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How to Reset Your Water Heater

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Water running cold? We’ll show you 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.


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

If you notice any moisture around the reset button or on the pad, there could be a leak in the gasket. This must be fixed before resetting your water heater.

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.

Caution

Never turn on the breaker before you’ve replaced the cover plate! Doing so could lead to a dangerous electric shock.

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.

FAQs

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.

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About the Author

Peter Gray

Peter has been a homeowner for 35+ years and has always done his own repair and improvement tasks. As a retired plumber, Peter now spends his time teaching others how they can fix leaks, replace faucets, and make home improvements on a budget.