How to reset a water heater

Picture this. It’s a subzero Monday morning. You’ve hit the snooze button six times—and if it weren’t for your spouse threatening to suffocate you in your sleep, you would’ve hit it a seventh time. Instead, you sigh deeply, toss back the covers, and scurry to the bathroom. You turn on the shower, wait for the glorious steam to bubble over the curtain, and hop in. And then, two milliseconds after you soap up, your nice hot shower practically turns to sleet. “GAAAAAAAAH!” you scream. “What the bleepity-bleep-bleep happened to the hot water?!” OK, admittedly, there are worse plumbing “situations” one could have. But that one? The one with shampoo streaming into your eyes? The one in which you’re groping blindly for a towel in an attempt to stop your teeth from chattering? That definitely makes our list of Top 10 No-Fun Moments in Home Ownership.

Why Electric Water Heaters Quit

So, what causes Hot-Showerus Interruptus? If you have an electric water heater, it’s possible that the unit’s reset button tripped. Every once in a while, those buttons randomly trip. Often, though, it happens because:

  • The unit’s thermostat is faulty.
  • The reset button itself is malfunctioning.
  • The part of the unit that prevents water from getting too hot—the high-limit switch—is no longer working.
  • The heating element has a short.
  • There’s a loose wire somewhere.

Keep in mind that a water heater’s reset button serves an important purpose—interrupting power in the event of a malfunction, such as a power surge or a faulty thermostat. If your water heater loses power repeatedly, there’s likely a problem that should be addressed by a professional Culpeper County plumber. And please remember that the combination of electricity and water is dangerous—even deadly. Never hesitate to call in a pro to check things over. For the purposes of this post, we’re assuming your water heater typically minds its manners and this isn’t a recurring issue. With that understanding, let’s walk through two simple steps to get it going again.

First, check your electrical panel.

Head to your electrical panel (usually in the garage, basement, or storage closet), and locate the circuit labeled “water heater.”

  • If the breaker’s in the OFF position: Flip it to ON. If it stays there, you can probably assume all this unpleasantness was a fluke and you can go on about your business. But if it flips back to OFF—either immediately or shortly thereafter—call an electrician.
  • If the breaker’s in the ON position: Flip it to OFF.

Then, push the water heater reset button(s).

Somewhere on your electric water heater, you’ll find a reset button. It’s usually red and often located near the thermostat. It may also be hidden behind a removable metal panel on the unit—and then behind some insulation. Once you find the button, push and release it. While you have the access panel off, see if there’s a second thermostat and second reset button. If the button trips again immediately after you push it, something’s not working correctly, and you should call in a pro. Otherwise, replace the access panel, then flip the relevant circuit breaker back to ON.

  • If your water heater now has power, you’re all set. (Way to go!) Just keep in mind it’ll take a few hours to reheat the water in the tank.
  • If your water heater still doesn’t work, flip the breaker to OFF, and call us so we can determine what’s happening and get hot water flowing again.
  • If your water heater starts working but the reset button trips again, switch that breaker back to OFF, and let us have a look. Again, your reset button is a safety feature, so if it keeps tripping, something’s not quite right.

Is Your Water Heater Trying to Tell You Something?

One suddenly cold shower is (sort of) funny. But when it keeps happening, that’s an aggravating problem. We’d be honored to stop by and figure out what’s going on, so give us a call today. You deserve nice hot showers!

How to reset a water heater

Unfortunately, these are pretty common problems that many homeowners or apartment dwellers might face eventually, especially with electric water heaters and water heater reset switches.

Table of Contents

What To Check When You’re Having Hot Water Problems

The first thing you should check is the water heater’s reset switch, which is usually a red button on the upper thermostat of an electric water heater (you will need to remove the small panel to access it). If the button is lit up, it means the switch tripped and needs to be reset. You reset the electric water heater reset button by pushing that red button.

There may also be a lower thermostat reset button on the water heater. If so, push that reset button as well. If you push either of these buttons but they immediately trip and won’t reset, you may have a problem with one of the parts in the water heater.

What’s the Problem? Why Does the Switch Keep Tripping?

One of the main causes for the reset switch to trip is because the water heater is actually letting the water get too hot. This is probably an indication of a faulty thermostat in either the upper or lower heating element.

Upper and Lower Heating Elements – How an Electric Water Heater Works

The way a water heater works is pretty simple. Water in the pressurized tank fills from the bottom up and heats from the bottom up as well. Fresh water fills at the bottom and the lower heating element heats that water. As the water fills to the top, the upper heating element keeps the water hot.

Each section has its own heating element and thermostat. These thermostats control the heating elements in the water heater. As the water sits in the tank, it will start to cool off. The thermostats kick in to reheat the water. Once the water heats to the temperature set on the high-limit switch, the thermostats shut off.

If the lower heating element or thermostat goes bad, the water won’t heat up at the bottom. So as you use the hot water that’s at the top of the tank, it’s replaced by the cold water the bottom of the tank.

If the upper heating element or thermostat goes bad, you may get hot water at first, but you’ll quickly use up that hot water before the heated water at the bottom reaches the top. With a faulty high-limit thermostat, the element will keep heating the water above the set temperature and the high-limit switch will trip.

reset button

What is the High-limit Switch?

The high-limit thermostat should be set at a temperature that gives you nice, hot water, but not boiling water that can burn or scald you. Your tap water should never come out as hot as boiling water.

Once you set the thermostat, the water should never heat above that set temperature. If it does, the high-limit switch will trip and the upper heating element will shut off.

Other Reasons for a Hot Water Heater Reset Button to Trip

Thermostats aren’t the only parts on an electric water heater that can wear out and trip the reset button, especially if you’re finding you have to reset the water heater frequently or you run out of hot water fast and often.

  • The high-limit switch is bad. If the high-limit switch starts malfunctioning and overheating the water, the switch will trip.
  • Wiring is loose. A loose wire in heating element can cause heat that will trip the high-limit switch.
  • You have a short in the heating element. If this happens, the thermostat may still work correctly, but the short will continue to heat the water beyond the correct temperature and trip the high-limit switch.
  • Lastly, it might not be the water heater at all, but rather how the electricity is set up in your home.

If your circuit breaker trips and needs to be reset, the water heater stops getting electricity to run. If the water heater keeps tripping the circuit breaker, you should get a professional in to check the water heater and the circuit breakers themselves to make sure there aren’t any other electrical appliances sharing that same breaker.

How to reset a water heater

It’s so uncomfortable to go without a functioning hot water heater in the winter. What do you do if your hot water heater isn’t working? Often, the solution is as simple as resetting the system. Choose one of the following methods for fixing your problem, depending on the type of water heater (gas, electric, or even tankless).

How to Reset an Electric Water Heater

What happened to create the issue is the switch was tripped, and it just needs to be reset. If you do not know how to reset a water heater, it’s pretty easy to do. All it requires is a little know-how, no skill necessary. The first place to look is the reset button!

Where Is the Water Heater Reset Button?

Do you know where your water heater is (attic, garage, basement)? Once you’ve found the water heater, the reset button is typically located on the upper thermostat. If it’s not there, it’s likely somewhere on the lower part of the water heater. Some units have a button in each location. If you need further direction, try this helpful Homeowner Repair video.

Reset Button on Water Heater Doesn’t Click

What do you do if the water heater reset button doesn’t reset? You might have a faulty thermostat. If the hot water heater keeps tripping the reset button, the cause may be the high limit switch. What’s happening is that the thermostat is not properly managing the heat. The high limit switch trips when the faulty thermostat allows the temperature to get to a dangerous level. You don’t want your kid to wash his/her hands with boiling water, so this feature is a must. The switch will keep getting tripped until you get a new thermostat. It’s also possible that you have a grounded element causing the water to overheat. Learn how to test a water heater element.

How to reset a water heater

Other Causes of the Issue

Although a bad thermostat is the most common cause, it’s not the only one. It’s possible that your wiring is loose or compromised in some way. You also might have a short in one or both of the heating elements. Last but not least likely, you may just be having electrical problems with the home itself, and the problem isn’t specific to the water heater.

How to Reset a Gas Water Heater

Relight water heater pilot, and with newer models, there is a thermal switch to reset.

How Long for Hot Water Heater to Heat After Reset?

Once you’ve reset the system, you have to wait for hot water (unless you have an on-demand water heater), but for how long? It depends on the size of the tank, but with any unit, you should be able to get in a hot shower with gas water heaters within 30-40 minutes and with electric tanks, about 60-90 minutes.

How to Reset Tankless Water Heater

On-demand solutions also have thermal safety reset features too. If you need to reset your tankless water heater, it’s probably a safe bet that you’ll have to remove the cover to access it. Each manufacturer is going to have different instructions, so we recommend that you dust off your owner’s manual to address this problem.

How to reset a water heater

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.

Owning a water heater is an excellent decision as it lets you enjoy hot baths anytime you want. However, it can be equally frustrating to come home to a faulty one. Knowing how to reset your water heater will allow you the independence of getting hot water immediately and having to wait for a mechanic to show up, causing further delays.

Now, you don’t have to worry because we’ve got you covered. Following is a simple list of steps on how to reset a water heater along with a list of problems that may have caused your water heater to malfunction.

When Should You Reset a Water Heater

While you can easily reset your water heater, it is always a good idea to figure out the conditions when you need to reset a water heater. Usually, the problems are relatively minor and can be addressed via reset. However, there is a chance that it might be a symptom of a larger wiring problem. This is why we have below a list of conditions that might need resetting your water heater.

1. Faulty Reset Button

The reset button is usually red and fairly easy to locate. It should be near the upper thermostat, most likely covered by a small panel. If the light in this button is on, it means that the heater needs to be reset. This is an easy way to check whether a switch has been tripped without needing to disassemble your water heater. So, this is the first thing you should check when your water heater is not functioning.

2. Faulty Heating Elements

An electric water heater consists of an upper and a lower heating element. When the water fills into the tank, it is heated from both sides. Each of these sides also has a thermostat that controls the individual heating elements. This means, if any of the heating elements is faulty, then you may have some hot water, but it is likely to be quickly replaced with the cold water.

3. Faulty Thermostat

As each of the upper and lower heating elements has a separate thermostat, a malfunction in anyone can call for the need to reset the water heater. The main purpose of a thermostat is to detect the water temperature. If it senses that the water is colder than a specific temperature, it will automatically switch on the heating elements to provide you with hot water. Also, the heating element switches off after the heated water reaches a specific temperature.

However, if any of these thermostats malfunction, it is likely to cause a false high-limit. This means the water heater will keep on heating the water even after crossing the set temperature limit. This can cause the high-limit switch to trip, requiring you to reset your water heater. Another thing you need to check is the temperature set on your thermostat. The trip can also be a result of a pre-set higher temperature.

4. Wiring Issues

If your thermostat seems to be working fine, then there is a chance of loose wiring in the heating element. This can cause the thermostat to work just fine, but the short wire continues the heating process. This means that the water will be overheated and might trip the high-limit switch requiring a reset.

5. A Faulty Breaker

Lastly, if none of the above seems to be the reason behind your water breaker needing a reset, then the fault might be in the electricity set up in your home. This can cause your circuit breaker to trip and cut off the electricity supply from the water heater. While both the breaker as well as the reset should be a fairly straightforward process, if this is a continued problem, it may indicate a larger wiring issue. It is a good idea to consult a professional to check whether there is any fault with the installation so that you can avoid the hassle of constant resetting.

How to Reset an Electric Water Heater

Resetting an electric water heater is a simple process. However, when it comes to working with these pricey appliances, you can never be too safe. This is why we have listed below five easy and detailed steps to ensure that you can reset your water heater with no problems.

1. Disconnect the Water Heater

The first thing you need to do is disconnect the water heater from the power supply. It is always a good idea to switch off any appliance before tinkering with its settings. Most water heaters are plugged in directly to the wall so you can unplug or switch off the power to it. And, in some instances, the water heater is already wired in. In this case, you can just turn it off at the breaker box.

2. Remove Cover

The reset button, in most cases, is hidden behind a panel. This is to make sure it is protected and safe from being accidentally set off. This panel is likely to be either near the upper thermostat or closer to the bottom. You might need to get a screwdriver to remove the screws. Then, you can lift the plate to locate the insulation pad.

3. Remove the Insulation Pad

In order to prevent unwanted heat loss, water heaters usually consist of an insulation pad underneath the panel. It is most likely a foam pad that covers up the reset button as well as other controls present in your water heater. All you have to do is pull the pad out of the way and the reset button should be visible. Remember to put the insulation pad aside as you will need to put it back when reassembling.

4. Click the Reset Button

The reset button is traditionally red and easy to spot. Some might even label it as the reset button for further simplicity. If you haven’t been using this button frequently, then there is a chance that the switch might be stuck at first. You need to press the button firmly until you hear a definite click. In some models, you might not hear a click. This is why you should keep pressing the reset button for at least five seconds. This should provide ample time for any water heater to restore its settings.

5. Reassemble and Turn On

To reassemble, you only have to retrace your steps backward. First, put the installation pad back in place. Once you have it in its original place, you can put the panel over the pad. Then, get the screws you had previously taken out and put them back in place. Remember to screw them in tightly. After this, plug the water heater back into the power supply. You can now check the water heater as it should be running smoothly.

How to Reset a Gas Water Heater

If your gas heater is not delivering hot water, the most common cause is the pilot light. If you notice that this light has gone out, this could be an indication of a problem with the gas supply. Once you check the supply, you may have to refill your tank and ensure that the gas is flowing properly. If both these things are in order, then the pilot light should start automatically. In case it still isn’t working, you may have to call a professional to check for further wiring issues.

How to reset a water heater

If your water heater loses power, your water heater’s reset button can be used to turn the appliance back on. However, your reset button serves as a safety device and turns the unit off when the water temperature gets too hot. So, if you are frequently resetting your water heater to get the power back on, there’s an underlying problem.

In this article, we’ll explore four common reasons why your reset button keeps tripping:

  • Bad thermostat
  • Burnt out heating element
  • Bad reset button
  • Loose wiring or a bad breaker

It’s important to get to the source of the issue and contact a professional who can determine what’s causing the exact problem and troubleshoot.

MSP has been providing solutions for homeowners in the Twin Cities since 1918. Our team can respond quickly to repair both tank water heaters and tankless water heaters.

Reason #1: Bad Thermostat

Electric water heaters have 2 thermostats, an upper and a lower one. The reset button is a feature on the upper thermostat.

You have two thermostats because the heater has an upper and a lower heating element. Each element has its own thermostat which “talks” to the other, ensuring that only one heating element is turned on at a time. Your thermostat monitors the water temperature in your tank and turns off the heating element when it reaches your set temperature.

However, if one of these thermostats malfunctions, it may get stuck ON and fail to turn off the element it serves, which causes the reset button to trip.

The fix: A professional plumber can identify which thermostat has failed and replace it.

Reason #2: Burnt Out Heating Element

Your water heater’s heating element is what actually heats your water. Your heating element may experience a short. This often happens if the element’s metal casing cracks and the element’s live wires are exposed to water.

If there’s a short in your heating element, the power will continue flowing in the element even after your thermostat turns off its power. So, your heating element will continue increasing the tank’s water temperature until it reaches 180°F. At this temperature, your reset button will trip to prevent your water from getting any hotter for safety reasons.

The most common sign that your heating element has burnt out is that your water simply isn’t as hot as it used to be.

The fix: A professional can replace your water heater’s bad heating element.

Reason #3: Bad Reset Button

If your water heater reset button keeps tripping, the problem may be with the button itself.

Your water heater’s reset button is designed to cut power to your unit if your water temperature exceeds 180°F. However, over time the reset button’s switch can wear out and struggle to accurately read the water’s temperature. When this happens, the switch might cut power to the water heater even if the water temperature is low.

The fix: As mentioned above, your appliance has two thermostats and the reset button is a part of your upper thermostat. So, if your reset button is the problem, a professional plumber will most likely replace the entire upper thermostat.

Reason #4: Bad Wiring or a Bad Breaker

Your problem may be electrical. If you have loose wiring, it can be a critical safety hazard. Fortunately, your water heater is well equipped to protect against electrical hazards. When a wire is loose, excess heat is produced. Since your reset button can sense the heat generated by the loose wire, it will then trip.

Other wiring issues may arise if you have aluminum wiring in your home and copper wiring in your water heater. In this case, a special lug connector is required where the wires meet. Without the proper lug connector in place, the two dissimilar metals’ connection can cause the water heater’s breaker to trip.

Alternatively, it’s also possible that your home’s breaker has worn out, causing the reset button to trip.

The fix: If a plumber cannot identify any issues with your water heater’s functionality, have an electrician look at your wiring and your breaker.

Ready to get your water heater working again?

We know that when your water heater’s reset button keeps tripping, you need help from a trusted professional. Contact MSP to quickly get your tank water heater or tankless water heater repaired.

How to reset a water heater

How to reset a water heater

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So, what’s causing the button to keep tripping? There are a number of possible underlying problems. We’ll show you the 4 most common.

Reason #1: Bad thermostat

Electric water heaters have 2 thermostats and 2 heating elements. There is an upper and lower thermostat/element pairing as seen in the diagram below.

Diagram of electric water heater. Photo courtesy:

The thermostat’s job is to monitor the temperature of the water in the tank and shut off the heating element when it reaches your set temperature.

But when a thermostat goes bad, it sometimes gets “stuck” and doesn’t turn off the element it serves. This allows the element to keep heating the water until the reset button trips. If this is the problem, you’ll need to replace the thermostat.

Reason #2: Loose electrical connection

Loose electrical connections are a hazard no matter where they occur. The high resistance caused by a loose wire produces a substantial amount of heat that can eventually cause fires.

If there is a loose electrical connection within your water heater’s system, your reset button’s thermometer can trip (regardless of the water’s temperature) if it picks up the heat from that loose wire.

Reason #3: Bad heating element

A short in one of the heating elements allows power to flow through the element even after the thermometer shuts off its power.

This means the heating element is still working and will continue to increase the water temperature, eventually tripping the reset button.

Reason #4: Bad reset button

Just like all parts of the water heater, the reset button will eventually suffer from wear and tear. This can cause it to perform less effectively and continually trip regardless of the temperature of the water in the tank.

The reset button is actually part of your upper thermostat. So, if this is the problem, you’ll need to replace the whole thermostat.

So, how do I know which is causing the reset button to trip?

Diagnosing this problem on your own is tricky and dangerous because you’re dealing with 240 volts of electricity.

Unless you’re experienced with wiring and electrical components, we suggest leaving it to a professional to pinpoint your specific issue. The good news is that a professional can both test and repair your water heater.

How to reset a water heater

You might spend hours at work or the gym looking forward to a hot shower when you get home, but when you arrive there’s no hot water. If the water suddenly runs cold and refuses to get warm, something isn’t right.

There might be a serious issue but it’s also possible that you only need to reset your water heater to get things working again. If you have never restarted your gas or electric heater before, you might not know how to do it.

Fortunately, it isn’t difficult and we will guide you through each step. We will also explain why you might need to perform a reset and the things to look out for.

Table of Contents

How to Reset a Water Heater

Resetting your water heater is relatively easy but there are still some steps you need to follow to do it safely.

1. Disconnect the Unit

Before you do anything else, make sure no electricity can reach the unit by disconnecting it.

Most modern units have a cable that is plugged into an outlet. Sometimes, you might need to turn a knob or unscrew the cable. If you’re unsure where it’s plugged in, take a look around the unit.

Many older water heaters, however, are directly connected to the breaker box. If yours is one of these, find the appropriate breaker in the breaker box and switch it to the OFF position.

When the breaker is already in the OFF position, try to push it back to ON. If it is stuck in the OFF position, there could be an electrical problem rather than a water heater issue. In that case, call an electrician and leave your water heater alone for now.

2. Locate and Remove Cover Plate

For this step, you will need a screwdriver. Check your owner’s manual to see whether you need a Phillips or a flat head screwdriver.

Next, look around your water heater and try to find a removable plate. It’s probably at the front of the unit and will have at least two screws holding it in place.

Once you’ve found it, undo the screws. Be careful that the plate doesn’t fall on the floor or your foot. Once the screws are loose, lift the plate away.

3. Take out the Insulation

Under the cover plate, there should be some form of insulation. It’s usually a foam pad sitting on the buttons needed to reset the unit.

Remove this insulation and leave it to one side for now.

Look Out For Moisture

4. Click the Reset Button

The reset button is usually a red button in the center of the control board. On some water heaters, it is conveniently marked “reset button.”

If the reset button is protruding, it means it has tripped and you can proceed to reset it. If it isn’t lit, there’s probably another issue. In most cases, it’s a faulty control board.

Press the button — you might need to be firm if it won’t push in. Hold it in until you hear a “click” which indicates that your reset was successful.

If it doesn’t click when you push the button, don’t panic. It might be that your water heater doesn’t make one — every heater is different. The owner’s manual should mention whether or not there will be a click.

Some water heaters have a second reset button for the thermostat. If yours has one, push that as well. It should be located near the first button but check your owner’s manual for the precise location.

If the switch continues to trip (won’t reset), call a professional. The switch is a safety feature. It is there to turn off the unit in case it overheats or another safety issue arises (1) .

5. Reassemble and Turn On

Now that your water heater is successfully reset, it’s time to reassemble it and get ready for a warm shower.

Start by replacing the insulation pad. Place it so it covers the reset button and most of the control panel area.

Position the cover plate and screw it back in place. Once inserted, manually turn both screws a couple of times. This will prevent the plate from slipping around when you use the screwdriver to finish tightening them.

Once the cover plate is in place, it’s time to turn on the breaker or connect to the outlet. Turn on your water heater and wait for the hot water.

Why Do I Need to Reset?

The circuit breaker and reset button are present to prevent a dangerous situation. In many instances, the reset button can simply trip without real cause and it’s safe to reset it. However, there are also some serious reasons why it might trip and won’t turn back on:

  • A faulty thermostat: This prevents the unit from producing hot water, causing the circuit to trip.
  • Electrical issues: Sometimes there’s a loose or faulty wire that prevents electricity from reaching the heater.
  • A bad high-limit switch: If this switch is bad, the water will continue to heat until the circuit breaks.
  • A poor breaker: Sometimes the water heater is simply too much for the system to handle and the breaker malfunctions.
  • A faulty element: This is tricky to spot because the thermostat will appear normal. The water might keep heating beyond your set temperature. This, in turn, causes a break.

How Long Do You Hold the Reset Button on a Water Heater?

This will vary from model to model, so you should check your heater’s manual to find the exact length of time. Many buttons will make a click to let you know that you have pushed them properly.

It is unlikely to take particularly long; you shouldn’t need to hold the button for more than a minute without it showing any signs of life. If that occurs, the issue is unlikely to be something that can be fixed by the reset button alone.

How Do I Know if My Water Heater Is Working?

Even if your heater appears to be working, the only real way of testing it is to run some hot water. If you reset your heater after it has been inactive for a while, don’t expect to receive hot water immediately, especially if you have a tank heater.

For a tank gas heater, it can take about half an hour to heat the water fully. An electric tank might take twice as long as that. Be patient but if you still don’t feel any hot water when you run a tap, there might be another issue that needs addressing.

Do All Water Heaters Have a Reset Button?

All modern hot water heaters from major brands will have a reset button. It allows you to reset the boiler when an error or issue has tripped it off. It is possible that a temporary issue has tripped the unit off and it will be a simple case of pushing the button. However, if the heater refuses to restart after pushing it, there is likely another issue that needs to be dealt with before you can successfully restart the heater.

Keep it Safe

The reset button is there for safety reasons — to avoid boiling water or damage to the unit. Resetting is easy and can be done in a couple of minutes. However, if the button refuses to reset, call a professional as it could indicate a larger problem.

Knowing how to reset a water heater is very useful, so we hope you found this information helpful. Feel free to share our guide with anyone who might find it useful!

You’ve just turned on the hot side of your shower or faucet. You’ve been waiting for what seems like an eternity for the water temperature to rise, but it’s not happening. You go into the garage or attic where your hot water tank is to see if you can spot the problem.

You try to find the reset button because the unit appears to be turned off. But you cannot spot it. This is a common problem.

The location of the water heater reset button is determined by a few things.

Access to the button is designed by manufacturers for safety and to prevent inadvertent activation. The location of the button may also be determined by the type of hot water tank you have, whether gas, electric, or tankless.

This article will explain how to locate your water heater’s reset button.

Where is the Reset Button on Water Heater Located?

Hot water reset button on this heater is black. But can also be red. Photo Credit: Homeowner Repair YouTube Channel

Before you begin troubleshooting, go to your electric panel and locate the breaker switch labeled “water heater”. To turn off the power to the unit, flip it to the off position. This keeps you safe while troubleshooting the unit.

On a gas or electric water heater, the reset button is located behind the top metal panel cover on the side of the tank. Remove the screws on the top and bottom sides of the panel cover to enable access to the button. The button will be either red or black, with a diameter of roughly 1 inch.

To see the button clearly, you may need to remove some extra protective layers.

How to Reset Your Water Heater (6 Easy Steps)

Resetting your Water heater is a straightforward process that solves the many common hot water issues.

  1. Go to the electrical panel for your home which is located in the garage or on the exterior walls of the house. Find the breaker that is labeled “water heater”. Flip it to the “off” position
  2. Head to your hot water tank. Remove the top panel cover on the side of the unit by removing the screws that hold it in place. The reset button will be located right inside the panel. There may be some insulation covering the reset button. Remove and keep the insulation.
  3. Press the reset button. You should hear a clicking sound, indicating that the water heater has been reset.
  4. Put the insulation back in to the opening and place the panel cover back on and secure it with the screws.
  5. Return to the electrical panel to flip the breaker switch to the on position.
  6. Wait for about 30 minutes and then try the hot water side of your faucet. Your hot water heater should now be operating properly and water temperatures should be back to normal.

Why is My Water Heater Tripping the Reset Button?

The fact that your reset button trips is actually a good thing. It is a safety feature that prevents more serious problems, such as water heater explosions. In fact, the water heater reset button is sometimes called the high limit switch because it limits how hot the water gets by shutting the system off.

There are five basic reasons why the water heater reset button trips. A malfunctioning thermostat, faulty wiring, a damaged breaker, a faulty heating element, or a faulty reset button

We discuss them below.

Bad Thermostat

The water heater has two thermostats: an upper and a lower one. They control two heating elements. Each thermostat measures the temperature of the water in the tank and sends a signal to the heating element, telling it whether to turn off or on to achieve the correct internal temperature.

A defective thermostat will fail to deliver a signal to the heating element, causing it to continue heating the tank and trip the reset button.

Bad Heating Element

How to reset a water heaterCorrosion around water heater element.

One of two things can go wrong with the heating element.

In the first case, the heating element can crack which disables its heating ability.

In the second scenario, there could be a short in the heating element resulting in excessively hot water. In this case the heating element is unable to read the signal being sent to it from the thermostat.

This scenario will cause the button to trip.

Faulty or Loose Wiring

Wires connect various electrical components in hot water heaters. A faulty wire connection is usually easy to spot visually. Typically, discoloration can be seen in the insulation around terminals.

To detect loose connections, you can gently tug on wires at their termination points in between components, especially around the thermostat and heating elements.

Fixing this will resolve the reset button tripping issue.

Bad Water Heater Circuit Breaker In Electrical Panel

A bad breaker in the electrical panel can cause the reset button in your water heater to trip. This can sometimes be immediately apparent when you go to shut of power to the tank from the panel.

There are a few signs that your breaker may be the cause of the reset button tripping issue.

  1. If the circuit breaker is hot to the touch, it means that there is a significant amount of resistance, causing energy to be converted to heat, instead of powering your hot water tank. Insufficient power to the tank can cause the unit to trip.
  2. If you open the electrical panel and you can smell burning, your circuit breaker may be damaged.
  3. If your breaker cannot stay in the “on” position, it is likely not functioning properly.

Bad Reset Button

The reset button is the last thing I check if all other potential tripping causes have been ruled out. If this is the problem, I recommend calling in a licensed professional to resolve the issue.

Final Thoughts

The water heater reset button is an important tool to solving many home water heating problems. It is typically located behind the top metal plate cover on the side of the tank. Before you push the button, make sure that you take the necessary safety precautions.

How to reset a water heater

If your water heater has suddenly lost power, you can sometimes reset it via the reset button (also known as the “high limit switch” or the “ECO“- energy cut off switch).

But here’s the thing: your water heater’s reset button is basically a “safety feature” that shuts off power to the water heater in the event of unsafe situations.

That said, if the reset button frequently trips, you’re better off calling a professional who can determine why this button is cutting off power to your water heater in the first place.

(You can read all about this safety feature and what causes it to trip in our blog, “Help! My Electric Water Heater Keeps Tripping”.)

But to help you restore your hot water in the event that the reset button has tripped unnecessarily, we’ll show you how to reset your water heater via the reset button.

Need a professional right away? Just contact us and we’ll send over a plumber who can diagnose and repair your water heater.

Step 1: Cut off power to the water heater at the panel

Before anything, make sure you flip the water heater circuit breaker to the OFF position.

To do this, you’ll first need to locate your home’s main electrical panel. This panel is the rectangular metal box that hangs on the wall and is usually located in your garage, storage closet or a hallway in your home (see below).

Your home’s electrical panel typically has a metal covering to protect the circuit breakers inside.

Once you’ve located your main electrical panel, look for the circuit breaker labeled “water heater”.

  • If it’s already flipped to the OFF position, try to flip it to the ON position. *If the breaker automatically flips back to the OFF position, call a professional immediately as this is a sign of a larger electrical problem.
  • If it’s in the ON position, flip the switch to the OFF position firmly and then proceed on to Step #2.

Step 2: Check the water heater reset button

The water heater reset button is the red button located on the water heater itself (just above the thermostat). Some water heaters may have two reset buttons-one for each thermostat.

To access the reset button, you may have to remove the metal plate covering the thermostat that’s held in place by screws. You may also have to remove a rectangular piece of foam insulation to see the reset button.

Press the reset button inwards firmly (some models will click once it’s been reset). Once you’ve pressed the reset button, you should screw the metal plate back in place (make sure you insert the foam insulation piece before this). Then, flip the water heater circuit breaker back to the ON position and check to see if power is restored.

If the water heater still doesn’t have power, call a professional immediately to diagnose and fix the problem.

Step 3: DO NOT reset if safety features continuously trip!

If the water heater reset button won’t reset, call a professional immediately.

In the meantime, keep your water heater off and disconnected from power.

Why? Well, the reset button and the circuit breaker are basically doing what they’re supposed to: preventing dangerous situations. If they’re continuously tripping, they’re trying to tell you that there’s a larger problem that requires professional help.

To avoid expensive damage to your water heater (or water damage to your home), avoid using the water heater until a professional has inspected and repaired the unit.

Possible problems that cause a water heater to trip

  • A bad thermostat(s)
  • A bad reset button
  • Faulty wiring/electrical issues
  • A bad breaker
  • A bad element

Need professional water heater repair in Phoenix?

Just contact us. We’ll send over a tech who can inspect your system and diagnose the problem.