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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
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    16

    Default Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    Hi there!
    I recently bought a 105 year old Queen Anne with a carriage house that has a mother-in-law suite above it.

    During the home inspection, the inspector flagged the carriage house water heater as unsafe because it was wired with 14-2 wire and a 40 amp breaker. We listed this as an item to be fixed by the sellers, they agreed to fix it, an electrician came out, and we closed on the house.

    We soon found that the water heater wasn't working. I called the home warranty company and they came out to review it. The electrician had simply put conduit over the 14-2 wire and switched out the 40 amp breaker for 15 amp one, which had tripped and would pretty much trip any time within a few hours after being reset.

    I can't really afford to have an electrician come out and rewire the place, the electrician the sellers hired said that that's all he'd been instructed to do ("make it safe") and won't fix it.

    The warranty company's repair guy said it's not covered under the warranty, but he suggested that since very little hot water is actually used, I might be able to switch out the existing elements for lower powered ones that wouldn't draw enough current to trip the breaker.

    Replacing the elements doesn't look terribly difficult, but I can't seem to find an answer on what size element would be appropriate. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Thanks!!!
    Last edited by narual; 01-26-2010 at 04:40 PM. Reason: accidently posted while answering a phone call and forgot to thank & use question mark.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
    Posts
    5,795

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    If it is wired for 120 volts the total wattage should be no more the 1440 watts, if it is wired for 240 volts the total wattage should be no more than 2880 watts.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Shamokin, Pa.
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    645

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    Quote Originally Posted by narual View Post
    Hi there!
    I recently bought a 105 year old Queen Anne with a carriage house that has a mother-in-law suite above it.

    During the home inspection, the inspector flagged the carriage house water heater as unsafe because it was wired with 14-2 wire and a 40 amp breaker. We listed this as an item to be fixed by the sellers, they agreed to fix it, an electrician came out, and we closed on the house.

    We soon found that the water heater wasn't working. I called the home warranty company and they came out to review it. The electrician had simply put conduit over the 14-2 wire and switched out the 40 amp breaker for 15 amp one, which had tripped and would pretty much trip any time within a few hours after being reset.

    I can't really afford to have an electrician come out and rewire the place, the electrician the sellers hired said that that's all he'd been instructed to do ("make it safe") and won't fix it.

    The warranty company's repair guy said it's not covered under the warranty, but he suggested that since very little hot water is actually used, I might be able to switch out the existing elements for lower powered ones that wouldn't draw enough current to trip the breaker.

    Replacing the elements doesn't look terribly difficult, but I can't seem to find an answer on what size element would be appropriate. Does anyone have any suggestions?

    Thanks!!!
    I would never call a person who would wire in that manor an electrician. Sounds like the work of the homeowner or an ill advised handyman.
    I would also wonder if you can actually find elements with wattage that low. And if you did ,chances are you will never have "hot' water, or very much of it.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2010
    Posts
    16

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    I'm sure that the water heater and indeed, much of the wiring in the carriage house, was by a handyman or some other amateur. Even not knowing much about it, the difference between it and the wiring in the house is dramatic. The gentleman who "made it safe" was an electrician, working for a couple who were desperate to do no more than the bare minimum necessary to comply with our requests. It was my mistake in assuming that they'd make it right instead of effectively non-functional while technically safe.

    Googling around, I've found lots of 1500 watt elements and a few 1400 watt elements. The 1400s seem to be intended for RV water heaters. If I'm understanding what I've read ****** correctly, if it has two elements, only one would be active at any given time, so it doesn't need to support both at once.

    I don't understand why you'd think there wouldn't be any hot water, Ernie. Certainly it'd take a long time for the water in the tank to heat up, but as long as the tank is insulated properly (and it is a pretty new tank, so it should be), the water should get just as hot as any other, given time. It services a ~400 square foot suite that a friend is using while he's in grad school at Notre Dame. He's managed even with the current inconvenience of having to flip the breaker occasionally. I think the low-flow showerhead I put in probably makes a big difference.

    Alternatively, is it feasible to try and update the wiring on that circuit myself (or rather, with the assistance of my father, who's fairly handy and wired all the lights and outlets in his basement very neatly a few years ago)? I'd guess you shut off the power, disconnect the 14/2 wire from the breaker, lash the 10/2 wire onto it and feed it down through the wall (the water heater is in the lower level garage, the circuit breaker is on the upper level), then reconnect everything with a 30 amp breaker. Or do you have to be licensed to do that (though, given the state of the existing stuff, I'd guess they weren't...)

    Pareto, I don't have that information at the moment, I'm sorry. I'm at my office. I'll try and get in there with a camera and snap a photo of it to post or transcribe this evening or tomorrow.

    Thanks again!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    62

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    You've pretty much described how you run the new wire. Though, for replacing the breaker, you have to turn off the main box breaker to make it safe to replace an individual breaker within the box (replacing the main box breaker requires having the power shut off at the street).

    Most counties/cities will allow homeowners to do at least basic electrical work without a permit and also on their own. In my county a homeowner can do 'moderate electrical work' including adding circuits, but not "major work' including altering the service to the house. The county doesn't define what major work is, but stops just short of saying you can't wire your entire house yourself (they give an example of wiring a small addition, but say major work has to be done by a licensed electrician). Anything other then minor work requires a permit.

    Same with plumbing, howeowner can do everything, except anything that connects to the street sewer/main hookup, so everything after it enters the house is fair game. Gas, well homeowner is not permited to do ANY work on gas fittings themselves (thank goodness for that).

    In this case you could look up your county/city permiting office rules, but most places I would assume would allow the homeowner to replace the wiring on a single circuit and probably without a permit.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Fayette County, Ohio
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    5,795

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    narual,
    What you have discribed is the proper way rather than downsizing the elements. Be sure to check the label on the panel for the proper breaker model to to use. You might run into problems using the old wiring to pull the new if it was properly stapled.

    I disagree that the electrcian did what he was asked because the load (the water heater) should have been considered as this is a direct wire connection. What he did makes no more sense than if he had disconnected the wires from the breaker to make it "safe". He should have brought the wiring and breaker up to code.
    Jack
    Be sure you live your life, because you are a long time dead.-Scottish Proverb

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Shamokin, Pa.
    Posts
    645

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    Quote Originally Posted by JLMCDANIEL View Post
    narual,
    What you have discribed is the proper way rather than downsizing the elements. Be sure to check the label on the panel for the proper breaker model to to use. You might run into problems using the old wiring to pull the new if it was properly stapled.

    I disagree that the electrcian did what he was asked because the load (the water heater) should have been considered as this is a direct wire connection. What he did makes no more sense than if he had disconnected the wires from the breaker to make it "safe". He should have brought the wiring and breaker up to code.
    Jack
    I think we can agree on all that, great post JLMCDANIAL.
    I am also still wondering, would downsizing the elements provide ample hot water at 120 degrees.
    If so, would not all water heaters have elements with those wattages?

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    Alpharetta, Ga
    Posts
    55

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    I am not a lawyer, but I am pretty sure make safe does not mean disable. Obviously, the unit needs to function in addition to being safe. Go after them and get it fixed. Make the seller produce a invoice from the electrician with a license number.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Aug 2009
    Posts
    62

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    Sure a 1440w water element will provide 120F hot water, but your 20 gallon recover time might also be an hour instead of maybe 20 minutes.

    Something like a 2kw or lower element is better off for something like an RV, boat or cabin with a 12-20 gallon hot water heater where the use and demand is going to be very small so a long recovery time isn't a big issue.
    -Matt

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Shamokin, Pa.
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    645

    Default Re: Electric Water Heater on 14-2 wiring

    Quote Originally Posted by azazel1024@hotmail.com View Post
    Sure a 1440w water element will provide 120F hot water, but your 20 gallon recover time might also be an hour instead of maybe 20 minutes.

    Something like a 2kw or lower element is better off for something like an RV, boat or cabin with a 12-20 gallon hot water heater where the use and demand is going to be very small so a long recovery time isn't a big issue.
    -Matt
    I was thinking along those lines.
    Great minds think alike.
    So we can all agree that downsizing the elements is still possible, but a tad foolish, correct?

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