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How to Tell If Your Hot Water Heater is On in 5 Easy Steps

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

how to tell if your hot water heater is on

Are you a first-time owner of a water heater and are clueless about how to tell if your hot water heater is on? A working water heater is a must if you want hot showers, efficient dishwashing, and other hot water-related benefits.

Unfortunately, many things can go wrong with a water heater. One of the most straightforward ways of determining a potential problem is if the water heater does not power on. That is why it is essential to learn how to tell if this appliance is working or not.

I will guide you in determining if your water heater is on or not.

Table of Contents

Things You Need for This Guide


Telling if your water heater is on is not a complicated process. However, I do advise you to read the water heater’s user guide if you want to check if water heater is working.

While many contemporary appliances are straightforward to use, water heaters might have a few features some of us are unfamiliar with. For example, knowing the difference between a gas-powered and an electric water heater can help simplify the process of determining whether the unit is on or not.

Gas water heaters have a different mechanism compared to electric versions. Knowing what powers on these appliances will help you in determining the water heater’s operational status.

You can get these pieces of information from the user guide or water heater owner’s manual. That is why I always recommend reading this small documentation before attempting any of the steps I outlined in the next section.

Steps for Telling If Your Water Heater is On


Step 1. Read the user guide.

It would be wise never to underestimate the value of a water heater owner’s manual or user guide. It has everything you need to install, operate, maintain, and troubleshoot your water heating appliance. The user guide also tells you how to check if your hot water heater is working or not.

Hence, I always recommend reading the user guide first before attempting any of the steps I outlined here.

If you no longer have the user guide, you can download a copy from the manufacturer’s website. Other online platforms can also provide the information you seek.

Step 2. Check the water heater’s status indicator, if any.


One of the most straightforward ways to tell if the water heater is working or not is by looking at its status indicator. Most water heaters have an LED light on the control panel, indicating their current working status.

Many water heaters have a lit green LED light to show the appliance is turned on. If the LED light is red, there might be a problem. You can say the water heater is turned off if the LED light is not lit.

Unfortunately, some water heaters do not have a status indicator. That is why I recommend checking the user manual to determine if your water heater has this feature.

Step 3. Check the water heater circuit breaker if you have an electric water heater.


You can also tell if the electric water heater is on by checking the water heater-dedicated circuit breaker. The electric panel will have several circuit breakers serving as a safety measure for the various electrical appliances in the house.

Installing electric water heaters requires hardwiring the unit to the main electric power line. The installer also assigns a dedicated circuit breaker for the appliance and labels it accordingly.

You should see the circuit breaker labeled ‘water heater’ on the panel. Check the breaker to see if it is in the On or Off position. A breaker in the Off position might indicate the circuit tripped, cutting off power to the water heater.

Turn the breaker switch back to the On position and check if it snaps back to the Off position. If it does, you might want to leave it as is and call a professional electrician to address the problem.

Step 4. Check the electric water heater’s power switch.

Another method to know if the water heater is on or not is by checking the power switch or button on the water heater. Read the user guide for the switch’s precise location.

If it is in the On position, I recommend turning it Off and powering it back on. I will also advise you to press the reset button before turning the water heater back on.

You should see a red button labeled ‘reset’ on the water heater’s control panel. Press it for a few seconds until you hear a click. You can then turn on the water heater.

Here is a video by Homeowner Repair on resetting a water heater.

Step 5. Check the water heater’s pilot light if you have a gas-powered unit.

Gas-powered water heaters have different mechanisms for heating the water. These appliances use methane or natural gas to operate a burner that heats the water, similar to a stove heating a water-filled kettle.

Hence, one way to tell if the gas hot water heater is on is by looking at the pilot light. The hot water tank has a small viewing window for checking the pilot light. You can look through the opening to see if the pilot light is on or not.

Some water heaters have an open window, causing gusts of wind to snuff out the pilot light flame. You can check your user’s guide to see how to re-ignite the pilot light.

Other problems can also cause the pilot light to stay off. Assessing for gas leaks should help you decide whether to call a professional or not.


There are different ways on how to tell if your hot water heater is on or not. Reading your user guide can help you learn more about your water heater, including the assessment of its current operation.

I hope this tutorial made you feel more confident about operating your water heater. If you have acquaintances who might have the same concerns, you can share this guide with them. Moreover, I will appreciate any questions or feedback you might have.

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