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A Dishwasher is an essential kitchen appliance. It saves a lot of our precious time by cleaning and dry-heating our dishware, glasses, and other utensils. The heating element is an essential part of most of the old American dishwashers.
A heating element brings the water or air in a dishwasher to an optimal temperature. If a dishwasher is only cleaning your dishes and not drying them, it is serving only half of its purpose and the heating element may be malfunctioning. If there is any such problem with your dishwasher, read this article to the end for a permanent solution.
In this article I will discuss in detail about:
- How heating element works
- How to check the working of a heating element
- Causes of its malfunctioning and how to avoid them
- Other causes of dishwasher malfunctioning
- Replacing the heating element or Buying a new dishwasher: Which one is the best for you
- How to install a new heating element
How Heating Element Works
It Increases the temperature of the air or water present in the dishwasher. The air evaporates the water droplets directly whereas water heats the utensils and evaporates the tiny water droplets present on them indirectly.
Most of the older American models use heating element technology. It has a U-shaped heating element installed at the bottom of the tub. At the end of a wash cycle, the heating elementis turned on automatically and a fan blows the hot air upward and around the interior of the dishwasher. This system is very effective but requires a lot of energy.
Many European and modern American dishwasher models use the Principle of Condensation. In these models, hot water is used at the end of the rinse cycle to increase the temperature of the utensils. This method is very energy-efficient but still has its flaws.
The condensation method effectively dries glass and ceramic wares but is ineffective against plastic. Plastic does not absorb heat readily and so plastic wares remain wet in these models.
In my opinion, the older model is better as it can dry both glass and plastic wares. It consumes a little more energy but the results are satisfactory.
Now that you are aware of the working principle of both the older and the newer dishwasher models, let’s move to the major signs and causes of heating element failure.
Signs that Heating Element is not working properly
Wet dishes after a complete cycle and water flowing out from your dishwasher are convincing signs that your dishwasher heating element is in bad shape. Hot dishes and high core temperature of the dishwasher indicate that the heating element is working properly.
How to verify the Malfunctioning of dishwasher heating element?
There is a simple method to verify the malfunctioning of the dishwasher. This technique is based on its functioning. You need to follow these simple instructions:
- Set heating element temperature on 45 degrees
- Start a wash cycle and carefully observe your dishwasher
- Stop the cycle at the middle of the drying process and check the temperature of the plates
- Temperature above 40 degrees indicates good heating element function
It is an easy but reliable method to check the effectiveness of the heating element. More accurate methods are discussed later in this article.
Causes of Dishwasher Heating Element not Working Properly
The major causes are as follows:
- Using hard water
- Short circuit
Now I will explain how these factors damage your heating element and how you can easily avoid them.
Hard water hastens up lime formation on the heating element and thus makes it nonfunctional.
When impurities like salts of Calcium and Magnesium are mixed in the water in great quantities, the water is called hard water. It does not react with the soap effectively.
As mentioned previously, it increases the speed of rusting and lime formation on the surface of the heating element. Heating the hard water breaks down the salts. Calcium starts accumulating on the heating element.
Over time, it absorbs sodium and starts turning into solid lime. The temperature of the air or water is not enough to evaporate the water droplets and plates remain wet after each cycle.
Accidental energy surge or continuous high voltage causes overflow of current and results in short-circuiting your heating element. Energy surges are common in some areas. They are usually seen during storms, heavy rain, etc.
All these cause a high voltage to pass through every plugged-in electrical appliance and short circuit them.
Most of the electrical appliances including dishwashers come with a safety fuse that protects these appliances against sudden power surges. Sometimes, the overflow is so strong that before the fuse could break the circuit; the current damages the internal wiring of the appliances and causes a short circuit.
In the case of the dishwasher, not only the heating element, but whole of the dishwasher can stop working due to a short circuit. It depends upon the model and the amount of electrical overflow.
Any damage to the heating element can stop its working immediately. It could be due to direct force to the bottom of the dishwasher, any energy surge, or rusting, etc.
It becomes a safety hazard afterwards. This problem is mostly seen in families with small children and pets. If you found your child near your dishwasher and it stops working afterwards, you know the little angel behind this malfunctioning. It is better to stop using the dishwasher and seek professional help.
Steps to protect the Heating element
Following steps can be taken to protect your heating element:
- Changing your water source to soft water
- Unplugging your dishwasher when not in use
- Connecting circuit breaker to your main electrical supply
- Regular cleaning of the dishwasher
- Placing dishwasher and other electrical supplies away from the reach of children and pets
The heating element is a very reliable part of the dishwasher. It works perfectly for ages with very little maintenance. Some careless moments result in the malfunctioning of the heating element. However, they can be easily avoided by following the above instructions.
Change your water source to soft water
It may sound weird but facts have shown that replacing hard water with soft water is the single most effective factor in maintaining the optimal performance of the heating element. Soft water does not contain any of the harmful salts and it does not form lime at the end of the heating cycle.
It is difficult for some people to replace their water source. A simple solution is to treat it with a chemical called sodium zeolite. It acts as a filter and can be placed between the water source and the dishwasher.
Unplug your dishwasher when not in use
It protects your dishwasher and other appliances from electrical overflow. It is also helpful in reducing your electricity bills. Most of the electrical appliances including dishwashers consume a small amount of energy even when they are on standby. This is called Phantom Electricity and it accounts for 5% of your total electricity bills.
By unplugging your devices, you can save money on bills as well as maintenance fees on your dishwasher. You can use an extension wire which has multiple sockets for all of your appliances. So by unplugging that single extension wire, you can unplug all of your electrical appliances.
Connect circuit breaker to your main electrical supply
These switches detect any high power surge in the main electrical supply and turn off the electrical current. It is a small investment with huge benefits that can save your electrical appliances and your entire house.
Power surges can short circuit your electrical appliances. It creates a spark that can result in fire. It can cause great financial losses or even death. The circuit breaker can save you from such harmful events.
Circuit breakers are attached to your main supply. It comes in different Watt capacities like 1800 Watts and 2400 Watts that indicates its current detecting capacity. When the current exceeds the maximum capacity, the circuit breaker switch trips down and breaks the current inflow to the house.
Regular cleaning of the dishwasher
Regular cleaning of different parts and scraping the heating of the element will maximize its performance and protects it from bad odor and lime. Food particles left in the dishwasher can cause a bad odor. It also allows bacteria and molds to grow which is both harmful for your dishwasher and your health.
A Weekly scrub is recommended to prevent these unwanted situations. Cleaning the drain, spray arm, and heating element protects these parts and optimizes their performance.
Other Dishwasher Parts to Lookout For
High limit thermostat and Rinse aid dispenser are two parts that can mimic the heating element malfunctioning. Make sure that these two parts are working properly while checking for the heating element.
The function of the high limit thermostat is to keep the temperature of the heating element in check. It acts as a safety device and limits the inner temperature of the dishwasher.
It also short-circuits very easily in which case it can shut down the heat before the adequate temperature is achieved. And thus, dishes remain wet.
Rinse Aid dispenser helps shedding down the extra water from your dishes. If there is any malfunctioning in the rinse aid dispensing cap, then extra water will not be shed off and your dishes will remain moist.
Now we know the main parts which can cause your dishes to remain wet. In the next part, I will tell you how you can test all three of them separately and find out the main culprit.
How to Test the Dishwasher Heating Element
It sounds like a tedious job but you can do it by yourself by following the below-mentioned guidelines:
The first step is to look for any visible damage.
- Look for corrosion or lime
- Look for visible cracks and blistering
- Look for any dark and burned out parts
The second step is to use a multimeter.
It is a device used to measure the continuity of a circuit by measuring current, voltage, or resistance. It can give you a clue of failure through short-circuiting or micro-cracks in the circuit. For using a multimeter;
- First step is to isolate the heating element from the dishwasher
- Set your multimeter to the lowest resistance limit
- Connect the red probe to one terminal and black probe to the opposite terminal of the dishwasher
- A reading between 15-20 Ohms shows that the heating element is in working capacity
- If the meter reading does not change or the change is less than 10 Ohms, then it means that your heating element is broken in its circuit and it is non-functional.
How to test the high Limit thermostat
Multimeter can also be used to test the thermostat
- Make sure that the dishwasher is unplugged
- Locate the thermostat and remove it. It is mostly located at the bottom of the dishwasher
- Set the thermostat to Rx1 setting and touch the two terminals of the thermostat with probes. It should give an infinite reading
- If your multimeter shows any other reading, your thermostat needs a replacement
How to check the rinse aid dispenser
- The inspection is very easy and you do not need any specific tools for it
- Locate the rinse aid dispenser. It is usually found inside the door
- Remove the cap and look for any discoloration, warping, or any other damage to the cap or rinse aid
- If you find any of these conditions during the inspection, you need to replace your rinse aid dispenser set.
How to Replace your Dishwasher Heating element
It is best to leave this task for professionals. But if you are really adamant to replace it by yourself, It only requires one hour or less time to do so. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to replace your dishwasher heating element on your own.
- Make sure that both electrical and water supply is turned off
- Remove the front access panel and toe panel by unscrewing them
- Pull out the dishwasher. Be gentle towards power supply cords
- Remove the heating element by unmounting it from its electrical wiring and fixing hardware
- Install the new heating element. Make sure to lubricate the seals on the leads with rinse aid.
- Pour water into the dishwasher and look for any cracks and leakage
- Reinstall the dishwasher
- Restore the electrical power and the water supply
These steps sound very simple, but there is a bit of technicality involved. Read the instruction manual if you have one and use proper tools like a wrench and screwdriver. Also, wear safety gloves and a safety mask to avoid any damage.
Make sure to consult a professional if you find any difficulty or complexity during any step.
A dishwasher is one of the most time-saving and efficient kitchen appliances. Drying the dishes is one of the core functions of the dishwasher and it is achieved by the heating element.
The heating element heats the air or liquid depending upon the model and helps to evaporate the water droplets on the dishes. The heating element is a very sustainable part and only requires regular scraping for maintenance.
Using hard water and short circuit is one of the few causes of heating element failure. It can be easily prevented by changing your water source, cleaning the dishwasher, and unplugging your dishwasher after usage.
The thermostat and rinse aid dispenser are two parts whose malfunctioning can mimic the dishwasher heating element. The rinse aid dispenser only requires a thorough inspection to rule out any malfunctioning. A multimeter can be used to check the rest of the parts.
Heating element replacement is tricky work and should be left to the professionals. But you can do it yourself as well if you are up to the task. Make sure to wear a safety mask and rubber gloves beforehand.
I hope I was able to answer all of your queries regarding the dishwasher heating element not working properly. I collected this information from different authentic sources on the internet as well as some personal experience. If you still have any questions to ask, feel free to comment down below.