If your Rheem water heater is tripping the breaker, it could be due to various potential issues.
Firstly, check for any electrical problems like a short circuit or faulty wiring. Ensure that the heater is not overloading the circuit. Moreover, examine the heating element for any damage, as a faulty element can cause electrical problems.
Below, I will break down everything so that you can fix this problem like a pro to bring the unit back into its normal operating condition. So, let’s dive in.
Table of Contents
- Why Is My Rheem Water Heater Tripping Breaker?
Why Is My Rheem Water Heater Tripping Breaker?
Your Rheem water heater keeps tripping the circuit breaker because of either a shorted wire or bad heating element. In rare cases, installing a wrong size breaker or cheap one can also cause the water heater to trip the breaker.
And this chapter will walk you through a step-by-step troubleshooting guide to figure out the main culprit behind this issue.
01. Bad Heating Element
A defective heating element is the main caveat that causes your Rheem water heater to trip continuously. 99.9% of the time your water heater will keep tripping the breaker because of a bad heating element. In the ‘How To Fix’ section below, I will show you how to inspect the heating element.
How To Fix:
First off, turn off the electric supply to your water heater at the circuit breaker. Then, remove both the upper and the lower access panel using a flat head screwdriver.
Once you pull out those panels and expose the thermostat wires, turn the electric supply back to the unit by flipping the circuit breaker. If the circuit breaker trips immediately, I bet either the heating element or the electric wires are at fault.
Let me start with testing the heating element.
Ensure you turn the circuit breaker to the off position. Next, get a multimeter and set it to Ohm setting. After that, detach the two wires from the screw terminals. And then, place the probes of your multimeter to one on the left and the other one to the right on the element.
If the heating element is healthy, you can hear an audible beep. Otherwise, the element gets faulty and you need to replace it.
Do this one additional task if you hear an audible sound. Just place one probe to the screw terminal and set the other one to the tank metal casing. In this case, you shouldn’t hear a sound. Repeat the same thing to the other screw terminal.
Don’t hesitate to replace the heating element if you find the multimeter to make an audible noise.
Repeat the same test for the lower element. If you don’t know how to replace a heating element, read this article: Rheem Water Heater Element Replacement.
02. Loose Wiring
If you inspect both heating elements and they are fine, the next thing you should check is the wiring system of the heater. When there is a problem with the shorted wires somewhere in the water heater wiring system, it will trip the breaker.
Most often loose wiring is to blame if your water heater keeps tripping the breaker. In this case, the wire heats up and moves slightly when the current flows for a while. As a result, the wire touches something it shouldn’t, causes an earth fault and trips the breaker.
How To Fix:
Remove the access panel and the insulation to access the wiring of the thermostat. Visually inspect the condition of the wires. If the wiring comes loose, tighten it up. If you don’t see any sign of visual damage to the wiring, I highly suggest you hire a certified electrician to track down the issue.
03. Breaker Itself Is Bad
A breaker can also be the culprit behind this issue. Not every circuit breaker in the market is created equally. Turns out, if you install the wrong size breaker, it may draw unusual current that may cause your water heater to trip the breaker.
How To Fix:
Ensure you use the right size and high-quality breaker for the water heater. It will always be best to get a circuit breaker that can draw the right amount of electricity.
04. Overloading the Circuit
If your Rheem Water Heater shares a circuit with other high-power appliances like a dishwasher, it could overload the circuit and cause the circuit breaker to trip.
I highly recommend you seek professional assistance when you are going to install your Rheem Electric Water Heater. Always install your water heater on a single circuit breaker. Avoid installing other powerful appliances like a dishwasher or washing machine on the same circuit.
05. Short Circuits
A short circuit within the water heater or its wiring can cause the circuit breaker to trip.
Damage wiring, insulation breakdown, or defective components are responsible for a short circuit within your Rheem Water Heater.
When a short circuit occurs within your water heater, the sudden surge in electricity will trigger the safety mechanism of the circuit breaker. As a result, the circuit breaker will trip to cut off power to your water heater.
It will save both your electric water heater and the surrounding electrical infrastructure.
I suggest you contact a qualified electrician to inspect the wiring, components, and electric connections to find the source of short circuits.
06. Corrosion or Mineral Buildup
Mineral buildup or corrosion on the heating element can decrease the efficiency of your water heater. For example, the heating element covered buildup can work erratically or draw too much current. As a result, the circuit breaker will trip itself to cut off power and protect the unit from unwanted damage.
How To Fix:
Flush or drain your water heater once a year to prevent the buildup from developing. To drain your Rheem Water Heater, shut off power to the unit. Then, attach a garden hose to the drain valve and place the other end to the nearest floor drain. Now, open the drain valve to let the water drain.
07. Defective Thermostat
A faulty thermostat is another water heater problem that could throw a wrench into work. Due to a bad thermostat, the water heater will run continuously. Such a water heater operation can put excessive load on the circuit and cause it to trip.
08. Voltage Fluctuations
Voltage fluctuations can negatively impact the water heater and its performance.
For example, if the water heater receives a lower or higher voltage than recommended, you will get insufficient hot water. Also, rapid changes in voltage levels can impact the stability of your water heater electric system and cause it to trip the circuit breaker.
Electrical grid issues, wiring problems, defective regulators, and overloaded circuits are responsible for voltage fluctuations. I recommend you call a certified electrician to resolve the voltage fluctuation problem.
09. Safety Features Get Activated
Rheem Water Heaters offer a number of safety features. For example, an electric water heater has a high-limit switch or ECO button. The high-limit switch will trip the breaker and cut off the electric supply when the water temperature exceeds the safety level.
To resolve the issue, press the ECO or reset button to bring the unit back into working condition. You can locate the button on the upper thermostat if you have an electric model.
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Check the heating element at first if your Rheem water heater keeps tripping the breaker. In this case, follow the steps I mentioned to inspect the elements electrically. If you find the elements are at fault, replace it and it will solve this issue.
Next, inspect the wiring system of your water heater. Ensure all the wirings are connected properly and they don’t come loose. If needed, take help from a qualified electrician.
And lastly, reset the breaker or install the right size of breaker according to your water heater manual recommendation. I hope you can solve this issue by yourself. Good luck!
Eric Alvarez is the head of content on LilDutchUncle.Com. He is an HVAC guy based in El Paso, Texas, United States. He obtained his Bachelor of Science degree from the University Of Texas at El Paso. Years of experience in the HVAC field have taught him many lessons, not the least of which is that the value of quality and knowledge far exceeds any promised initial savings. He has a good standing reputation for superior skills in heating, air conditioning, hot water tanks, and indoor air quality systems.