Do washing machines heat water?

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One of the biggest advantage of a washing machine to manual wash, is its use of hot water. But how does it get hot water? Do washing machines heat water?

Newer washing machines and many older ones come with a heating element, located at the base of the washing machine. This helps to heat some of the water supplied to the washer.

The heater is a standard heating element with a thermostat that regulates how hot the water should be.

This helps the washing machine to be more self-reliant. So it doesn’t rely on external sources completely for its operation.

Not all machines heat water

Older washing machines do not have a water heater attached. They are fed hot water from an external water heater. This water heater supplies hot water to all hot water point in the house, for example, kitchen faucet, bathroom showers, and of course, the washing machine.

This heater is a cylindrical drum that heats water to about 150 degrees fahreinheit (The highest setting in most water heaters). Many manufacturers, though, encourage not going beyond the 120 degrees fahreinheit limit. 

As washing machine technology improves, however, manufacturers determined that washing machines will operate more efficiently if it heats its own water, hence the addition of the heating element to the washing machine.

How does a washing machine heat water?

Located at the rear bottom of the washing machine is a water heater.

The heater is a spiral cylindrical ring, that acts as a thermostat.

When water enters the washer through a drain pipe, a part of it enters compartment that acts as a water heater tube.

  • If hot wash is turned on, the NTC sensor detects cold temperature around the heater and causes the heater to power on.
  • The heater powers on. The heat from the heater spreads to its immediate surrounding, through the process of diffusion, causing the water around the element to heat up.
  • The spiral shape of element causes water to flow around it. This process disperses hot water closer to the heat farther away from it, and brings cold water farther from the element closer to it.
  • The result is an evenly heated water in the hot water compartment.

The hot water in the hot water compartment stays in reserve and mixes with the cold water in varying ratio to determine the washing water heat temperature.

How to check if washing machine is heating water

  • Use an ammeter
  • Use a thermometer
  • Open the detergent container (for front loaders)
  • Test the water temperature with your hands (for top loaders)
  • Watch for fog on the washer door.
  • Feel the temperature of drain hose

Use an ammeter

  • Never try this if you’re not a technician or not familiar with the technicalities of electricity.
  • Using an ammeter, connect the positive pin to the live and neutral connection at the rear of the washing machine.
  • Turn on the washer machine, allow it to run for some seconds. When the drum spin turns on, you should see the amp reading increase slightly to about 0.7a

Use a thermometer

  • Turn on the washing machine and select water temperature.
  • Allow water to flow for a few seconds.
  • Pause the wash and check it’s temperature.
  • For top loaders, open the drum’s door.
  • For front loaders, check temperature from the detergent drawer.
  • Check for fog on the drum’s door.

Open the detergent container (for front loaders)

We only need to apply a little common sense. One frequently asked question about washing machine usage is, ‘why steam come out the detergent drawer.’

Well, the answer is: it’s from the hot water in your drum.

So, to determine whether your washing machine is heating water, simply open the drawer and check for heat or steam.

Test the water temperature with your hands (for top loaders)

At the start of your washing, you can change the different water temperature setting.

Place your hands on the running water to feel the temperature.

OK. A caveat here: this is not as risky as it seem. But it does have its risk. The water gets hotter with time. So avoid placing your hands after it’s run for some time. Else there is risk of burn.

Open the drum’s door (For top loaders)

This is applicable to top loaders only. You can open the door while it’s spinning.

If the water is hot, there’ll be steam coming out the spinning drum. You should feel the heat even before the door is fully open. 

Exercise some caution when doing this. Though not common, watch out for spills from the spinning drum.

Watch for fog on washer door

Hot water creates fog on glass or plastic. Check for fog on the drum’s door.

If the water is hot you should see fog buildup on the drums transparent glass.

Feel the temperature of drain hose

Allow the water to drain and check for temperature on the drain hose.

When hot water passes through a hose, it transfer some heat to the hose’s wall. Holding the hose for one or two seconds will tell if the water passing through it is hot, or cold.

How can I tell if the heating element in my washing machine is working?

It is easy to determine if the heating element is working. 

A working element should heat up your water. If you don’t get hot water when you turn your hot water setting, then either:

  • The heating element
  • The NTC sensor, or
  • One of the heater’s wires and connectors

are faulty

Disadvantage of a self-heating washing machine

From all point of view, the washing with an attached heating element is a major upgrade to the older variations without a heater.

However, it has a minor disadvantages:

An increase in washing machine cost.

Well, I was tempted not to mention this, because even the external water heater, equally consumes electric power and add to the cost. 

However the water provided by these heaters are used for multiple purposes. Whereas the hot water from washing machines is only used for washing.

Aside from this, any other disadvantages that can be mentioned is equally applicable to the external water heater.

How to troubleshoot “no hot water” issue

Do washing machines heat water

First, determine how your washing machine gets water.

If it gets hot water from an external source, do the following.

  1. Ensure that the external heater is working fine.
  1. Check other areas where hot water is used, for example, kitchen and bathroom.
  1. If there is no hot water in these locations, your external water heater is the fault. Call a technician to troubleshoot and fix the issue
  1. If there is hot water in these locations, your external heater is fine.
  1. Verify that water from the heater is entering your washing machine. To do this, use the above suggested techniques to determine whether hot water is entering your washing machine.
  1. If hot water is not entering your washing machine, move to the next step.

Water heater is fine, but no water in the washer

If you’ve determine that your external water heater is functioning, the next point of failure is water supply hose or hose connector.

  1. Check for leakages along the hot water hose.
  1. This is pretty easy, if the hose is broken, there will be high water spillage.
  1. If there is no spillage, check the hose connector. Usually it is an issue of clogged hose connectors.

Troubleshooting clogged hose connector

Every connector has a filter to prevent dirts from entering the drum. This filter gets clogged from time to time, creating a blockage.

A blocked connector prevents water (hot water in this case) from entering your washer.

  1. Use a wrench or spanner to disconnect the connector.
  1. Clean any debris (minerals, coagulated oil and grease, and other dirt) from the connector’s filter.
  1. Use a flat screw driver or any similar object to scrape off the debris. A hand brush can still be employed. Finish the process with a small pressure water spray to clean dirt remnants.
  1. Reconnect the hose. And you should be fine. That is the solution to your no hot water issue.

But if your washing machine have an internal heater, (most machine does) then troubleshoot to determine what part of the water heater is at fault.

If the heating element is faulty

A faulty heating element might be the result of:

  • A degraded element
  • A faulty thermostat or NTC sensor
  • Burnt or disconnected heater wiring or connector.

To determine which is to blame, you must troubleshoot the issue.

26 steps to troubleshooting a faulty washing machine water heater

Do washing machines heat water

First you should be able to access the drain section located at the back of your washing machine.

To do this,

  1. Drain the washing machine. You can also manually drain it to ensure all water remnant are removed.
  1. Switch off the washing machine from the wall socket and unplug it. (Always unplug washing machines before working on them to avoid electrocution).
  1. Pull the washing machine from  the wall to get enough space to work. All work henceforth, is done at the back of the washing machine.
  1. Locate the compartment door.
  1. Unscrew all screws holding it (It usually has 5 – 6 screws holding it.
  1. Locate the element at the bottom of the panel area.
  1. Unplug the two cables connecting the heater.
  1. Connect your multimeter. Set it to continuity.
  1. Connect the meter probes to the heater connector points.
  1. Check for continuity across the points.
  1. If there is resistance measured on your multimeter, the heating element is good.
  1. Next check your NTC sensor (thermostat).
  1. Determine sensors normal reading, this can be done by contacting the washing machine manufacturers helpdesk. Some google search can come hand. With this information, move to the next step.
  1. Unplug the cable connecting the sensor.
  1. Set your meter to resistance. It should read ohms while testing.
  1. Connect your meter probes to the sensors terminals. (because of a lack of space around the terminals, you can create a workaround connection to this terminals using longer wires and test the connections instead).
  1. Check your multimeter screen for the sensor’s reading. If there is no reading at all, or it’s resistance is drastically less than the sensor’s specification, then you’ve found the problem, its  faulty sensor. (a few difference with manufacturers reading is normal. Several factors can interfer with the reading, givning you a slightly higher or lower reading, this is normal).
  1. If the NTC sensor is fine, then do a physical check of all the individual cables connecting the heater and sensor for burns.
  1. If there is no physical damage to the cables, next check for continuity across live and neutral wires. 
  1. Set your meter to continuity and connect the probes to each Live and Neutral wires, if there is a reading or beeping sound, you’re dealing with a short circuit. A technician will be better equiped to trace the and replace the wiring. 
  1. If there is not reading across the live and neutral wires, check for continuity across each wire.
  1. This is trickery, and might not be practical on most washer models. But if you can locate the end and start of each connecting wire, check for continuity across each wire.
  1. Connect your probes to the start and end point of the wire. This time, you’re looking for continuity. You should hear a beep or there should be a reading on the multimeter. If there is no reading across the wire, you’re dealing with broken circuit. The wire without a reading or beep is the faulty wire.
  1. Do this across all wires connecting the element and sensors until you find the faulty wire. There is no shortcut for this process. You’ll have to measure each wire, and mark each wire tested, until you’re done testing all wires or until you locate the faulty one.
  1. If you find the faulty wire, call a technician to do the replacement. 
  1. If you still can not locate the fault, then it’s due time to hand over to a technician. Thanks for your effort, your DIY project is over.

If the heating element is bad

Truth is the biggest work is to troubleshoot and figure out the fault.

A faulty element can be seen by physical exermination.

  • Check for corroded heater rod.
  • Look for broken sections of the rod.  The base or where the rod joins the handle, sensor and other wiring are likely failure points.

If the rod is faulty, buy a replacement rod. Assuming you’re yet to open the compartment, we’re repeating steps 1 – 5 mentioned earlier.

  1. Drain the washing machine. You can also manually drain it to ensure all water remnant are removed.
  1. Switch off the washing machine from the wall socket and unplug it. (Always unplug washing machines before working on them to avoid electrocution).
  1. Pull the washing machine from  the wall to get enough space to work. All work henceforth, is done at the back of the washing machine.
  1. Locate the compartment door.
  1. Unscrew all screws holding it (It usually have about screws holding it.
  1. Before replacing the rod, take a picture of the rod, the thermostat and their connections.
  1. Unplug all connections.
  1. Unscrew the nut in the middle of the heater half way through. Ensure it does not come off completely. Now with a screwdrive notch it back it (hit it back in with an hammer). You only need to apply a little force to do this. This will help remove the pressure on the rubber seal and make removal of the heater easy.
  1. With the rubber seal pressure released, pull out the heating element. You might a flat screwdriver to assist in pulling it out.
  1. Remove the thermostat or NTC sensor and fix it in the new replacement element.
  1. Test the new thermostat connection points with a multimeter set to ohms, to ensure you have a reading.
  1. Slot the replacement back into the heater compartment. You might need to clean the compartment of dirt before slotting in the new heater.
  1. Using the picture taken at the outset, re-fix all the connected wires.
  1. Cover your compartment door.
  1. Power up the washing machine and check for hot water, using the steps mentioned earlier.

Conclusion

Hot water in washing machines is one of their biggest selling points.

For the record, most modern washing machines produce their own hot water. The era of an external hot water supply is almost gone.

If your washing machine does not have hot water, it can be a painfu to deal with.

Of course, I am an advocate of cold wash, but even hot wash has its place in modern laundry.

Does your washing machine not produce hot water? Kindly follow the step by step guides mentioned in this article. 

The embedded videos will also be super helpful.

A third option is to contact me for further assistance. Of course, I’m not a certified washing machine technician, but I can be of help when it comes to the technicalities of a washing machine.

I hope you enjoy the read.

Cheers!

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