What is a Water heater Element?
A water heater element is only installed on electric water heaters as they depend on upper and lower metal elements to heat the water. Electric water heater element are made of metal and increase in heat from electrical resistance. Each have different voltages . If you are planning on replacing them your self-before you purchase take a look at the watts and volts printed on the end of each element. Match volts on the elements and look at the label on the side of the water tank for the volts and watts and purchase the same. Some water heaters have different voltage and watts for upper and low so double-check all is correct the low or high density has no factor only that low density last longer.
Dry fire is quite normal for upper elements and never happens on lower elements. Dry fire happens when your tank is empty with no water warranties do not cover this issue. For detailed reviews on elements to purchase .
Water Heater Element Replacement
Replacing the hot water heater element is easy and fast when you know how and can be quite cheap all you need is a special water heater element wrench. Below we will cover the basic steps any questions feel free to comment below.
TIP! If you’re replacing your water heater elements I would also advise to replace your thermostat at the same time
Turn Off Power
Find your mains and turn the power off and also at the water heater if you have a power switch on the tank mainly on electric water heaters if you have a gas you will need to turn the dial to off position. If you have a multimeter test and see if you have turned all-electric off you can follow the steps below on testing your water heater element. Safety first!
Wait for water too cool
It’s best practice to wait for the water to cool in the tank this is important as elements operate off your thermostat and the hot water within the tank will affect the electrical flow of the heating elements. Run your tap and test to see if you have cool water running if so you are ready for the next step.
Shut your cold water supply from your mains, connect a hose to the drain vale at the base of the tank and open your valve at this point you can also open your hot water tap to help speed the process. If you are only replacing the top element then you do not need to drain the whole tank if you intent to replace both then empty the whole tank.
Remove access cover panel
Including the insulation and fold over too one side away from your way of working to gain access to the water heater element. If you have a thermostat cover then remove also.
How To Test Water Heater Element
You should always turn off the power when working on a water heater. Electric units can be shut off at the circuit breaker, while gas models will have a knob or dial. If you are not sure your electric water heater is off, use a multimeter to test the wiring before you begin. You will need access to the cables and anode see image below.
To check that your element is working correctly, open the closed circuit set your multi-tester to “Ohms” and connects the red to terminal and black lead to the other terminal. if ohm is reading 0 or if the needle points infinity or does not move, there is no electricity with your element and needs to be replaced.
Unscrew the wires on each of the terminals and remove the wires (remember their locations). Refer to the option below depending on the type of element you have.
Screw-in type heating element
Remove by turning counterclockwise with a 1-1/2 inch water heater element wrench.
Flange type heating element
Remove the four screws holding the element. Remove the existing gasket.
How to Replace Water Heater Element
Insure element is the correct voltage and wattage rating as motioned above. When replacing the heating element clean the area and gasket fastens on the tank and replace the gasket if possible as this will prevent any leaks. Install the new element hand tight then use your water heater element wrench to turn another ½ turns. If you have a flange element replace the screws.
Close drain valve on the water heater tank. Open the hot water faucet for 3 minutes and let the tank to fill completely with water you will need to let the excess air and sediment out of the system until you have a consistent flow of water. Then perform routine leak around the element.
Once all the above is done you can connect your power wires as they where before to avoid shorting of electric. Return the thermostat cover and access cover panel. Then let the tank fully fill this is very important as if the tank is not fully full of water you will dry-fire the new element. Turn your power to the water heater back and check all is working correctly.
The video below explains how to replace water heater element process.
Thanks to Claar tube for the great video.