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Wiring connection a water heater is warm


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  • Wiring connection a water heater is warm

    GE waterr heater 40M06AAG - (40 gal)
    upper 4500w@240v 3380w@208v
    lower 4500w@240v 3380w@208v
    The wiring looks like #10, bigger than #12 for sure, goes to a dual 20 amp breaker.

    In the summers i live in a small house in Montana and replaced the water heater last summer. This summer the installation wiring & caps got hot enough to melt plastic so i know i did something wrong. The wiring is only 3 conductor, 2 black and one white (no ground). Apparently when installing, i duplicated the original wiring by connecting the black wires to the water heater's red and black with caps, which seems reasonable. But the white was grounded on water heater housing which seems weird, as does not having a ground wire. The new WH User's manual was no help at all.

    My best guess is that the connector caps were not large enough and the wire wrap they covered was not clean enough, and aging over the fall, winter, spring caused corrosion, which led to enough resistance to generate heat under the caps. So i cleaned the wire with emory cloth and steel wool, wrapped the wires again and capped them with larger caps. But one cap & wire connection is getting quite warm. Not too hot to touch, and not melting plastic but 120-130 degrees warm. Is this OK?

    The person who did the original wiring was probably as much an amateur as me. It was his hunting cabin that he improved to get his wife to live here. i am guessing it was wired in the 1970's, maybe earlier. It surprised me there was no ground wire.


    0. Should water heater wiring ever get warm to the touch?

    1. Should this wiring strategy be OK?
    If yes, how do improve the connections so they do not heat?
    It would seem strange to use solder on house wiring.

    2. Should i open the circuit breaker panel to see if the white is running to ground or neutral?
    (i cannot imagine how to tell with a VOM. The biggest problem here is that i have never really understood the difference between neutral and ground.)
    Which should it be and should i correct it?
    Does it really make sense to reconnect the white wire to the WH body?

    3. I worry about the water heater not having a proper ground. Should i pound a grounding rod into the dirt directly below the floor and ground it that way?
    Or fish a new ground wire thru the walls to the circuit box?

    4. Should i hire a professional electrician or buy fire insurance?

    Rimini, MT

  • #2
    water heater

    what kind of wire is annotated 2 black and a white? certainly not regular romex! or armored cable for that matter!
    a 4500 watt element draws 18.75 amp so a #12 wire is sufficient. #10 is just overkill.
    the black and red is the input to the heater. it is a dual element sequential type of wiring.
    when the first thermostat is satisfied, it switches over to the other element and back again as water is used.
    look into illustrations for a water heater wiring diagram.
    merely placing wire nuts over two wires and twisting is enough to satisfy a splice, it is better to twist the wires together in a clockwise rotation, then screwing on the wire nut.