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Cost to operate water heater Figure Volts Amps Watts for water heater How to wire tankless electric
How to install point of use water heater Point of use water heater
Compare 16 electric and 3 gas water heater timers Troubleshoot Rheem tankless Clean sediment out of water heater
9 ways to save with water heater
How to install recirculation system Point of use water heater
How electric water heater works Troubleshoot electric water heater Troubleshoot-gas-water-heater Troubleshoot Bosch tankless Do-it-yourself
               Emergency steps: how to turn off water heater How to maintain water heater

How to replace water heater element

And clean sediment out of tank

Larger image

1) Identify element location/ Test element/ general troubleshoot

If there is some hot water, then upper element is good. Test lower element.   Action:  How to test water heater element
If both elements are good. Action: Push reset button, reset circuit breaker before replacing both thermostats
Overheating, or very hot water: Action: test both elements before replacing both thermostats. Read more
Reset button keeps tripping: Action: test both elements before replacing thermostats. Read more
NO hot water: Action: Press reset button. Fully reset circuit breaker, test both elements. Read more
New water heater, or repaired water heater not working: Read action
If voltage is reduced, then watt-consumption of element is also reduced. This can cause hot water shortage: Read more
More resources:
How to remove stuck element
How to test water heater element
Reset button

Press reset button and see if heater works

How to replace thermostat
Buy water heater thermostats at Amazon
Water heater element

Element wattage is printed on end of each element

Watt rating of tank appears on label on side of tank
Match same watt rating of new and old elements. Or Smaller wattage is ok.
Product warranty, and electrical safety code, support same-wattage or smaller-wattage element.
Do not use larger wattage element without checking wire size and breaker size.

12 gauge wire and 20 amp breaker, use max 3800 watt element
10 gauge wire and 30 amp breaker, use max 6000 watt element
What size wire do you have? Buy short pieces 10 and 12 gauge wire and compare with your wire
Choose wire and breaker
Figure volts amps watts for water heater

Identify water heater element

Low density screw-in
18" Low density spreads heating over larger surface.
Lasts longer

2) Buy smaller wattage or same wattage element

Larger wattage voids product warranty, plus possible fire hazard.
Smaller wattage will NOT void product warranty.
Smaller is better: will cause electrical breaker to run cooler, and element and breaker last longer.
Smaller wattage will heat water less quickly.

240Volt / 4500 watt element heats 21 gallons per hour; 3500 heats 16 gallons per hour  See chart
Clean old elements using white vinegar
Elements are sold at local hardware or home center, or on-line. Buy extra to keep onhand.
See ways to increase amount of hot water
How to select right water heater element .pdf

Water heater elements at Amazon
Reliance low density element at Amazon/ 'lifetime'
Camco low density element at Amazon/ '5-year'
Low density/ resist scale deposits/ 5-year
Low density element at Amazon
120 Volt elements for small tanks at Amazon
120V element at Amazon
Tubular element at Amazon
Flange kit at Amazon
Bolt on water heater elements at Amazon
Flat flange element at Grainger
Possible source for 3-bolt element flange elements
Universal adapter kit at Amazon

Resistored elements supposedly last longer (Science shows not true)
Resistored elements at Amazon

Rheem/ Marathon elements are larger
Suburban 1440 watt element
Image search google to help locate element
Convert flat flange element to screw-type element
Larger image

Convert Flat Flange to screw-type

Camco adapter kit with thermostat bracket at Amazon

American Water Heater adapter
Comes with gasket and washer
Add automotive thread lock to bolts
Make your own gasket material

Neoprene gasket material at Amazon
Sponge neoprene at Amazon
DIY gasket at Amazon
Add permatex sealant
High density element
Low density element
Screw-in elements

Avoid 'extended warranty' elements
Buy generic elements locally, or inexpensive elements online. Call seller to confirm where warranty coverages comes from.
Water heater elements at Amazon
Camco heavy duty element socket

Elements burn out frequently?  buy low watt density or lower wattage

1) Use smalller watt element.
Change 4500 watt element to 3500 watt.

2) Or buy low density element.
Low density element at Amazon
Low density element at Amazon/ 'lifetime'
See Low density image
3-phase balanced element

3-phase elements

Unbalanced 3-phase: 3-phase non-balanced elements are same as elements shown above
See wiring for 3-phase non-balanced
Balanced 3-phase: Commercial 3-phase balanced elements are not covered here
See wiring for 3-phase balanced
Any 3-phase water heater can be converted to single-phase
See 3-phase to single-phase conversion wiring

What is 3-phase
See 3-phase electric water heater service manual

element thread to pipe thread
Requires regular element gasket, or element washer

Adapt element port to pipe thread

NPT National pipe thread - NPSH National pipe straight hose thread conversion
1x1 at Grainger
1x1 at American firehose
At Amazon
American fire hose

 Installation and tank clean-out / starts here

220 Volt circuit breaker

Step 3: Turn power OFF

Never assume power is OFF

Use non-contact voltage tester on timer, on wire, on outlet to see if power is present.
Press button on tester, if single beep then no power is present. If continuous beep then power is present.
Never stand on bare ground, always stand on dry boards, do not hold or touch anything metal when working on timer or water heater that has power, tape tester leads to wood sticks, never touch wet water heater, or flooded water heater, or timer that had a short or fire without turning power OFF.

Multimeters at Amazon
Simple multimeter/ Test continuity or voltage
Buy non-contact voltage tester at Amazon
Electric testers at Amazon

Shop Amazon - Industrial and scientific
Shop Amazon - Industrial Electric Products

How to test if water heater electricity is off

Test water heater
See larger
clean out water heater tank

Step 4: See if tank will drain

Do NOT turn off water <> 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.

Do Not drain tank yet

Weight of water inside tank will hold tank in place when looseneing element.
clogged water heater

Clogged drain?

Connect washing machine hose to water heater drain-valve <> Connect garden hose between outdoor spigot and washing machine hose <> turn on outdoor spigot for a few seconds so water pressure flushes tank open

What to do if water heater will not drain
How to replace drain valve
water heater shut off valve

Step 6: Turn off cold water

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
bathtub faucet

Step 7: Open tub valve

Leave tub valve open so at end of job you know when tank is full of water before electricity is turned back on.

Step 8: Remove cover and insulation

Cover and insulation must be put back when finished.
Otherwise thermostat will not read correct temperature.

See Larger

Step 9: Check for Burned wire melted parts 

Damaged wire caused sediment fill and overheated element.

How to test water heater wires

Cut back damaged wire

Test wires
How to test water heater wires
water heater element wrench    

Step 10: Choose Element wrench or socket

Lightweight 1-1/2" element wrench available hardware store, home center, plumbing supply
Best is 1-1/2" socket from automovive supply

Water heater element socket 1-1/2" at Amazon
Heating element wrenches at Amazon
Camco heavy duty element socket
Marathon elements are 1-7/8"
remove water heater element

Step 11: Loosen element while tank is full of water

Turn element wrench counter-clockwise
Must push against wrench to keep on element
Loosen element before tank is empty of water so weight of water will hold tank while you push on and twist wrench

Do not remove element until tank is empty or water will flood out hole

Also good time to check anode rod
How to replace anode rod

How to remove stuck element

Remove rusted/stuck element

Step 12: Drain tank

remove old element

Step 14: Remove element

Take out old element

Before going forward,
Check inside tank for loose pipe coming from top <> broken dip tube causes reduced hot water and wasted electricity

Read about dip tubes
Read about anode rods
wet-dry vacuum

Step 15: shop vac and hoses

     Short piece of garden hose bends into tank
     3/4" PVC is nice fit with garden hose
     1" clear tube fits over 3/4" PVC... you can see when stuff is moving by using clear hose
     30" piece of 1/2" CPVC reaches back of tank, and fits into garden hose
Wet dry vacs at Amazon

clean out water heater tank

Step 16: Vacuum out tank

Tape hoses together with duct tape.
Clear package tape also works.

Clear tube is handy
Length of 1" clear tube lets you see if sediment is flowing past. Sediment is a slurry of water and calcium carbonate that clogs the pipe easily <> so it's handy when you can see when the stuff is flowing past.

Short piece of garden hose bends into tank.
Use 1/2" cpvc to break up debris

Protect carpet from rusty water

Duct tape from Amazon
Shop vacs at Amazon
Full efficiency is restored to electric water heater after sediment is cleaned out and new lower element installed

o ring on water heater element

Step 17: Check new element & O ring

Put O ring in place
Use new O ring

Best choice is to install new element
Old element can still be good
Test continuity and ohms
How to test element
Test can be done with empty or full tank
Element must be inserted into hole for full test

Scale on old element can be removed by soaking in white vinegar overnight
Test continuity of element
How to test element for continuity
install water heater element

Step 18: Clean opening and install element

No thread sealant needed on threads.
O ring seals opening
install new element

Step 19: Tighten element

Don't overtighten, a firm snug is enough
water heater element

Step 20: Attach wires to either screw

Tighten screws very tight against copper wire
Only copper wire, No insulation under the screw head

Step 21: Close drain & put covers on

Close drain <> put cover on <> turn on water
Do NOT turn power ON
Insulation must be reinstalled over thermostat
Do not turn on circuit breaker until tank is full of water

Drain valve drips???  Use garden hose cap if drain valve drips
Buy brass garden hose cap at amazon
How to replace drain valve
Water heater drain cap

If drain will not stop dripping: add brass hose cap

Pick up plastic hose cap at local big-box-store, and replace later with brass hose cap
Brass hose cap at Amazon
2-pack brass hose cap Amazon
Water heater element
Wait to turn on breaker

Wait ...

Do NOT turn power On .....  until tank is full:

Wait for tank to fill

Water heater elements must be emersed in water or they will burn out instantly

Step 22: Wait for tank to fill

Open bathtub spout
After water heater fills with water, water will start to come out bathtub valve

Tub is running. Tank is full.

Bathtub hot water side is running with no air gaps <> turn off tub <> momentarily open TP valve on water heater to bleed last of water <> turn on circuit breaker

Step 23: Turn power ON

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.
4500 watt tank heats 21 gallons per hour

Step 24: What if tank is not working?

Read 'repaired water heater is not working'

Flush tool
tank rinser

Buy plastic tank rinser

Works with ball valve/ must replace drain valve
How to replace water heater drain valve

Tank rinser at Amazon
Durable 3/8" x 10-3/4' poly tube with short 45 degree bent end/
Overall length 11-1/2"
Connect to water hose
water heater ball valve
Water heater drain valve

Replace Water heater drain valve with ball valve

Easier flush and clean out
Full open position lets you insert 1/4" copper pipe flushing tool
How to replace drain valve

Buy water heater drain valve and curved dip tube
Buy ball valve and curved dip tube
Also install curved dip tube to help prevent sediment from settling on bottom of tank
How to clean sediment out of water heater

Buy parts:
Di electric nipple at Amazon
Dielectric nipples at Amazon
3/4" ball valve at Amazon
Lead-free 3/4" ball valve at Amazon
3/4" NPT pipe thread ball valve
3/4" pipe to 3/4" garden hose
Use 6 wraps teflon tape on threads
Shop Amazon - Industrial and scientific

Additional links

Flooded water heater

Remove rusted/stuck element

Leaking water heater

How to install gas water heater

240 V Intermatic water heater timer
Trace chemicals
9-ways to save with water heater
Do it yourself
Do it yourself water heater

Troubleshoot gas water heater

Compare all water heater timers

Electricity from pole to breaker box
Cutler Hammer C25BUB230A

Low water pressure

How to wire off-peak water heater
Compare box timers
Compare box timers

See basic water heater circuit

How to Install subpanel


Dayton off-delay timer
Glass lined steel water heater
How to replace anode rod

How to de-lime tankless
How electric water heater works

Troubleshoot electric water heater
Troubleshoot Rheem tankless
Troubleshoot Bosch tankless

How to install tank-type gas water heater

Technical information

Water heater efficiency

Electric water heaters operate at 99% efficiency
Gas water heaters operate at 69% efficiency
Tankless gas heaters operate at 80% efficiency
High-efficiency tank-type gas heaters at 96% efficiency

'Efficiency' is not same as 'energy saving' .
All costs are energy: Consider total cost of water heater: Cost of unit, cost of installation, projected repairs, whether repairs are do-it-yourself, if parts are generic and available locally, true life expectancy of unit,  monthly energy bill over life of unit, and disposal-replacement cost > read more
Other factor will weigh eventually including direct carbon emissions
released at each home from gas appliances.
All costs are energy: If there was a breakthrough water heater that suddenly lowered people's bills, and reduced overall energy consumption, people would be waving their monthly bill in the air and everybody would know.  There is no news. Choose lowest overall cost water heater to save energy.
Research pdf: water-softener/water-heater efficiency comparison
Read do-it-yourself: 9 ways to save with a water heater

Effect of hard-water WITH water-softener

Efficiency of gas and electric water heaters is unchanged over time when hard water is softened, however softened water corrodes anode rod and will reduce life of water heater unless anode rod inspected and replaced every 2 years. Once anode rod is 50-75% corroded, water heater tank begins to rust. This condition leads to leaking water heater which cannot be repaired. Rusted water heaters can rupture and cause massive damage as water runs until problem is discovered.
Read more & See Anode rod options

Effect of hard-water with NO water-softener:

> Efficiency of gas heater drops 6-8% after two years > cleaning tank of sediment build-up will not restore full efficiency > however, regular flushing to prevent sediment maintains efficiency
> Tankless gas heater will fail when pressure sensor clogs with sediment within 2-3 years depending on hardness of water > regular de-liming will not restore efficiency > softener and filter are required
> Efficiency of electric heater stays at 99% until sediment reaches bottom element > cleaning tank and replacing lower element restores full efficiency > regular flushing to prevent sediment build-up also maintains efficiency
Research pdf: water-softener/water-heater efficiency comparison

Water-softener reduces life of anode rod in gas and electric water heaters

Water heater manual says: "Artificially softened water is exceedingly corrosive because the process substitutes sodium ions for magnesium and calcium ions. The use of water softener may decrease life of water heater tank."
Six-year tanks come with 1 anode rod. Read manual.
Generally, tanks with longer warranties come with 2 anode rods.
Anode rod options
Gas and electric water heaters Support the economy:
Buy water heaters  from my associate links:

50 gallon Gas water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon gas water heaters at Amazon
50 gallon Electric water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon electric water heaters at Amazon
Hybrid / heat pump/ water heaters at Amazon

How to install gas water heater
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Troubleshoot electric water heater
Intermatic control centers Intermatic control centers:
+ manuals and parts

Including Z-wave
box timers Compare box timers

Control with Z-wave
programmable timer Compare programmable timers

Control water heater with programmable wall timer
Countdown timers Compare countdown timers

Control water heater with countdown timer
Compare power packs

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