How to Reset an Electric Hot Water Heater

Electric hot water heaters

This article explains how to reset a hot water heater using the reset button after it has tripped. When your water is cold, doing this simple procedure may resolve your issue.

Before we go on, it’s important to know that the reset button is the “high limit switch.” It’s a safety switch that shuts off the power to the water heater when there’s potentially an unsafe situation. If the reset button trips frequently, you will want to call a professional to look at what could be causing an issue with your water heater.


Step 1. Cut off the Power to the Water Heater

You can cut off power to your hot water heater in either one of two ways: Locate your water tank and turn the power to it OFF by pulling the electrical plug out of the wall socket. 

Another way to turn the power off is to flip the circuit breaker (the breaker that’s labeled “water heater”) to the OFF position. Locate your home’s main electrical panel. They are usually found in the garage, a storage closet or a utility area. Either way, you need to make sure the electric power to the water heater is OFF before you go on to step two. 

If the water heater circuit breaker is already in the OFF position, flip it to the ON position as a test. If the breaker immediately flips back to the OFF position this is a sign of a bigger electrical problem. Circuit breakers will flip to the OFF position to avoid possibly dangerous situations. Call a professional to diagnose and repair the problem. 


  Step 2. Access the water heater reset button and reset it

After the power to the water heater is OFF remove the metal plate covering the thermostat by removing the two screws. Save the screws. There will probably be some insulation material behind the plate. Remove the insulation and you should see the reset button. It’s probably the color red, and might even be labeled “reset button.”

Push the button in firmly. This should reset the electricity to the heater element. 

Put the insulation back in and make sure to put the metal plate back on with the screws you saved. 

Then, depending on how you turned the power off, either put the plug back into the socket or flip the circuit breaker back to the ON position.

Step 3. Check to See if the Issue is Solved.

Wait about a half hour to see if this has solved the hot water issue for you. If your hot water heater works, you should have hot water in about half an hour—and you saved yourself a visit from a professional.

If you still don’t have hot water and there are two panels on your hot water heater, an upper and lower one, reset the button in the other panel as well. Simply follow the instructions in Step 1 (make sure to cut the power OFF again) and Step 2. Then wait another half hour.

If after waiting a half hour you still don’t have any hot water or if your water heater trips again soon afterward, this is a sign of a bigger problem. Reset buttons will cut the power OFF to avoid possibly dangerous situations. 

A number of things could be causing the problem: The thermostat could be faulty, a heater element could be bad, or the wiring could be loose or causing a short. There could also be electrical issues outside of the heater itself. This is when to call a professional such as Kay Plumbing Services to diagnose and fix the problem for you.

While you wait for a professional to fix the problem, make sure to keep the power to the water heater OFF. This will prevent potentially dangerous situations from occurring and prevent any further damage.


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