ater heater reset button tripping, water heater problems, water heater repair, causes of water heater problem

4 Reasons Why Your Water Heater Reset Button Keeps Tripping

Is your water heater reset button tripping frequently? Here is what it means and what you can do about it.  But first, let’s look at how your water heater works.

Let’s Start With The Basics – How Your Water Heater Works


To understand your water heater reset button, we need to look at the way your water heater works, which is quite simple.  Water in the pressurized tank fills and heats from the bottom up.  Fresh water supply flows at the bottom and the lower heating element heats that water.  

The upper heating elements control the temperature of water as it fills to the top of your tank.  Every section has its own heating elements and thermostat. The water heater’s heating elements is controlled by the thermostat.

Whenever the water stays a long time in the tank, it will start cooling off.  Then, the thermostat starts kicking in so it can reheat the water. Once the water heats up to the established temperature on the high-limit switch, the thermostat will shut off.

Hot water is necessary for everyone’s daily routine, from taking a shower, washing dirty dishes, or doing the laundry. Your water heater makes it possible to provide you with that right amount of hot water for use every single day.

It can be very inconvenient if, suddenly, your water heater keeps shutting itself off.  Eventually, you’ll need to press the water heater reset button if you notice a significant increase in water temperature when it comes out of the taps.

water heater reset button tripping big-button

More On The Basics – What Is The Reset Button

Also known as the ECO (Emergency Cut Off) switch or High-Limit safety thermostat switch, the water heater reset button is one of the most important parts of your water heater.   It serves as the safety device that seals off power to your heater when the temperature of the water inside reaches or exceeds 180° Fahrenheit.

So, if the water reaches that temperature, the reset button trips.  The tripping safeguards you from getting burned or blistered when using hot water.  

Nevertheless, most water heater manufacturers recommend homeowners set the temperature of their heater down to 120° Fahrenheit which is just hot enough to avoid growth of bacteria but not excessively hot enough to cause a scalding accident.

However, if the reset button on your water heater keeps tripping and is always needing to be reset, then there could be a problem and it’s best to call a plumber.  It could be alarming to think that the water in your heater is dangerously hot!

Since the problem is mostly caused by a component break down, it won’t get better unless the malfunction is identified and immediately replaced.

What Is Causing Your Water Heater Reset Button To Trip

Here’s a list of bad components (that you should consider) that will cause your water heater to trip its reset button:

water heater reset button tripping thermostat

1. Defective Thermostat

A water heater has one or two thermostats, determined by the gallon size or capacity of the tank.

The most typical problem causing the water in your tank to get too hot is that there is a problem with your water heater’s thermostat. The thermostat is in charge of handling the heating elements.  Once the water in your tank cools down, the thermostat kicks in the heating elements to reheat the water.

When the water temperature reaches the desired temperature, the thermostat seals off the heating elements.  This process is somewhat similar to how your heating and air conditioning thermostats work in controlling your home’s HVAC system.

However, there are times your thermostat malfunctions.  At times, the switch gets stuck to the ‘on’ position, continually heating the water, eventually causing your water heater to trip its reset button.

2. Burned Out Heating Element

The heating elements in your water heater tank work around the clock to maintain just the right level of water temperature coming out of the taps of your home.  When your water heater trips the reset button more often than normal, it could be that the problem is a burned-out heating element.

Through time, your heater’s heating elements can also go feeble. In most cases, they’ll just stop heating completely.

There are times when an electrical shortage starts to develop within the heating elements.  In effect, it receives power even after the thermostat is shut down delivering the same results: overheating water and water heater tripping its ECO.

If the thermostat is shutting off the heating element and working just fine then the issue could be a shortage of heating elements. Shortage in heating elements causes a continuous heating of water.

3. Fried ECO (Emergency Cut Off)

Once you set the thermostat to the recommended water temperature, it should never heat above that standard.  But if it happens, no worries. There is that part of the thermostat that will trip to shut down the heating elements known as the ECO.

Yet another part of your water heater that is prone to breakdown is the ECO itself.  A fried Emergency Cut Off switch could be a result of wear and tear from the frequent occurrence of overheating, or it might just be a spontaneous failure.

Actually, the Emergency Cut Off switch is a component of your upper thermostat. So, if it’s malfunctioning, you will need to replace the thermostat completely.  Although you will need a replacement for a fried ECO switch, the good news is this issue alone cannot overheat your water.

4. Loose or Bad Wiring Connections

If, after checking and testing, your thermostats, heating elements and ECO are all functioning perfectly, there’s a possibility that a loose wire connection could be the one generating heat inside your water heater which causes the High-Limit safety thermostat switch to trip.  

The safety switch will trip, regardless of the water’s temperature level, if it picks up the heat coming from the loose electrical connection.

Bad wiring is always a hazard no matter where it occurs.  Aside from causing the switch to trip over and over again, this complication can also pose a serious risk of electrocution or fire!  Loose wiring connections cause high resistance producing a considerable amount of heat that is prone to causing accidents.

Beware of this condition as it poses risks!  Leave it to a trained professional to check if your water heater is suffering from wiring connection issues.

Water Heater Reset Button Tripping – Get Help Diagnosing The Problem


None of these problems are DIY fixes. Diagnosing any of these problems on your own (without assistance from professionals) can be tricky and dangerous.  Keep in mind, you are dealing with 240 volts of electricity! 

Unless you’re qualified to work with wiring and electrical components, better leave it to the professionals to pinpoint the exact problem. Contact any of our professional plumbers if you find yourself frequently pressing that red reset button after an emergency shutdown.

Professional plumbers here at So Cal Services can help you identify the problem, do all the necessary testing, and repair any issues causing your water heater to trip its safety emergency switch.

We’re only one call away!  Every time you call, we understand how the issue is potentially urgent. Contact our friendly professional plumbers at 951-926-1978 (24/7 Emergency Service) or send us an email at

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