Water Heater Keeps Tripping Reset – How Can I Fix It?6 min read

What are you supposed to do when your water heater keeps tripping reset? I know from both personal and professional experience that a malfunctioning water heater is really frustrating to have to deal with.

Your water heater’s reset button issues are likely due to electrical problems such as overheating, power surges, or wiring issues, or mechanical problems like thermostat failure, heating element failure, or sediment buildup. Some issues can be resolved at home, but others may require professional attention.

I’ll take you through all the causes of a tripping water heater, the easiest fix, and then how to prevent it tripping in the future.

I take information accuracy seriously therefore everything you’re about to read has been expert reviewed by Mark Longhurst, a professional plumber with over 15 years experience.

Why Your Water Heater Reset Button is Tripping

If the reset button is tripping, we can work out what’s causing it…

Electrical Issues

There are a few electrical issues that can cause havoc with your water heater, including:

  • Overheating: If your unit is overheating, the reset button may trip. Your water heater may overheat and keep turning off if the thermostat is set too high or if the heating element is faulty and isn’t turning off.
  • Power Surge: Power surges from lightning storms, power outages, or problems with the electrical system can cause the reset button to activate.
  • Wiring Issues: Faulty, damaged, or frayed wiring can cause short circuits that can trip the reset button on your water heater.

If your water heater circuit breaker always trips, it’s better to ask a certified, licensed electrician to conduct a line/circuit test for your water heater. This will eliminate the possibility that it’s an electrical problem. If the wiring is all good, you will need to check out the warranty of your uint and see if you can get a repair or replacement.

Mark Longhurst

Mechanical Issues

Sometimes, the problem has more to do with the mechanics of the unit:

  • Thermostat Failure: A broken thermostat can cause your unit to overheat and activate the reset button. A malfunctioning thermostat can also cause the water heater to stop heating altogether.
  • Heating Element Failure: The heating element heats the water inside the tank. If the heating element is faulty or damaged, it can cause the water heater to trip the reset button.
  • Sediment Build-Up: Over time, sediment can accumulate in the water heater tank, which can make the heating element overheat and activate the reset button. Sediment build-up can also reduce the efficiency of the water heater and cause it to work harder than it needs to. (It may also cause the water to look yellow, which is kind of gross.)

Other Causes of Water Heater Tripping Reset

There are a couple of other factors that can cause problems, too:

  • High Water Pressure: If the water pressure in your home is too high, it can cause the water heater to overheat and trip the reset button. High water pressure can also cause other issues with your plumbing system, so it’s essential to address this problem as soon as possible.
  • Leaking Tank: Leaks in your water heater can also cause the heating element to overheat and activate the reset button. A leaking tank can also cause other issues, such as water damage and mold growth.
  • Age of Water Heater: As water heaters age, they become more prone to problems. If your water heater is old, it may be time to replace it with a new, more energy-efficient model.

How to Stop Your Water Heater from Tripping Reset

I know this sounds too simple, but often, just turning it off and on again (properly) can help to, well, reset the reset button.

Here’s how you can do it:

Step 1: Disconnect the Power Supply

Number one rule: never troubleshoot a water heater that’s turned on. Unplug the unit from the outlet or disable it at the circuit breaker, but however you do it, make sure it’s completely turned off.

Also, please don’t attempt this unless you feel safe and confident doing so.

Step 2: Remove the Cover Plates

Near the bottom of your unit, you should see a metal plate held in place with screws. Use a screwdriver to remove each screw and lift the plate off of the unit. Many models will include a second cover plate that needs to be removed to access the reset button, so it may take a few minutes.

Note: The location of the cover plate will vary depending on your unit. Consult your owner’s manual for all the info you need.

Step 3: Remove the Insulation Pad

There should be a foam installation pad inside the cover plate. The pad hides the reset button and can be pulled out by hand. Set the insulation pad aside for later because you’ll need to put it back again.

Step 4: Locate the Reset Button

In the panel you just removed, you should see a reset button. Some models label the switch, while others use the color red to indicate it. If you can’t locate the button, consult your model’s owner manual – it should explain which one is the reset button.

Step 5: Press the Button

Press firmly on the reset button to activate it. The switch may be sticky if you haven’t used it for some time, so bear with it.

Wait until you hear a click to signify the unit has been reset. If you don’t hear a clicking sound, inspect the heater’s wiring for any issues. Otherwise, consult your owner’s manual for more instructions.

It’s always better to contact the nearest service center for the brand of your particular water heater if you’re under warranty. They’ll be able to offer a recommendation and repair or replace your unit if needed. After all, that’s what a warranty is for – the costs should be covered by the manufacturer or service center, so you may as well make the most of it.

Mark Longhurst

Step 6: Reassemble the Heater

You can now reassemble the heater. Place the insulation pad back in place and screw the metal plate back in. Be sure to tighten the screws until they’re snug, but be careful not to over-tighten them, as you may find it hard to unscrew them later.

Step 6: Turn the Power Back on

Finally, plug in your water heater or flip the circuit breaker to restore the power. The unit should be working within a couple of hours. If any issues continue, it’s best to contact a licensed plumber for diagnosis and repair: they’ll be able to figure it out and fix it.

Maintenance Tips to Prevent Water Heater from Tripping Reset

I know it’s a boring thing to say, but prevention is better than cure. You can maintain the health of your water heater, which may prevent (expensive) problems from popping up in the future. Here’s what I’d recommend:

  • Regular Inspections: Schedule routine inspections for your water heater every 6–12 months. A professional plumber can check the components and flush the tank for any sediment build-up. They will identify any issues and handle them before they become severe, which is what you want!
  • Follow the Manufacturer’s Manual: Always follow the recommended maintenance schedule in the owner’s manual. This may include flushing the tank, cleaning protocols, and other preventative care routines.
  • Keep the Area Clean: Keep the area around your water heater clean of any leaks and debris. Or clutter. Remove any flammable materials or chemicals. This will ensure your unit is in a safe environment without anything blocking it, keeping it working correctly.
  • Inspect the T&P Valve: Test the temperature and pressure release valve annually to ensure it’s working correctly. Mineral build-up and corrosion can cause issues and malfunctions. Inspect the label or owner’s manual for detailed instructions.

These are simple steps, but they should help to keep your water heater running smoothly, and you’ll be less likely to need to call a professional to come fix it.

Understanding Your Water Heater

So there are different types of water heaters, and you may not know which one yours is. This is especially true if you’ve recently moved to a new home.

Water heaters are super important because they are responsible for some of the most useful appliances in your home: dishwashers, washing machines, showers, sinks, basically everything that makes you or your home clean.

If you’re not sure which type of water heater you have, I’ll give you a rundown of each one:

Conventional Storage Water Heaters

These units have a heating element and a storage tank for hot water. The tank is insulated, meaning it retains heat really well, and it can hold between 30 and 80 gallons of water depending on how big the tank is.

These are usually powered by electricity or natural gas, but some models use liquid propane or oil. It works by cold water entering the tank and then heating it to the right temperature. The thermostat clicks off when the temperature is reached.

Tankless Water Heaters

So, these are smaller water heaters as they don’t have a storage tank. It works in an interesting way (at least, I find it interesting): the units rapidly heat cold water using a series of super-heated coils, and you’ll normally find them in apartments or smaller homes, as they take up way less space.

Tankless units are powered by electricity. They don’t waste energy by heating and reheating water, only clicking into life when required, which makes them a good budget-friendly option.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

These work a little differently. They use electricity to transfer heat from the surrounding air to raise the water temperature. As you can imagine, these make them a superb choice from an energy efficiency perspective.

How does this work? Well, to be technical about it, the heat pump extracts heat from the air, which heats the refrigerant in the heat pump. The hot refrigerant then passes through a heat exchanger, which heats the water. Which is very cool, in my opinion.

Solar Water Heaters

Solar water heaters are a good option if you want to lower your energy costs. They have a large insulated tank that stores water until it’s needed, similar to conventional storage water heaters. They use the energy of the sun to heat the water using a circulating pump.

Solar water heaters can be mounted on the roof, with solar panels installed in various places. They have a backup system of gas or electricity, just in case the sun isn’t strong enough to power it.

These come with large installation costs, but many of my customers have said that their energy costs are lower overall. And the stats seem to back this up: your water heater bills may drop by 50-80%, according to energy.gov. So, if you’ve got a solar water heater already, you’re saving money every day!

Condensing Water Heater

Last one! Condensing water heaters utilize unused waste gas fumes created by your home’s natural gas system. This is funneled into a coil to bring the water to the desired temperatures within the tank.

They use waste gas, so it makes sense to have one of these in a home with a natural gas system.

This is another energy-efficient option, as it literally uses gas that would go to waste otherwise. But they do cost a lot upfront, and they’re not as easily available.

Water Heater Keeps Tripping Reset – Key Takeaways

Your water heater can be tripping the reset button for a few reasons:

  • Electrical issues – these include overheating, power surges, and wiring issues
  • Mechanical issues – including thermostat issues, heating element failures, and sediment build-up
  • Other factors – like high water pressure, leaks, or simply the old age of your water heater

A quick reset may help to make things better, but if you’re still having issues, it’s always better to call a licensed plumber or contact the manufacturer for advice.

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Hi, I'm Ed, and I run BuildFanatic! I enjoy providing the best possible information on a range of home improvement topics.

Mark Longhurst
Plumber at http://www.pipesmart.com.au/ | Website | + posts

Mark Longhurst is a professional plumber with over 15 years of experience, owns Pipesmart, and is our resident expert in all things plumbing.

Mark helps review plumbing-related articles for BuildFanatic to ensure we're providing our readers with the most accurate and updated advice.

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