One of the common calls that our plumbers get is an electric water heater that has turned off due to a circuit breaker tripping. There can be several reasons that water heaters will cause a breaker to trip. The most common is due to an electrical short either inside the water heater core wiring or inside one of the heating elements. If you have an old tank that is showing corrosion or lime near the top it probably makes more sense to just replace the entire unit.
Most of the time that an electric water heater stops working it can be repaired by replacing one or more of the heating elements. This is something that can be dangerous if you don’t know what your are doing so it’s best to call a plumber or electrician to assist with your problem. 9 out of 10 times when a heating element goes bad it does not cause a short that trips the breaker.
When you have a water heater that keeps tripping the circuit breaker the only to tell weither your entire water heater needs to be replaced is to pull out the old heating elements and check to see if there is a short. This can be done by draining the water heater down and pulling out the old heating elements. You can usually tell by looking at the heating element and be able to tell if it is still good.