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Question DetailsAsked on 10/26/2016

hot water not heating fully and also have a leak in backyard that leaks only when water and power to heater is on.

My hot water heater began only heating water to bathwater warm and not hot at all. Replaced both elements and problem still exists. Began reading wires and the bottom element is not reading when I put the volt meter on it. the individual posts on the bottom element will read but I can not get the 240 volt to read on both posts and I am getting current to the thermostats and I have changed the bottom element twice and still the same problem. And to add to it around the same time my water heater stopped heating I noticed water puddling in my back yard around the my ac. I live in an older townhome. Its not the ac lines. When I turn the power and the water off to the water heater the water in my back yard recedes and when I turn it back on it fills up again. Not sure what to do.

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I would track the wires back to the maintenance on/of switch and breaker - could be you have a wire broken (one of the 220V leads - commonly each element takes power off one side of the 220, each using 120V off a different "side" of the 220) - or one of the twin breakers could have gone out.

This assumes you have not lost power on one side of your 220V feed - though that would also affect any electric clothes dryer, electric range, A/C, electric heat furnace, and typically about half your outlet and light circuits too.

On the readings for the bottom thermostat - you say the individual posts on the bottom element will read with volt-ohm-meter but cannot get 240V on both posts. Different ways to wire water heaters, but generally the thermostat control the power to the element - so there will be no power reading (or perhaps only a couple of stray volts) at the element when the thermostat is "off". Thermostat will have power to its input all the time. Thermostat dial box may directly control the current to the element or do it through a solenoid but either way, input top thermostat will be live whenever switch/breaker is on, output live only when thermostat is "one" - calling for power. May be 110/120 or 208/220/240V to the element depending on your locale and heater type and whether it is high-recovery rate or not.

Also - if measuring the voltage at the element itself, obviously when off there should be zero or nominal leakage voltage there. When on, the incoming lead would be full 110/120 or 220/240V - the outgoing lead would read something significantly less - probably not more than in the teens or twenties and dropping as the element heats up - because most of the voltage is being dropped in the element resistance, but there is some resistance in the connecting wires too so not all the voltage is dropped at the element. So - measuring between the two element connections, when powered, would read close to but not fully up to the incoming voltage. Incoming lead to ground would read full line voltage, outgoing lead to ground would be the nominal low voltage heading out back to the utility. Voltage to neutral I will not get into - depending on how your utility system is wired could have several answers and also depends on whether your meter is reading peak or RMS average voltage setting.

Could also be a bad thermostat, not letting power to the element. Also - and this gets a bit more complex - check the individual element wattage for the voltage you are running to them (may be 110/120 or 220/240 depending on make/model land also sometimes 220/240V elements are run at half voltage to minimize peak pricing electric rates - takes longer to heat but roughly same power overall. TO make it more complex - some heaters run both thermostats for recovery and then only one for maintenance heating, so may be the thermostat only powers the lower one when the tank thermostat is below a certain temp (during recharge, as cold water comes in). Some tanks are also set up for "thermal stacking" - different thermostat setting for upper and lower thermostats.

Backyard puddle - only water source from an A/C is usually the condensate running off the evaporator coil int he ducts or air handler, which might drain out there. Rarely if a unit freezes up you will get ice on the condenser or lineset which can melt and forma pool whereever under those.

If you are sure cutting power and water to the water heater (you don't say what happens if you cut only one - probably only the water shutoff is affecting this) - look for water coming from the water heater. Leak either at pipe fittings maybe running down the outside or inside of the casing, leaking/discharging overtemp/overpressure valve (the one near the top that comes off the side and has a discharge pipe near the floor) - could be one of those or a tank leak draining through a drain pipe in the floor that comes out by the A/C.

If above does not help you figure it out (along with help from owner's manual on the 1/2 element heating and thermostat issues), sounds like you need a Plumber (your Angies List Search the List category) or HEating and A/C contractor.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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