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Why Does The Heating Element In A Hot Water System Fail?

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A large number of modern day homes use electric hot water systems. The heating element is the heart of any such system. A defective heating element often leads to the production of lukewarm water from the electric heating system. If the heating element has a serious defect, the hot water system may fail to heat water completely. Here is the homeowner's guide to factors that may contribute to the failure of the heating element in a residential hot water system.


Dry-frying in a hot water system refers to a situation in which the heating element is not fully immersed in water when the heating system is operational. Depending on the amount of current running through the heating element at that time, the process of dry-frying can produce enough heat for the element to burn through its core in nearly no time at all.

In order to reduce the likelihood of heating element failure as a result of dry-frying, homeowners need to see to it that the heating elements are fully submerged in water whenever the electric system is operational. Ideally, the heater should be water-filled before the electric heating system is turned on.

Sediment Build-Up In The Heating Elements

Sediment build-up is also a common reason for the failure of heating elements. This occurs when mineral sediments present in the water are deposited on the surface of the heating element. Once deposited, the rate at which the heating element wears out is significantly accelerated. This is because a lot of strain is put on the heating element, thereby forcing it to over-work so as to heat water as efficiently as it used to.

Failure of the heating element as a result of sediment build-up can be prevented by having the water tank drained at regular intervals so as to dislodge and eliminate these sediments.

Thermostat-Related Problems

Yes. Thermostats are also often responsible for failure of heating elements in an electric hot water system. The thermostat in one such system features a high limit switch responsible for cutting off power supply to the heating elements should temperatures shoot beyond their normal range. In such a case, the homeowner should call in a qualified plumbing specialist who will help to identify the underlying problem that triggered activation of this switch.

There are other possible causes of heating element failure in an electronic hot water system that have not been discussed above.