If your electric water heater takes too long to heat or runs out of hot water quickly, it may be time to replace the heating elements. A faulty element is commonly caused by sediment buildup or normal wear and tear. This is especially true for lower heating elements.
You should be able to replace the heating element yourself without a professional. Here are tips to replace a hot-water heater element.
Prepare to Work
For this project, you will need:
- work gloves
- volt meter
- Phillips screw
- wire strippers
- heating-element wrench (optional)
- driver-hose replacement element
Disconnect the power cord to the water heater and turn off power to the room from the breaker. Run a volt meter over the breaker box to ensure no current exists.
Look for the cold-water valve on the supply line near the heater. The waterlines should be marked "hot" or "cold", or else you should be able to tell which is which by feeling the line. Rotate the valve to the left to close it and open tap on the closest faucet to release air in the system for better drainage.
Attach a hose long enough to reach outside to the spigot on the tank bottom. Turn the spigot on and let the water drain outside.
Remove the Old Elements
It is ideal to replace both elements. Find the access panel on top of the water heater and detach the screws with the screwdriver. Remove the insulation and set it aside.
Test the wiring for voltage with the volt meter. Slightly loosen the wire screws and bend the wires to get them out of the way. If there is light corrosion on the wiring, cut half an inch of the wire off with the wire strippers.
Remove the element using a heating-element wrench. A heating-element wrench, which is sold at hardware stores, is commonly used to remove screw-in elements. Use a screwdriver to remove flange-style elements with screws.
Disconnect the wiring and remove the elements. Wiggle the elements to free them, if needed. Buy elements that have the same voltage as the old ones.
Install the New Elements
Wipe the threads of the new elements. Insert the new gasket on the threaded end. Don't use the old gasket.
Set the elements in place and tighten them with the wrench. Reattach the wires and reinsert the insulation. Restore the water.
Refill the tank, but keep the power off. The sink close by should pop. Close the tap once cold water flows. Turn off the spigot and disconnect the hose.
Reattach the panel and restore power. The hot-water taps may pop after the repair, but it will stop once the air pressure has escaped. If you don't trust your skill, or if the repair fails, contact a plumber such as ANDERSEN PLUMBING.