There is an energy saving box on an old whirlpool hot water heater in an old house we purchased. I changed both elements out yesterday and it worked fine. Had hot water in about 2 hours. Now tonight the water is freezing cold and the box is blinking telling me the e!ements are bad. I think it's the box. Can it be removed and the hot water heater work fine?

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    Pictures might help. The usual "old water heater purported saving box" is simply a timer - not sure what you have here. Those went out of fashion when they started insulating water heaters better and the purported savings of "not heating water when you were not going to use it" became vanishingly small. If the heater is old enough to have such a thing, it might want more insulation - or perhaps you have some odd box I'm not familiar with.
    – Ecnerwal
    Sep 24 '20 at 1:44
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    Yes, can you post photos of this wacky box? Sep 24 '20 at 1:48

You need to have a conversation with your power company

Those "energy saving boxes" come in two kinds: one that turns off the water heater at certain times... and the other that qualifies you for a lower electricity tariff if the power company can interrupt your water heater at peak times.

The first type of box should simply go away. That's because of scientific discoveries that if tanked water heaters store water too cool, they breed bacteria including legionella. Heaters need to be at around 60C to avoid this -- interrupting power and letting it fall to 50C or 35C can breed that bacteria bigtime.

For the second type, you need to have a tariff/rate conversation with the power company. If they are willing to put you on the favorable tariff (or if they already have), they should help you maintain that controller.

What the power company needs it for is moments when power demand is nearly exceeding available generating capacity. They have two choices:

  • Spin up standby generators called "Peakers" -- which are only used a few hundred hours a year, even though the mortgage runs 24x7x365. As such, these power plants are murderously expensive. Or...
  • Shed some load - this is most infamous in "rolling blackouts". Being able to command 10,000 customers' water heaters to take a 15-minute siesta will work just as well, and is much more civilized.

Naturally the power company gives you some financial incentive to do this. Though it's also being a good civic citizen.

  • I don't think this is the kind of box he's talking about. I'm familiar with power utility load-shedding boxes and they are simple remote controlled ON/OFF switcher. They don't have any capability to detect element faults as the OP is indicating.
    – jwh20
    Sep 24 '20 at 10:53
  • @jwh20 I'm wild-guessing that the utility box has a security feature intended to prevent you from tacking additional loads onto it (to get the favorable electric rate). E.G. a microcontroller monitoring the current draws, learns a normal baseline and flags on abnormal... OP may have changed to different rate heating elements. Sep 24 '20 at 17:02
  • I believe this is what he's got: lh3.googleusercontent.com/proxy/…
    – jwh20
    Sep 24 '20 at 17:26
  • @jwh20 Yeah given the brand, good chance you're right. Hopefully OP can clarify. That type of device is useless, its so-called "smart mode" is what water heaters do anyway, and its "energy smart" mode is a breeding ground for bacteria (though this is a recent discovery). UL should have revoked its listing on that alone, but these days we no longer follow science SMH... Sep 24 '20 at 17:42
  • I happen to have one of these myself and indeed it does flash codes when there is an element fault. I've also had the control box go bad and literally burned up. These have a lifetime warranty and Whirlpool sent me a new box. It's been stable now for a couple of years.
    – jwh20
    Sep 24 '20 at 18:22

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