do not exceed safe levels, providing an extra layer of safety.

Importance Of Proper Electrical Connections

Proper electrical connections are crucial for the reliable operation of an electric water heater. Faulty wiring or loose connections can lead to the breaker tripping frequently. Here are the key reasons why proper electrical connections matter:

  • Safety: Faulty electrical connections may result in electrical shocks or overheating, posing a safety risk to both individuals and the property.
  • Efficiency: Well-connected electrical components ensure the water heater functions efficiently, reducing energy consumption and lowering utility bills.
  • Performance: A water heater with proper electrical connections can heat water effectively and maintain the desired temperature consistently.
  • Longevity: By ensuring that electrical connections are secure and up to code, you can extend the lifespan of your water heater, minimizing the need for costly repairs or replacements.

Understanding the basics of electric water heaters, including their components, functions, and the importance of proper electrical connections, can help homeowners troubleshoot issues and prevent unnecessary breaker trips. By maintaining this essential appliance, you can enjoy a continuous supply of hot water while prioritizing safety and efficiency.

Stay tuned for further sections where we will explore common causes of breaker tripping and practical solutions to address these issues effectively.

Common Causes Of Electric Water Heater Tripping Breakers

Having an electric water heater that keeps tripping the breaker can be frustrating and inconvenient. Not only does it disrupt your daily routine, but it can also indicate an underlying issue that needs to be addressed. To help you troubleshoot the problem, here are some common causes of electric water heater tripping breakers:

Overheating Due To Thermostat Issues

  • The thermostat is a crucial component of the water heater that controls the temperature of the water. If it malfunctions or becomes faulty, it can lead to overheating and cause the breaker to trip.
  • The high limit switch, which is connected to the thermostat, can also cause the breaker to trip if it fails to shut off the heating elements when the water reaches the desired temperature.
  • The solution to this problem usually involves replacing the thermostat or the high limit switch to restore proper functionality.
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Faulty Heating Elements

  • Heating elements provide the necessary heat to warm up the water in your electric water heater. If one or both of the heating elements become faulty, they can draw excessive current and trip the breaker.
  • Signs of faulty heating elements include inconsistent water temperature, inadequate hot water supply, or water that never gets hot enough.
  • In such cases, the heating elements need to be replaced to resolve the issue and prevent further trips of the breaker.

Excessive Water Pressure

  • High water pressure can put strain on various components of your electric water heater, including the pipes, valves, and pressure relief valve.
  • If the pressure relief valve fails or is ineffective at regulating the excessive pressure, it can cause the breaker to trip as a safety measure.
  • In this situation, it is advised to install a pressure regulator or consult a plumber to assess and adjust the water pressure to the recommended levels.

Sediment Buildup In The Tank

  • Over time, sediment and mineral deposits can accumulate at the bottom of your water heater tank. This buildup can insulate the heating elements, causing them to overheat and trip the breaker.
  • Additionally, the sediment can interfere with the proper functioning of the thermostat and other components, leading to frequent tripping of the breaker.
  • Regular flushing and maintenance of the water heater tank can help prevent sediment buildup and ensure efficient operation.

Insufficient Electrical Capacity

  • Electric water heaters require a certain amount of electrical capacity to function optimally. If the electrical system in your home is inadequate or overloaded, it can cause the breaker to trip.
  • Other appliances or electrical devices drawing a significant amount of power on the same circuit as the water heater can contribute to the problem.
  • In such cases, it may be necessary to upgrade the electrical capacity or redistribute the load to prevent the breaker from tripping.

Understanding the common causes of electric water heater tripping breakers can help you identify and resolve the issue promptly. By addressing the underlying problem, you can ensure uninterrupted and efficient operation of your water heater. If you are unsure about the cause or unable to fix it yourself, it is recommended to consult a professional plumber or an electrician for further assistance.

Troubleshooting And Fixing Tripping Breakers With Electric Water Heaters

Is your electric water heater constantly tripping the breaker? This can be frustrating and inconvenient, leaving you without hot water when you need it most. However, understanding the common causes and knowing how to troubleshoot and fix the issue can help you get your water heater back up and running in no time.

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Step 1: Check The Circuit Breaker

  • Ensure that the circuit breaker dedicated to your water heater hasn’t tripped.
  • If it has, simply resetting the breaker might solve the problem.
  • If the breaker continues to trip after being reset, it’s crucial to investigate further.

Step 2: Inspect The Thermostat And Heating Elements

  • Faulty thermostats or heating elements can also cause your breaker to trip.
  • Examine the thermostat settings and ensure they are at an appropriate level.
  • Inspect the heating elements for any signs of damage or corrosion.
  • Replace any faulty components as necessary.

Step 3: Address Water Pressure And Sediments

  • High water pressure can put excessive strain on your water heater, leading to circuit breaker trips.
  • Install a pressure relief valve or consider a pressure-reducing valve to regulate water pressure.
  • Sediment buildup can also cause your heater to overwork and trip the breaker.
  • Drain and flush your water heater regularly to remove sediments and improve its efficiency.

Step 4: Evaluate Electrical Capacity And Consider Upgrades

  • If your water heater is old or insufficient for your household’s needs, it may draw more energy than your electrical system can handle.
  • Calculate your water heater’s electrical requirements and compare them to your home’s electrical capacity.
  • If necessary, consider upgrading your electrical panel or installing a dedicated circuit for your water heater.

Step 5: Seek Professional Assistance If Needed

  • If you’re unable to identify or fix the problem on your own, it’s best to seek professional assistance.
  • An experienced electrician or water heater technician can diagnose the issue accurately and provide appropriate solutions.
  • Don’t hesitate to consult a professional to ensure your safety and the optimal functioning of your water heater.

Remember, understanding the common causes of circuit breaker trips with electric water heaters and following these troubleshooting steps can save you time, money, and the inconvenience of being without hot water. By addressing these issues promptly, you can ensure your water heater operates efficiently and reliably.


Dealing with a tripping breaker in your electric water heater can be frustrating, but with the right knowledge, it can be resolved. Start by checking for common issues such as electrical overload, thermostat problems, or a short circuit. Make sure to follow safety protocols and consult a professional if needed.

Regular maintenance and upkeep can also prevent future trips and extend the lifespan of your water heater. Being aware of common causes and taking proactive measures can save you time, money, and inconvenience in the long run. By addressing these issues promptly, you can enjoy reliable and consistent hot water supply without any unexpected disruptions.

So, don’t let a tripping breaker spoil your comfort, take action and enjoy the benefits of a properly functioning electric water heater.


I am a mechanical engineer and love doing research on different home and outdoor heating options. When I am not working, I love spending time with my family and friends. I also enjoy blogging about my findings and helping others to find the best heating options for their needs.