Being an on-demand appliance, your water heater will commonly turn on and off throughout the day and night. This is to ensure there is always a certain amount of hot water available at a moment’s notice.

However, there may be times when an electric water heater turns off more than it should. Or turns off and refuses to turn back on. There are a few different reasons this can happen, but the most common are due to a faulty thermostat, improperly functioning heating coil, or electrical issues in your home.

Let’s take a closer look at these three extremely common culprits. This troubleshooting may help you determine which issue you are facing and how to fix it.

Faulty Thermostat

The thermostat is one of the most important parts of your water heater. Without a thermostat, the appliance will never know when the water is hot enough and may not turn on and off properly.

If you notice your water heater is working, but is not properly maintaining the right water temperature, it could be due to a faulty thermostat.

One of the easiest ways to test a thermostat is with an electrical tester or laser heat gun. The laser heat gun can tell you if the water temperature is being maintained, and the electrical tester can let you know if the thermostat is getting proper electricity.

Replacing a defective thermostat is not difficult to do, and most replacement parts for your water heater can be found at various home improvement stores, electrical stores, and plumbing supply stores.

If you have replaced the thermostat and still have water temperature issues, it’s time to look into the heating coil.

Faulty Heating Coil

All water heaters make use of a heating coil or heating element. This item works together with the thermostat to keep the water in the storage tank hot and ready for use, but can also send signals back to the thermostat to determine when the heating can be turned off or placed on stand-by.

If the heating coil is to blame for your water heater issues, the water in the storage tank will be cold. This can be tested by use of the laser heat gun. Cold water in an otherwise working water heater is almost definitely a heating element issue.

Replacing a heating coil should only be done by a professional. If you mishandle the heating element, you can severely damage your water heater or its electrical systems due to an accidental short  circuit.

Tripping a Breaker

If your water heater turns on, and a few seconds later your home’s electricity goes out, you may have tripped a breaker.

This is common with water heaters that are too large for the amount of power your home can provide. In this case, you normally have two choices. Replace your existing water heater with a smaller or more energy efficient model, or increase the amount of electricity available for your water heater.