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How to clean sediment out of water heater ... and replace element

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Resource links:

How electric water heater works
How to troubleshoot electric water heater
How to troubleshoot gas water heater
How to test elements
Low water pressure
Flooded water heater

How to wire thermostats
How to replace thermostat
How to remove rusted element
Water heater will not drain
Maintain water heater
sediment in water heater  Gradually less hot water <> this page shows how to fix problem
 Suddenly less hot water because bottom element burned out <> this page shows how to replace
 Suddenly no hot water/ other problem? How to troubleshoot electric water heater.
 Water around bottom of tank/ leaking water heater
 How to clean sediment out of gas water heater

Efficiency of electric heater is fully restored using steps below
Sediment caused by heating hard water. Minerals include calcium carbonate and dolmite
Hard water generally not harmful.

Low density elements do not burn out as quickly since heating surface is spread across larger heating surface.

Do NOT install larger wattage than shows on tank label:
Buy new element:
Water heater elements at Amazon
Low density element at Amazon/ 'lifetime'
Low density/ resist scale deposits/ 5-year
Low density element at Amazon
120 Volt elements for small tanks at Amazon
120V element at Amazon
Universal adapter kit at Amazon
Rheem 'resistored' copper element at Amazon
Rheem/ Marathon elements are larger

How to replace water heater element

Step by step Do-it-yourself starts here

220 Volt circuit breaker

Step 1: 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
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clean out water heater tank

Step 2: 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 3: 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 4: 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 5: Remove cover and insulation

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

See Larger

Step 6: 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 7: 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"
electric impact wrench for elements

Electric impact wrench for elements

Impact wrenches at Amazon
Special 1-1/2" socket for elements
1-1/16" impact sockets
remove water heater element

Step 8: Loosen element while tank is full of water

Turn element wrench counter-clockwise
Must push on 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

Torch, WD40, drill bolt holes and remove with wrench, use impact wrench
Make sure water heater is full of water / for weight / when loosening element Resource:
Remove rusted/stuck element
electric impact wrench for elements

Step 9: Drain tank

remove old element

Step 10: Remove element

Take out old element

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

wet-dry vacuum

Step 11: shop vac and hoses

     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
Wet dry vacs at Amazon

clean out water heater tank

Step 12: 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
o ring on water heater element

Step 14: Check new element & O ring

Put O ring in place
Use new O ring

Test new element if you want:
How to test element for continuity
install water heater element

Step 15: Clean opening and install element

install new element

Step 16: Tighten element

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

Step 17: Attach wires to either screw

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

Step 18: 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 caps at 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 19: 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 20: 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 21: What if tank is not working?

Read 'repaired water heater is not working'

Transfer switch
Use twist lock plug for extension cord that plugs into compressor

Install 20 or 30 amp as needed.
X Y terminals go to either Hot,
W is always Neutral
G is ground
These are standard markings for 240 volt plugs and outlets.
Connect X to one hot busbar inside the transfer sawitch, connec6t Y to other hot busbar, ground and Neutral to respective terminals
Leviton 2711/ 125-250 volt/ 20-30 amp/ 3 pole
How to wire subpanel
How to wire transfer switch

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
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 parts:
Dielectric nipples at Amazon
3/4" ball valve at Amazon
Brass ball valve
3/4" pipe to 3/4" garden hose
Buy Ball valve/ gas
Gas ball valve

Use 6 wraps teflon tape on threads
Shop Amazon - Industrial and scientific

Additional links

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
How to install electric water heater
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Troubleshoot electric water heater
Point of use water heaters
Gas and electric water heaters Industrial electric at Amazon

Industrial supplies at Amazon

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box timers Compare box timers

Control water heater w/ Z-wave
Intermatic control centers Control centers:
+ manuals and parts

All control centers and parts

Including Z-wave
programmable timer Compare programmable timers

Control water heater with programmable wall timer
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Control water heater with countdown timer
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