How to Reset Your Water Heater

Water running cold? We’ll show you how to reset a water heater.

Daydreaming about a hot shower after a long day at work, but when you get home there’s no hot water? If the water suddenly runs cold, or simply refuses to heat, something surely isn’t right. Knowing how to reset your water heater is crucial in such circumstances.

Fortunately, it’s not a difficult task and we’ll take you through each step. We’ll also let you know a bit about why you might need to perform a reset and things to look out for.

How to Reset a Water Heater

Resetting your water heater is relatively easy. But there are some steps you need to follow to stay safe.

1. Disconnect the Unit

Before you do anything, make sure there’s no electricity reaching the unit by disconnecting it.

Most modern units will have a cable that’s plugged into an outlet. Sometimes, you may have to turn a knob or unscrew the cable. If you’re not sure where it’s plugged in, have a look around the unit.

A lot of older water heaters, however, are directly connected to the breaker box. For this, locate the right breaker in the breaker box and turn it to the OFF position.

If you see that the breaker is already in the OFF position, try to push it back to ON. If it snaps back to OFF, there could be an electrical problem as opposed to a water heater issue. In that case, call an electrician and leave your water heater for now.

2. Locate and Remove Cover Plate

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

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

Once you’ve found it, unscrew the screws. Be careful since the plate may 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 sort of insulation. It’s usually a foam pad sitting on the buttons needed to reset the unit.

Remove this and leave it to the 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 most likely a red button in the middle of the control board. On some water heaters, it’s conveniently marked “reset button.”

If the reset button is protruding, it means that 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 have to be firm to get it to go inward. Then hold it in until you hear a “click” which indicates your reset was a success.

If, however, there’s no clicking sound as 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 tell you whether you should or shouldn’t wait for the 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 exact location.

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

5. Reassemble and Turn On

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

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

Then replace 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 while you use the screwdriver to finish tightening them.

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


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

Why Do I Need to Reset?

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

  • A faulty thermostat: This would prevent the unit from producing hot water, triggering the circuit to trip.
  • Electrical issues: Sometimes there’s a loose or faulty wire which 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: It can happen that the water heater is simply too much for the house to handle and the breaker malfunctions.
  • A faulty element: This is somewhat tricky to spot since the thermostat will look normal. But the water keeps heating beyond your set temperature. This, in turn, causes a break.

Keep it Safe

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

Knowing how to reset a water heater is essential, so we hope that you found the above information helpful. If you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments below. And feel free to share our guide with anyone who would find it useful.

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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.

1 Reader Comment

  1. Satnam Bhutta

    Hi there, this article is very very helpful. Thank you.

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