30 Mar. 19

How to change your water heater element


The water heater element, like other components of most household appliances, has a life expectancy. In general, the water heater element is designed to last for about 6 to 10 years. Sometimes your heating element may not have exceeded its useful life,  in other cases, it may be that the water heater element got damaged. When that happens, it affects the water heater and causes it to function incorrectly. All in all, the customary thing to do in the event of any fault is to replace the water heater element.

Bills are going to keep piling in, but you can help yourself by learning some DIYs (Do It Yourself). Although plumbing is not an easy task, however, there are some recommendable DIY techniques you can use to handle small faults. Here, you will learn how to change a damaged water heater element. Instead of calling an HVAC contractor, you can fix it yourself! The procedures are not complicated to comprehend when you pay attention to the details.

Functional methods of repair will be revealed in this article. These plans have worked for many homeowners just like yourself, and they are reliable. They can be applied when you notice any of the following as a result of a broken water heater:

  • Your storage water heater quickly exhausts the hot water
  • A delayed heating period from the water heater
  • A stoppage in the flow of hot water.

The basics of heating elements

Before starting the process, you must know the necessary information about heating elements. The essential thing to remember before committing to the repair is that heating elements solely function in electric water heaters. Water and electricity are not a safe mix because of the impurities (minerals and dust) in the water. Notwithstanding, there are safety precautions that you can apply when attempting to replace a damaged water heater.

Furthermore, another essential information is that there are two heating element styles. Both approaches are used in the workings of a storage water heater. The most favourable style of the water heater element is Screw-in, and the other is Bolt-in.

  • Screw-in: This style is mostly used by most modern water heaters. From its name, the water heater element is implemented by screwing it in.
  • Bolt-in: The bolt-in element comes in different styles, and is mainly designed for earlier versions of water heaters. The water heater element is firmly adjusted with four bolts. It is possible to change the screw-in element into a bolt-in element by using a Universal kit.

Electric water heaters can only be associated with two heating elements. These are the upper and lower heating elements which are located in the access panel. The deposit that settles in the storage water heater usually results in malfunctions of the lower heating element.

As the deposits gradually crowd the lower element, it begins to lose its quality. Due to this effect, it naturally fails to function well like before.

Essential factors to consider when buying tools

It would be a waste of resources if you went ahead to buy HVAC tools without any prior knowledge. Each of the water heater tools come in a variety of options, so you have to be sure beforehand. Furthermore, you have to consider the different types of water heater elements, their affordability, and their uses. Types of water heater elements include:

High Watt Density Element

It is the most affordable and common type of water heater element. It is the type that initially comes with the manufactured water heater.

Low Watt Density Element

They are the optimum water heater element for places with hard water.

Limelife Element

This type of water heater element prevents the increase of limescale.

While choosing a new water heater element, it is recommended that you get ones with identical voltage, wattage, and magnificence (screw-in or bolt-in). The energy of the new component must always match the original element. However, you may use lower electric power to increase its lifetime; note that this means that the part will generate less heat. Whatever you do regarding the water heater element, do not buy a higher wattage than the previous one.

You can locate the information about the voltage and power on the water heater’s plate or around it. Also, you can search online about the water heater model range. The last option is to take the removed water heater element to your local hardware store for accurate comparisons.

Required tools for the job

Since you will not be repairing your heater yourself, you will need some HVAC tools to finish the job. For the successful completion of a water heater element replacement, you need the following:

  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Voltage tester
  • Garden hose
  • Water heater element wrench
  • New heating element with “O” ring

Steps to changing your water heater element

Step 1: Shutdown the power

  • Turn the electrical fuse OFF at the electrical panel.
  • Use a non-contact voltage check to test for electrical connections in the storage water heater.
  • You’ll be operating with electricity and water. Thus it’s critically necessary that the storage water heater is turned off.

Step 2: Link a hose to the drain valve

  • Link a tube to the drain valve and open the lid.
  • There is no need to empty the tank, but you have to be sure that the drain is not clogged
  • A clogged tank should be fixed before further action is taken

Step 3: Shutdown the water outlet

  • Shutdown the installation to the storage water heater by closing the cold water recess valve.
  • This valve is located on top of the water heater.
  • Release the new water pressure by permitting air into the tank. To do this, open a close-by regulator.
  • Solely open the hot faucet, not the cold.
  • Make sure to leave the drain open.

Step 4: Detach the access panel cover

  • Use a screwdriver to get rid of the duvet of the access panel.
  • The higher panel usually contains the upper hot-water tank component while the lower panel includes the lower component.
  • Sometimes, there may be insulation between the panel door and also the thermostat.
  • Set the padding aside in a very dry place.
  • The thermostat ought to have a plastic cowl. Gently take away the duvet.
  • Check the wires with a potential unit meter to confirm that there’s no power.
  • Examine the wiring for problems such as broken wires, fusible parts, damaged wires, burnouts, etc. Wiring can be damaged if deposits have caused a part to overheat. Broken wires are to be urgently fixed.
  • Loosen the screws and disconnect the two element wires from the constituent.

Step 5: Offload the previous element

With the aid of the element wrench, remove the damaged water heater element. It’s explicitly designed to get rid of electrical warmer components and features a full mouth that matches over the exposed part of the heating element.

While the tank continues to be filled with water, slightly loosen the part in an exceedingly counter-clockwise motion. The water’s weight can facilitate the tank in situ.

Once you’re assured that you have loosened the element screws, then you can drain the tank by gaping the drain valve. Depending on the size of your tank, this might take an hour or more.

Remove the part. There’ll be a rubber seal or “O” ring that seals the tank. Take care that you take away the “O” ring with the part.

Step 6: Insert the newly purchased elements

  • Wipe down the threads and seal space of the new part to confirm that they are freed from dirt and rubble.
  • Link the new “O” ring with the new part by placing it over the top. Be careful not to use the previous “O” ring.
  • Gently push the part into the tank and tighten it with the element wrench.
  • Attach the two wires to the part and secure them in situ by modifying the screws. Ascertain that the wires are secure and can not slip.

Step 7: Add water to the storage water heater

  • Close the water heater drain valve.
  • Switch on the water for continuous flow of water.
  • The tank should be filled with water before turning on the power; otherwise, you may damage the heating components.
  • Check the new water heater element properly for an escape of water. If any, close up the cold installation and tighten the part. It’s going to be necessary to get rid of the piece and refix the “O” ring.
  • As the tank fills, the water can begin to sputter from the open regulator faucet (left open in Step 3). This water will push the air out of the way. Once there’s a gradual flow of water, the tap is often turned off.
  • Compensate the plastic thermostat cowl, insulation and access panel cowl.
  • Assuming that the tank is filled with water, flip the power button on the water heater so that it can begin to function. Remember to put on the circuit breaker too.

There might be air within the hot water lines. If this happens, it is natural for new water taps to splutter. This may result in leakage for a short amount of time. Nevertheless, you can also apply the method of switching both taps on to achieve a gradual flow of water.

Remember that if you do not feel confident that you can do this, call an HVAC contractor. HVAC contractors are also knowledgeable about the replacement of water heater elements. Nevertheless, it is not always the job of an HVAC contractor. In other cases, a plumber can be the right man for the job. We have both HVAC and plumbing experts that can help you with rooting out any water heater problems and replacing its element if need be. Get in touch with us today.

Related article: Does my water heater need to be replaced?