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Old 09-29-2009, 12:55 PM   #1
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


First of all, thanks for taking the time to read this. Any info/advice you can give will help my wife and I out a LOT. It's been 10 years or so since I worked with electrical, so I'm quite rusty.

Noticed a lack of hot water yesterday, and began searching for the basic troubleshooting steps to check our electric water heater.

Noticed circuit breaker was tripped, so turned the breaker OFF, then inspected the unit.

Opened panels on the side of the unit, they were both clean and dry. Opened electrical panel on top of unit, noticed some rust (a sure sign of moisture at some point), but all the wires passed my quick "jiggle test" (gently wigle them to be sure none were obviously disconnected. The insulation on the wiring seemed intact. I hooked up a voltmeter to ensure there was no juice coming in, then checked the physical connections, and all were tight.

Here's where I probably made my mistake: Thinking some sort of surge could have tripped it, I closed all the panels back, and flipped the breaker back ON.

I was met with an immediate arc and "pop" that seemed to originate from the J box in the wall. And of course, the unit emitted some smoke from the top electrical panel. Luckily, no fire.

My question, what kind of damage have I possibly done, and what's my next step in getting the unit back online and working?

Again, thank you ALL for any suggestions you have!

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Old 09-29-2009, 01:10 PM   #2
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


Obvious problem in the junction box. Turn the breaker off (it should already be off), open the junction box, and look for loose wires or other obvious problems.

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Old 09-29-2009, 01:54 PM   #3
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


how old is the hot water heater? model number?

I am not too familiar with hot water heaters...but the element could be bad causing this, or there could be corrosion in the junction box creating this. After the arc and smoke did it trip the breaker again?
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Old 09-29-2009, 01:57 PM   #4
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


look for a hot wire that has become loose and touching the metal of the jbox. Sounds like it was a short. Did it make a "poof" sound as well?
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Old 09-29-2009, 02:06 PM   #5
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


Thank you all for the quick replies!

The water heater is "OEM" with the house, which was built in August of 2001.

The "incident" did come complete with it's own loud "poof" sound.

I'm still at work (shh, don't tell my boss I'm on the internet!) so I don't have a model # handy, but I'll post it later tonight.

After the arc and smoke, it did indeed trip the breaker again. I should have mentioned that the first time.
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Old 09-29-2009, 04:42 PM   #6
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


Check that J-box! dude, your cool and I think your on the right track. For a homeowner I think your doing the right thing and I like the way you ask questions.

_pete

BTW..Do you have an ohmeter?
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Old 09-29-2009, 06:48 PM   #7
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


Most common cuprit useally lower heating element burnt out it is not that hard to replace depending on if you have screw on heating element or bolt on element but yeah you have to drain the tank anyway to get the lower element.

Very few experenced DIY and plummer they can able change the element very fast with little spill of water but most rather drain it anyway.

Yeah make sure you have the power is off before you unhook the element.

Merci,Marc
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Old 09-30-2009, 11:22 AM   #8
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


The element should read ~13 ohms end to end and infinity from element to ground.
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Old 09-30-2009, 12:19 PM   #9
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


UPDATE:

Got home last night, and went look for model number. While I was there, decided to do one more check on the wires, incase my pansy !@#$%^ didn't get "in there" good enough while wearing my work clothes at lunch.

Sure enough, threw some light down inside the electrical panel on the top of the unit...and voila, water everywhere. Stuck a shop rag down in there and got enough of it sucked up to tell that the wires were curled around low enough that the accumulated water covered some of the contacts.

That was enough for me...called a plumber, had a replacement installed ($590 for a Rheem Fury with expansion tank, not too bad!), and was able to to shower this morning.

Myself, and my co-workers sense of smell thank you all!
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Old 09-30-2009, 01:45 PM   #10
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Electrical issue - 240V - Water Heater


Only 1 in 7 gas water heaters get replaced this early, and elec's last longer than the gas ones.
Oh, well. . .

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