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Thread: water heater burning up elements catching on fire

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    13

    Question water heater burning up elements catching on fire

    I am a electrical service tech.I have been called to this house 3 times this week.over a water heater.( Rental property.) The Top element was smoked all chared up.The tennant said it happened the day before so her husband un pluged the cord.I checked, the circuit.Every thing looked fine 241 volts Receptacle looks brand new checked the cord perfect shape.Opened the bottom element cover.wasent burned but all rusty on tank wher the element screws in.And wet from leaking.I said the cause was from the leak.The tennant said this happenned 5 months ago too and the plumber replaced the water heater.Which i said I cant understand how a 5 month old water heater would rust that much.and so I left and said everythin electricall is ok.

    Then the next day i called back.To check more into it.I checked the service.every thing was perfect all lugs tight . put the dryer on range on checked amps no problems.

    Anyways the 3rd time the tennant said the power company came out and the neutral was flopping in the breeze.now iam really thinking BS.But were getting paid so i go.I get there cut the tab again.every thing was tight.So got on the phone with my boss he said go get a surge protector.So i did.then the the tennants husband was there and said the power compant tighted the lug in the meter can. My only thought about this whole thing is the plumber is trying his best to get out of warranty on the w/h and I think hes freinds with the tennants.Am i wrong ? please some one help.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Nov 2007
    Location
    Columbus, Ohio
    Posts
    2,234
    The plumber might have installed a used unit.

  3. #3
    A loose and flopping neutral can never in any way burn up the element in a 240 volt WH. That would be impossible.

    Second, China metal can rust in 3 days, let alone 5 months
    It depends on what the meaning of "is" is.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Posts
    13

    Wink thanks for the responses

    I told the tennant the same thing.about a loose neutral would not burn up a water/heater 240v circuit.just 120v circuits.I just posted this because that calls been annoying.When i see nothing wrong.And I hate liars worse then anything.I know Bussiness people lie constantly.Evan my bosses They say its part of doing bussiness,they think of them as white lies.It still a lie.Sorry for venting.I just like doing the best job i can.Enjoy electrical work >and rember saftey First.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Portage, Indiana NEC: 2008
    Posts
    9,815
    sounds like the water was turned off and the water heater tank got inadvertently drained, this is the only way I have seen elements burned up like that, I would check if the city had the water off, or they had turned off there well if they have one, happens all the time in trailer parks when the park goes to do maintenance and doesn't give home owners notice. I have dealt with the same thing with the homeowners trying to blame my work, but with a 240 volt circuit there is no way unless the transformer primary has a few loops shorted together which will lower the turn ratio and cause a higher output, but that is so very rare and it would show up as a high L to L and L to N reading, this is a common cry on hot tubs, when the heating element burns up, and with a hot tub the biggest mistake is when a home owner goes to clean it out, and does not turn off the breaker or disconnect, then they leave it dry and power goes out and comes back on, which almost all hot tubs default to pump and heat anytime power goes out because of so many out in the cold in the winter. or they will turn the breaker back on after they start filling it, but haven't got enough in it to reach the pump inlet.

    I just am very assertive with them and tell them there is nothing electrical that can cause this, the only thing is running it dry.
    Wayne A. From: N.W.Indiana
    Be Fair, Be Safe
    Just don't be fairly safe

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Ogdensburg, NY
    Posts
    2,257
    Quote Originally Posted by hurk27 View Post
    sounds like the water was turned off and the water heater tank got inadvertently drained, this is the only way I have seen elements burned up like that, I would check if the city had the water off, or they had turned off there well if they have one, happens all the time in trailer parks when the park goes to do maintenance and doesn't give home owners notice. I have dealt with the same thing with the homeowners trying to blame my work, but with a 240 volt circuit there is no way unless the transformer primary has a few loops shorted together which will lower the turn ratio and cause a higher output, but that is so very rare and it would show up as a high L to L and L to N reading, this is a common cry on hot tubs, when the heating element burns up, and with a hot tub the biggest mistake is when a home owner goes to clean it out, and does not turn off the breaker or disconnect, then they leave it dry and power goes out and comes back on, which almost all hot tubs default to pump and heat anytime power goes out because of so many out in the cold in the winter. or they will turn the breaker back on after they start filling it, but haven't got enough in it to reach the pump inlet.

    I just am very assertive with them and tell them there is nothing electrical that can cause this, the only thing is running it dry.
    Then the deer in headlight stare.
    Old and in the Way.......

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2003
    Location
    Portage, Indiana NEC: 2008
    Posts
    9,815
    Quote Originally Posted by 76nemo View Post
    Then the deer in headlight stare.
    Or the "why are you calling me a liar" look
    Wayne A. From: N.W.Indiana
    Be Fair, Be Safe
    Just don't be fairly safe

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2005
    Location
    Richmond, Virginia
    Posts
    21,838
    Quote Originally Posted by sparky333 View Post
    ... her husband un pluged the cord.
    Unplugged a cord? Could someone be feeding 240v to 120v water heaters?
    Code references based on 2005 NEC
    Larry B. Fine
    Master Electrician
    Electrical Contractor
    Richmond, VA

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jun 2003
    Location
    NE (9.1 miles @5.07 Degrees from Winged Horses)
    Posts
    5,841
    Wondered why the cord myself, but did not think of the voltage.

    Is the lower element okay? Do 120v units have lower elements?
    Tom
    TBLO

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    SW Florida
    Posts
    2,388
    3 wire 30a 240 volt cord and plug was very common in Florida for years
    Unlimited Electric Contractor/Standard Electric Inspector/Traffic Signal Inspector/Highway Lighting and Level One Traffic Signal Installer.

    I know you believe that you understand what you think I said but I'm sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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