How to Reset a Water Heater-Useful Tips and Information

Why Does Your Electric Water Heater Reset Button Keep Tripping?

Electric water heaters are far from perfect, and couple this together with the kinds of temperatures the water is expected to reach, and you may well have a catastrophe on your hands.

One of the most common problems electric water heater owners face is the reset button constantly popping out and needing to be reset. To get straight to the point, the most likely problem is that the water in your water heater is getting too hot. Don’t worry, though, the design was intentional and it’s meant to do this.

The water heater limit switch is a built-in safety device designed to shut the power to the water heater down if something malfunctions and the water gets way too hot. Sometimes the water temperature in your heater reaches or exceeds 356 degrees Fahrenheit. In such a case, little red button located in the centre of the limit switch, just above the water heater thermostat (called the reset button or the high-limit switch) trips. If this happens, the limit switch can be reset by pushing the red button after the water cools down.

This is for your own protection – essentially preventing you from getting scalded or getting burned when using the hot water in your home. Imagine turning on the shower and meeting superheated water on your back.

Great, you now know what causes the red button to trip, but not how to reset a water heater, nor what causes it to overheat in the first place because that’s definitely not meant to happen. So, what’s causing the water in your heater to get so hot? Once again, the most likely cause is a broken thermostat.

The Bad Thermostat

Most electric water heaters have a lower and upper thermostat. These thermostats are responsible for controlling their own individual heating elements and your key to how to reset a water heater.

When the previously heated water has cooled off, the thermostats kick on the two heating elements to heat the water, and once the water has reached the desired temperature, both thermostats shut off the heating elements.

However, they are a human invention and far from perfect, they can easily get wrecked, and when they do, they could get stuck in the “on” position. This basically means that that the heating element will continue to gradually heat your water until it causes the high-limit switch to trip.

How to Fix the Broken Thermostat

If this happens to be the problem, your case of how to fix a water heater is replacing the thermostat altogether. A qualified plumber would use a multimeter to test the thermostats and find out which one is bad and fix it for you.

Alternatively, you can do this yourself – checking a water heater limit switch a multimeter isn’t too hard a task. You can easily achieve this through the following steps:

  • First, turn the power off to the water heater.
  • Set your multimeter to a setting of rx1.
  • Put one probe on the first terminal and one probe on the second terminal.
  • On an analog meter, the needle should normally sweep all down to zero. If this happens, the limit is not tripped, and the thermostat is likely not the cause of your problem. However, if it does, you should either call a plumber immediately or replace the thermostat.


If the problems persist past your perseverance point, why not head over online and have a quick look at some of the best tankless water heater reviews?

Other problems That Could Cause the Switch to Trip

Nine out of ten times a bad thermostat is the reason your water heater’s reset button trips, but it’s by far not the only one. If you tested the thermostat yourself and found it wasn’t the cause of the problem, you can explore some of the following options and hopefully find a solution to your problem.

Some of the most common reasons for the switch tripping include:


A shorted heating element

Your thermostat may be working just fine, but continually shuts off the heating element, and this short in the element causes it to continue to heat your water. This eventually leads to the water to overheat.


Loose wiring

A loose wire in the water heater can also generate a lot of heat that can consequently cause the high-limit switch to trip.


Broken high-limit switch

If the thermostat isn’t the problem, perhaps the switch itself is malfunctioning and tripping when it shouldn’t be.

In all the above cases, your safest bet to how to reset a water heater is to call an electrician and have him looks around for loose wires. However, tankless water heaters happen to be more efficient, heat faster and cost less than their competitor tank heaters. The best tankless water heater reviews can attest to that.

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