Why My Rheem Water Heater Tripping Breaker [Solved] 

Mostly, your Rheem water heater breaker is tripping for one of the two following reasons: 

  • A bad heating element 
  • Or, loose wiring 

In most cases, you can simply fix the issue by replacing elements and tightening wire connections properly. 

If the problem isn’t solved still, surely there are problems either with the breaker, power surges, or damaged thermostats in your heater. 

rheem water heater

Whatever the issue, we have figured out all the main culprits behind the breaker’s troubles and explained their quick solutions. So, let’s start…

Why Rheem Water Heater Tripping Breaker [Reasons + Solutions]

In this part, we will explore the reasons why your Rheem water heater stumbling breaker and guide how you can fix them easily. So, read between the lines.

rheem water heater tripping breaker

Note: You can also read how to fix the Rheem water heater keeps turning off.

1. Faulty Heating Elements

A faulty heating element is one of the major villains for tripping the breaker with your Rheem water heater. Most electric water heaters have two – the upper and the lower heating elements.

rheem water heater faulty heating llements

Typically, every element is associated with the thermostat. The element starts malfunctioning because of a bad thermostat. So, when the thermostat goes bad, the heating elements produce high heat continuously which causes the breaker to trip.

Plus, if the heating element starts to split, the electric area of the heater is exposed and comes into contact with water. And then, the elements occur in a short circuit that also causes the limit switch to trip. 

Finally, it results in tripping the circuit breaker and shutting down the water heater automatically. Whatever, you need to have a test on each of the elements to resolve the problem.


When your breaker is tripping frequently, directly go to check the heating elements if it is good or bad.

Flip your circuit breaker back to the On position and turn on the power to the unit. After setting the switch to the On position, place your multimeter there. If you find the resistance is infinitive, then it signs that the switch isn’t close to the circuit that causes the breaker to trip. 

Whatever the reason, follow the below steps to check out the heating elements’ functionality. 

How To Determine If the Heating Element Is Good/Faulty?

Here, we will show you 2 methods to test whether the element is good or bad. To test it, you will need:

  • 2 Phillips screwdriver
  • 1-2” Elements for screw-in heating elements
  • 3-8” socket wrench for flange heating elements
  • Flat blade screwdriver and a voltmeter
  • Make sure the electric supply and the circuit breaker power are in the off position.
  • Remove the upper and lower access panel and remove all the wires from the thermostat and elements of the unit.


Let’s start by testing the heating element issue with a multimeter. Set the multimeter to its Ohm setting. 

check the rheem water heater heating elements

Now, you will see there are two separate heating elements; one is in the upper and the other is in the lower part of the heater. Place one multimeter probe to the left and another probe to the right of the element.

As feedback, you will hear an audible sound like a ‘Beep’ if the heating element is faultless. Otherwise, be sure that the elements are defective and need to be replaced.

Additionally, to ensure audible sound, place one probe at the end terminal and keep the other on a metal tank. In this case, you won’t hear any sound. Repeat the same process to test the other screw’s terminal and the lower element. While you’ll find no continuity, surely, your element has gone defective.

So, we recommend you change the heating elements ASAP. Before changing the elements, apply the second method to test your elements.


Like the first method, shut off the electric supply to the heater and circuit panel. (Ensure zero Ohms as Turned Off Electricity.)

ensure the rheem water heater zero Ohms

Keep the multimeter and test across the point where the wires are connected/ attached to the elements. If it shows the reading as the same as the calculated value as mentioned in the table below, be sure the element is fine.

Resistance OhmsWatt Per Element
About 10-12 Ohms5500-watt element
12-13 ohms4500-watt element
Only 16 ohmsFor 3500 watt element
checking out the rheem water heater resistance

Remember, you will get the accuracy of resistance to the individual heating element during testing with a multimeter to ensure the elements are healthy. But if the reading is higher or lower than the calculated value, it hints that the element is faulty. Then, it won’t be heating fully or will be heating too high.

This may occur when the element has shorted or exploded. So, replace the elements to avoid further problems. 

After changing a new one, tighten the both upper and lower part of the unit. Place the insulation and attach the cover panel to the point.

2. Loose Wiring/Connections

Loose wiring or connection is the next reason to keep tripping the breaker immediately with your water heater. Typically, a breaker might trip if:

  • The electrical lines are shorted because of the surge of electricity. 
  • Animals like mice can chew the wiring that leads to the water heater.
  • Generated heat from a loose connection for a long time.
  • Or, Old wiring
rheem water heater loose wiring connections

Plus, we have ultimately identified that the terminal on the dryer had loosened and needed some tightening so that it could protect the heat through the resistance otherwise, it might cause the breaker to trip.


First, disconnect the power and shut off the circuit breaker. Look into the internal wiring for loose or broken components. If the wiring seems loose, tighten it up.

But, if there is any significant wrong with the internal components of the heater, you will notice the symptoms of bad wiring. Here, you will smell a slight smoke coming out of the wires. So, you’ll need to change the wiring.

Note that if you don’t get any visual damage/fault to the wiring but the breaker trips continuously. We would highly suggest you inspect whether a problem lies with your thermostat.

3. A Malfunctioning Thermostat

When there is no problem with the wiring, a malfunctioning thermostat might be another cause for tripping the breaker of your Rheem water heater.

Functionally, an electric water heater has a limit switch. When the water reaches 180 degrees, the limit switches trips to prevent something from getting burned by excessively hot water.

rheem water heater malfunctioning thermostat

In most cases, they switch trips due to a bad thermostat. Plus, your heater’s thermal switch may trip if the water heater doesn’t get sufficient air. If it flips, you will hear an audible sound, like ‘click’.

In fact, the thermostat allows for heating up all the heating elements at once. Normally, heating elements are controlled by their individual thermostats.

But when the thermostats can’t communicate with the heating elements, then they go bad and sometimes get stuck in the ON position. Therefore, it can’t regulate the heat accurately, as the heating elements create excessive heat, and this high heat causes the circuit breaker to trip.


First, find the thermostat next to the pilot light. Verify whether it has been defective. Touch the multimeter two leads altogether. You’ll hear a ‘beep or ringing’ sound. If you can’t hear the sound from the thermocouple, then try to light the pilot according to the instructions in the user’s manual for the heater.

Next, make sure the power to the water heater is OFF. Disconnect the wires from the thermostat and test the thermostat resistance with a multimeter. Here you’ll get 00  to 0.5 Ohms which indicates your thermostat has no continuity in measuring the temp of the heater.

If you don’t get the desired resistance, restart your water heater to fix the thermocouple troubles. But when the issue isn’t fixed yet, it is needed to replace the thermostat. You might check out the breaker box before replacing the thermostat.

4. Main Breaker Issues

When your breaker is kicking off even after replacing the thermostat, we bet that there is an issue with your electric heater breaker. Because you may have lost power in any part or throughout the entire heater because of a defective breaker.

main breaker issues

Functionally, the main breaker controls the power supply to all areas of your heater. But, if there is damage/ faulty wiring, it may shut down electricity to all the electrical parts, including the sub-breaker in your heater.

When the power of any section or a single part of the heater goes out, it signals that you have a problem with the sub-breaker. Similarly, if the power goes out entirely, it hints that the main breaker has tripped.

Besides, an abrupt surge from the power grid company is also responsible for the main breaker tripping. 

Next, when a circuit breaker is falling down, the sub breaker gets overloaded. Then, the main breaker serves as an alternative backup safety, and it may trip to compensate for an overloaded circuit.

In fact, the system means that outrage is crossing through your electric panel. Finally, your main breaker may have shut off due to providing backup for the heater, preventing a significant loss.


First, shut down the power of your heater. Make sure all the connections are good to the breaker. If you find any loose connections, tighten them fully. But after finding any damage due to the surge of electricity, replace the damaged wiring.

Second, when there is a problem with the sub breaker, you can simply turn it ON as usual. But if the main circuit breaker goes out, then you need to restore power to your heater by the following effective process.

Now locate the circuit panel for a breaker. Turn all the main breaker switches to the OFF position. Because if a breaker trips, it will remain in a neutral position. So, test the voltage of the tripped circuit by using a multimeter. Here, you will get a sound as it makes an audible sound ‘Click’

Now, switch the main and sub breakers to the “On” position and wait for 5 seconds to ensure the gradual restoration of the power to the water heater. It may take additional time. But this process will restore power to the breaker. Next, test the availability of power by plugging the lines into different circuits. 

Even if you can’t restore the power, your circuit breakers may have worn out. Whenever this happens, change your circuit panel with the same rating; otherwise, more current flow will go through the circuit. As a result, the flow may cause overheating and start tripping the breaker repeatedly. Plus, it also may cause electrocution at any time. 

So, ensure the right size and same-quality breakers to draw the right amount of electricity for your heater. If you aren’t good at replacing circuit breakers properly, don’t hesitate to call a certified electrician to find out the inner faults, and if it’s needed, replace the circuit breaker.

5. Overloaded/Crossed Limitation

When your heating elements, the main breaker, and the thermocouple are faultless, then probably causes your breaker to trip frequently due to overload. Plus, this may occur if the heater has a huge electric demand beyond the capacity of the breaker’s limit.

As you know, a water heater circuit breaker is designed to take a certain loading capacity. Again, your circuit breaker may trip when too many fixtures are in use simultaneously. 

For example, when you run a bath and a dishwashing tap, other domestic tasks are going on all at once, and the system has to supply more electricity. Then the breaker becomes overheated. Therefore, it leaves putting all the electric system panels connected to that circuit are at risk and causes them to trip.

Again, if the circuit is capable of taking 15 amps load but you are using 20 amps, this is not the fault of your water heater. Rather, there is an issue with the system you are using. And then, your circuit breakers fail to prevent themselves from receiving any additional flow of electricity. Finally, the breaker will get overloaded which may cause electrocution or remain shut off automatically.


Now, it’s clear that your heater’s circuit breaker is tripping out repeatedly because of demanding too much power from the circuit.

First, check how many people are using the water fixtures. Try using fewer appliances at once to keep your heater’s circuit safe. Because this unit is designed to run simultaneously with a circulation process.

Then, to fix overloading troubles, simply you need to reset your heater. Keep in mind, it doesn’t mean that anything has broken. If the problem is not solved yet, it will reset itself. Otherwise, you need to restart the system manually. 

Second, if it is needed, redistribute your device’s load onto different circuits. Plus, you can upgrade your circuit system to fulfill your expectations. You should have a periodic audit to avoid the overloaded issue. Hopefully, your breaker issue will be solved.

6. Problems With Leakage

Last but not least, a leak may be an issue behind the breaker flipping if it allows water to come into contact with the electronic parts. Basically, a failing gasket for the heating elements may cause dipping water in the electric lines. Even this could cause an electric shock.

rheem water heater leakage problem

Over time, this serious problem may happen if the temp, pressure release valves, and pumping connections become leaky. However, this is not too tough to fix. 


Make sure there is no water contact with the heating elements and check for leakage. If the breaker has already tripped, don’t forget to turn off the circuit breaker to repair the leaks.

Then, check to see if the pressure release valves have any leakage. If it is leaked, install a water expansion to reduce the pressure of the flowing water. Always verify the units so that electricity can pass through them easily. It will protect your devices from hazardous explosions. 

If the tip doesn’t work well, change or replace the faulty pipeline or connection with a new one.

How To Reset Rheem Water Heater

Though there are common reasons for tripping the breaker of your Rheem water heater, you can simply fix your breaker troubles just by resetting your heater before replacing any parts. Because, in most cases, reset processing will save you money and time.

rheem water heater reset button

Let’s know how to reset the heater:

  • To reset, keep all power switches in the OFF position.
  • When you turn the switches back on, you will hear a beep or a similar sound.
  • Just locate the Red Reset Button near the thermostat (It may be hidden behind the metal panel or some insolation). 
  • After finding it out, just press on it and hold the reset button for 3-5 seconds, then release it. Finally, your Rheem water heater will be ready to start again. 


How do my Rheem water heater circuit breakers work?

The circuit breakers are the resettable fuses that automatically operate the electrical switches and cut off the circuit when the power crosses the safety limit. In fact, the breakers also help to prevent electrocutions.

What is the ideal size breaker needed for a Rheem tankless water heater?

Your Rheem tankless water heater requires a 40 AMP breaker, including the dimensions of 10″ x 7″ (high & wide). It should be 3–4″ deep. It also requires 120 AMPs to run on average.

What happens if I ignore or go unnoticed when my breakers trip?

A tripping breaker means a lot of power passes through the circuit at once. This can overheat the electric wiring and damage the entire electric system of the heater. Finally, a sudden electrocution may occur.


Already, we have identified all the reasons behind your Rheem water heater breaker tripping and guided you on how to resolve them easily.

So, follow our troubleshooting guide to fix your water heater’s breaker troubles.

Remember to stay safe unless you are experienced enough with electrical issues. So, call a licensed electrician to inspect your Rheem water heater’s circuit breaker.

Yet, if you have any queries about your water heater breaker problems, don’t be late to reach out to us with your comments. We’ll reach out to you ASAP with a simple solution. 

About William

William is the founder of Fireplacehubs.com. He has real life practical skills in fixing smoker & heating appliance issues. He loves to share his knowledge & helps others in fixing their appliances & saving their money. William firmly believes that anyone can repair his or her unit with the correct guidance & knowledge. See more at about us.

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