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A couple months ago, I replaced my water heater. For the sake of full discolsure, I replaced an AO Smith 40 gal lowboy with a Bradford-White 50 gal lowboy, but the electrical requirements were still completely the same: 240v, 25A, two non-simultaneous 4500w elements.

Since the installation almost three months ago, I have had two instances where I experienced a loss of hot water. Both instances were several weeks apart, and well over a month after the install, the second instance happening just a bit ago. Diagnosing the issue both times, there was low voltage at the wire nuts between the heater and the line coming in from the breaker box: around 92v. Simply flipping the breaker to OFF then back to ON corrected the issue. The breaker did not APPEAR (or feel) tripped, but looks can be decieving. FWIW, the breaker box is a GE.

Since I'm experencing an occasional low voltage issue, I am leaning towards an issue with the breaker itself, for which simply replacing the 25A double pole breaker would be my remedy. But could there be a different issue I should look into before replacing the breaker?

Thanks in advance.

EDIT: As per request, I took off the breaker panel cover, only to find a new monkey wrench to throw into our conversation. Here is the breaker, which the more and more looking into this, and as cheap as breakers are, I might a step ahead and (at worst) out less than $10 if I replace the breaker. The arrows indicate the one in question: 25Amp 2 pole circuit breaker, wires spliced

I am sure you quickly noticed the spliced wiring that is present which some genius wrapped up with electrical tape. Turns out these spliced wires lead to an older style load control bypass:

Load Control Bypass Only

Red wire #1, which is spliced in with the black line in the box does tie in with the black wire with the LCB box. The black line in image 1 goes out to the water heater. The other red line stays red until it gets to the LCB and then you can see it goes across the jumper bar to the white which then proceeds out to the water heater.

This may be an opportunity to clean up a pretty ugly mess, but now I am wondering if my issue is Duke Energy playing around with me by shutting down my water heater and not turning it back on.

FINAL UPDATE: I replaced the breaker, and took the opportunity to remove the wires going to the Load Control box, which from all apearances is no longer being used. I was relieved to find that the splices underneath were done with crimped splice caps, and then covered with the electrical tape.

Everything checks out good with votage at the heater and back in the panel box now.

I appreciate everyone who commented and served as a sounding board so I could confirm what I was orginally suspecting!

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    Check the breaker itself, check all the connections to the breaker, any junctions between the breaker and the WH, and the WH connections themselves. – jwh20 Jul 27 '20 at 14:59
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    Measuring off de-nutted wires is legit if you're careful. However I would be keen to see the voltage across the 2 screws on the double pole breaker. If that is good, then it must be in the wiring. Otherwise I still doubt it's the breaker, and suspect something much more serious, the next place I'd check is the main lugs or any other 2-pole breaker. If you shut off all your 2-pole or tied breakers, does half the house lose power? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 27 '20 at 21:26
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    Yikes! I sure hope the electric company didn't make that splice in your box! – FreeMan Jul 28 '20 at 12:18
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    Also are you using the correct type of breaker for this panel? I don't like precautionary "why not?" breaker replacement because that's a risk area for fitting the wrong make of breaker in the panel, which can create its own problems down the road. – Harper - Reinstate Monica Jul 28 '20 at 18:08
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    @Harper-ReinstateMonica Most definitely. Its a GE split-bus box (makes sense as the house is vintage 1974), so the dual THQL1125 (old) is going to be replaced with a THQL2125. That could certainly be an easy mistake to make if one were to go down to that big blue (or orange) store and just buy a circuit breaker, so thank you for checking on that! – Eric Shock Jul 28 '20 at 22:47
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FINAL UPDATE: I replaced the breaker, and took the opportunity to remove the wires going to the Load Control box, which from all apearances is no longer being used. I was relieved to find that the splices underneath were done with crimped splice caps, and then covered with the electrical tape.

Everything checks out good with votage at the heater and back in the panel box now.

I appreciate everyone who commented and served as a sounding board so I could confirm what I was orginally suspecting!

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