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How to Test Electric Heater Elements

Updated February 21, 2017

The heating element in an electric heater is an integral part of the appliance's operation. When the heater is turned on a controlled current is transmitted to metal wiring, often arranged in coils inside of an outside frame. The element resists the current's flow and heats up quickly, resulting in the warmth projected by the unit. Over time and after extended use, these elements will expire and need replacing. If you are not sure if your element is due for replacement, testing it with a multimeter is quick and easy.

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  1. Switch off the power to the electric heater. Unplug the heater from its power source. Allow the heater to cool for several hours before proceeding.

  2. Remove the screws which secure the front cage guard onto the electric heater using a Phillips screwdriver. Some units may require a flathead screwdriver.

  3. Lift the heating element out of the heater. Place it gently onto your work surface.

  4. Switch the multimeter to the resistance scale option (this is labelled "RX1" on most multimeters). Place the multimeter's probes to each end of the heating element.

  5. Note the reading that the multimeter provides. A reading of kilo-ohms or thousands of ohms indicates high resistance, and that the element is functioning well. A reading of infinite resistance means that the element will need replacement.

  6. Reassemble the unit if the element is functioning. If it needs replacement, purchase an element of the same size, shape and power rating.

  7. Tip

    A multimeter is an inexpensive tool for conducting electrical continuity tests. It can be found at most hardware and home improvement retailers.


    Make sure the heater is not attached to a power source and has cooled completely before attempting to test the heating element.

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Things You'll Need

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Flathead screwdriver (optional)
  • Multimeter

About the Author

Brandon Getty began writing professionally in 2008, with columns appearing in "Thrasher" magazine. He received a Bachelor of Arts in literature from the University of California, Santa Cruz, and lives in Stockton, Calif.

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