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How to maintain electric water heater

sediment in water heater Signs of sediment trouble: 1. Tank not drained regularly
2. Gradually less hot water <> this page shows how to fix problem
3. Suddenly less hot water because bottom element burned out <> this page shows how to replace

4. Suddenly no hot water? Top element burned out, or circuit breaker shorted, or top thermostat has loose wire, or reset button tripped, then water heater will not deliver any hot water. 
How to troubleshoot electric water heater.

5. Water around bottom of tank requires immediate attention.

Sediment comes from hard water and reduces tank efficiency up to 40%
Hard water has high mineral content.
Minerals include calcium carbonate (CaCO3 ) and dolmite (CaSO4)
Hard water generally not harmful.
burned out element
Damaged element is easily replaced.
You can do it.
Step by step Do-it-yourself starts here
 information+caution sign used when step is emphasized

220 Volt circuit breaker test water heater
Step 1:  Turn off 30 Amp circuit breaker Look ahead <>: Step 8 uses tester to check if electricity is off

clean out water heater tank clogged water heater drain water heater
Step 2:     Test if water can drain from heater
Don't turn off water to tank at this point <> full pressure is needed

Connect garden hose to water heater.
Rotate tank drain counter-clockwise to open.
See if water comes out end of hose.
Step 3: Clogged? What to do if water heater will not drain

Buy washing machine hose and connect to water heater drain-valve <> Connect garden hose to outdoor spigot and other end to washing machine hose <> turn on outdoor spigot for a few seconds so water pressure flushes tank open
Water is draining
bathtub faucet water heater shut off valve Gene Haynes
Step 4:

To drain tank completely ... Open hot water side of bathtub faucet so air can enter pipe.
Leave tub valve open so at end of job you know when tank is full of water before electricity is turned back on.
Step 5:

Turn off water going into water heater. Do this by shutting off water valve just above water heater -or- close main shut-off valve to house

My head
bottom element
See larger

Step 6:

While tank is draining <> Remove bottom cover on water heater

Step 7:

Locate element <> it sits below thermostat  <> has 2 screws with 2 different colored wires <> and is 1-1/2" diameter
If you are uncomfortable putting hands close to electricity when using tester, tape tester prong to wooden tongue depressor or chopstick
Step 8: Test if 120V or 240V electricity is off. 
Use ordinary tester
1. Test black wire to ground screw
2. Test black wire to white wire
3. Test white wire to ground screw
>> if no light shows with these 3 tests, then electricity is off
damaged bottom element
See larger

Cut back damaged wire and strip insulation with knife or strip tool

water heater element
Step 9: 
This water heater has damaged wire due to sediment fill and overheated element.
Step 10:

Take wires off element
Move wires out of way
Close-up of element
water heater element wrench remove water heater element remove old element
Necessary tool

Lightweight 1-1/2" element wrench available hardware store, home center, plumbing supply
Step 11:
Turn element wrench counter-clockwise
Here's the trick <> loosen element before tank is empty of water <> WHY? <> because weight of water will hold tank while you push on and twist wrench <> be careful: don't remove element until tank is empty or water will flood out hole
Step 12: Take out old element
Here's what to do if element won't come loose:

Before going further, check inside tank for loose pipe coming from top <> broken dip tube causes reduced hot water and wasted electricity > also good time to check anode rod
wet-dry vacuum clean out water heater tank
Step 13: Rent a shop-vac <> and buy pipe

     Garden hose bends into tank
     3/4" PVC is nice fit with garden hose
     1" clear tube fits 3/4" PVC
     30" piece of 1/2" CPVC reaches back of tank

Step 14:
Tape pipe to shop-vac hose. Clear package tape works. Duct tape is best.

The clear tube is handy. Sediment is slurry of water and chunks of calcium carbonate <> pipe clogs easily <> clear pipe lets you see when sediment is flowing past.
Step 15:  vacuum out tank

Short piece of garden hose bends into tank.

Use 1/2" cpvc to break up debris

Protect carpet from rusty water
o ring on water heater element new water heater element
Step 16: Buy a new element

Check Watt rating printed on side of tank.
Tank wattage is element wattage.
Watts also printed on element.

Old element can be tested for continuity to see if still good. But new one is more efficient.
Step 17: O-ring

O-ring is heat-resistant seal
Must have O-ring to seal tank from leaking water

Element ready for installation

Also see damaged red wire has been cut back and ready to attach to new element
install water heater element install new element
Step 18: Enlarged wire repair
Damaged wire caused by overheated element <> overheating was caused by sediment built-up that reached element and caused a short
Step 19:
Clean around element opening so O-ring will seal
 Do not use teflon tape or pipe joint compound on element threads 
Step 20:
Tighten new element using element wrench.
Don't overtighten, a firm snug is enough

water heater element Wait to turn on breaker
Wires go on either screw.
Tighten screws very tight against copper wire

DO NOT TURN ON BREAKER or it will burn out element instantly
Step 21:
Close drain <> put cover on <> turn on water
Do not turn on circuit breaker until tank is full of water
The circuit breaker cannot be turned on until the water heater is full of water.

Water heater elements are made specifically to be emersed in water or they will burn out instantly
c Hot water side of bathtub is turned on but no water is coming out

After water heater fills with water, water will start to come out bathtub valve
Bathtub hot water side is running <> time to turn on circuit breaker <> bath faucet can be turned off now Step 22:
Turn on breaker <> put ear against water heater <> bubbly fizzing sound says it's working <> wait 10 minutes to see if water is getting hot <> job is done
Gas and electric water heaters Support the economy:
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