Quick DIY: How to Reset Electric Water Heater With Electric Water Heater Reset Button [Video]

By Mengning Heil

April 29, 2022

Water Heater Tips

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Although wellness gurus extol the virtues of cold water immersion, we prefer our showers nice and warm. And nothing puts a damper on a morning shower like the hot water running out. 

While there are many potential reasons you could lose hot water, a common culprit is when your hot water heater is tripped. A simple fix a homeowner can try is to reset the hot water. This eliminates the excess time, headache, and money of hiring professional help.

Read more or click the video below for our quick tutorial about the electric water heater reset button. We’ve also provided step-by-step instructions on how to reset your hot water heater, and how to know if it’s a more complicated problem that requires an electrician or plumber.

Understanding Your Electric Water Heater Reset Button

What Trips the Reset Button on a Hot Water Heater?

Water heaters are built with an emergency limit switch (i.e., electric water heater reset button) which trips to turn off the water heater if the temperature becomes dangerous to you and your family. (It usually trips when the water temperature exceeds 180 degrees.) This is to keep an electrical or mechanical malfunction from overriding your thermostat settings and prevent your water from scalding you. It’s similar to when a circuit breaker in your home trips and turns off your toaster or vacuum when you’re running one too many appliances at the same time. Likewise, the water heater’s internal safety mechanism can shut the water heater off instead of allowing temperatures to rise too high.

Why Do I Have to Reset Water Heater?

There are a few times when the emergency limit switch may trip and turn your water heater off.  It could be something like a power surge or a thunderstorm that causes an occasional trip. If it only trips every once in a while for one of these reasons, you can reset it yourself and save yourself the trouble and cost of calling a plumber.

If the water heater keeps tripping your circuit breaker or if the water heater itself keeps tripping for no clear reason, this is a red flag, and you should call in a professional. It could be a more complex mechanical issue like a short in the heating system, a loose wire, or a faulty thermostat. 

Is There a Reset Button on Electric Hot Water Heaters?

Yes, all water heaters should have a reset button. They can also be known as the “emergency limit switch”, “emergency cut off (ECO)”, “high-limit safety thermostat switch”, or “electric water heater reset button”. 

Where Is the Reset Button on a Water Heater?

This button is located above the heating element in contact with the tank surface, and it’s usually red. Most of the time it’s located underneath a removable panel, but sometimes it’s visible on the outside of the water heater. 

When to Reset Water Heater

If you’ve run out of hot water and want to know whether to reset your hot water heater, follow the steps below to troubleshoot the problem.

  1. Check the circuit breaker box/panel and make sure the breaker associated with your water heater hasn’t been tripped.
    1. If it has been tripped and you can flip the breaker back on without the breaker tripping again. This could fix the issue.  
    2. If it has not been tripped, keep moving on down the list.
  2. Inspect the water heater itself to confirm that there is not a visible leak or another obvious issue causing a problem.
  3. If the circuit breaker has not been tripped and if the water heater does not appear to be leaking, it’s likely you need to reset the electric water heater. Read below for our simple how-to guide. 

4-Step Guide: How to Reset Electric Water Heater

Tools to Reset Water Heater

Good news! All you’ll need to reset your water heater is a screwdriver to access the reset button and a flashlight:

Step 1: Flip circuit breakers off for safety

  • Locate your circuit breakers. They are inside the fuse box, a metal box that’s usually flush to a wall. Circuit breakers are typically located in the basement, garage, storage, or utility room, but they can be located other places.
  • Open the metal door and see if you can find a breaker labeled for the hot water heater. Switch it to the off position.
    • If you can’t find one specifically for the hot water heater, you’ll need to switch them all off to be safe. Make sure you have a flashlight with you so you have light to work.
    • If you find the hot water heater breaker and it’s already off, switch it on. If it immediately flips back off, then you have a bigger problem, and you should call a professional. 

Step 2: Locate and identify the hot water reset button

  • After switching off the electricity, head to your hot water heater. 
  • Locate the metal access panel on the side of your hot water heater.
    • Sometimes there are two access panels, in which case you’ll want to remove the top one.
    • Sometimes there’s no access panel. In that case, search around the area with the thermometer to find the reset button.
  • Remove the access panel by unscrewing the screw holding it in place.
  • Underneath the panel will be a layer of insulation. Remove this layer to reveal the workings behind it.
    • If you feel moisture on this insulation, your hot water tank may be leaking. This could indicate that it’s on the verge of failing, and you should call a plumber.
Electric water heater reset button
The arrow above points to the electric water heater reset button.

Step 3: Press reset

  • The electric water heater reset button should now be visible. It’s a red button and the only button on the heater.
  • Give the button a good press and then release it. 
  • When you release the button, there should be a click.
  • Congratulations! You’ve reset your hot water heater. It was as easy as pushing a button.
  • Make sure you replace the insulation and screw the panel back in to finish the job.

Step 4: Switch breakers back on and check hot water levels

  • It’s time to get your electricity back on. Head back to your breakers and switch on either the single switch for the hot water heater or the entire panel.
  • Note: It may take a little while for your water to heat back up depending on how long the water heater has been off. Just be patient: The water heater should start working once you restore electricity. A bubbling water noise indicates the water is beginning to heat up.
  • Run your shower or your sink water on hot and check to see if the hot water lasts.
    • Monitor your water temperature to make sure it’s both hot enough and not overheating. The emergency limit switch tripped for a reason, and it’s not uncommon that a shorted heating element or a defective thermostat is the real issue.
    • You’ll need to resolve overheating problems to prevent scalding. Water temperatures should never exceed 120 degrees.

When to Call in a Professional

Hopefully resetting the hot water heater did the trick and you can now enjoy that nice warm shower. However, there are a few things to watch for that indicate you should get expert help.

  • If the water temperature rises too high and significantly exceeds the hot water heater’s thermostat setting, it will just be a matter of time before the high limit causes the switch to trip again. 
  • If the water heater continues to shut off, either because the high limit switch keeps tripping or the circuit breaker itself keeps tripping, this may be a sign of a more serious problem. 

If you’re in need of water heater repair in Montgomery County or the surrounding areas, connect with a plumber in Gaithersburg, MD today.

Heil Plumbing is a family-run company owned by a third-generation master plumber. We can help you with a full range of plumbing services in Rockville and the Baltimore-D.C. metropolitan area, including toilet installation and repair, leak detection and pipe repair, water heater repair and installation, faucet repair and installation, drain cleaning, water treatment services, and more.

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