How To Change The Heating Element In Your Water Heater

Most water heaters last a pretty long time. If you have an electric appliance, then you can expect it to stay in good working order for about 10 years. If your water heater is much newer than this and you notice that the device does not produce as much hot water as it should, then there is a possibility that the water heater is experiencing an electrical issue. There are a few electrical components that can be replaced easily and inexpensively. The heating element is one of these parts, so learn how to remove and replace it. 

Removing The Heating Element

If your water heater seems to produce only warm water for the last several months or if the water seems to get colder and colder over time, then the heating element may be broken. Electric water heaters have heating elements that heat the water instead of a flame or burner. Electricity runs through a heating wire inside the element and this creates heat. The heat travels through the metal part of the device that encases the wire and the heat transfers to the water.

Over time, the heating wire in the element will wear and it can sometimes break. You may hear a loud pop coming from your water heater and the breaker attached to the appliance may also trip. In some case, the metal casing may form a hole when the heating wire breaks. You will be able to see this when removing the heating element.

Water heater elements are fairly cheap and they are the easiest part to replace, so start with the replacement even if you have not seen any direct signs of the issue. Before you begin, go to your local store and pick up a heating element wrench. If you have a socket wrench, then you can pick up a socket that is specifically made to fit the back side of the element. These tools are needed to replace the element. 

Turn off the electricity to the water heater and then locate the control panel. If you have ever adjusted the temperature of the appliance, then the thermostat will be in the same place as the heating element. There will be either one of two elements attached to the thermostat of the device. The element will have a round hexagon protrusion coming out of the tank. Look for two screws on the protrusion. Loosen the screws with your screwdriver. This will allow you to pull the wires away from the heating element. 

Replacing The Element

Once the wires are disconnected, drain your water tank. You can place the wrench or your new socket attachment over the metal hexagon part of the heating element at this time. Turn it to the left to loosen it. The element will screw out of the water heater. You will need the element to find a replacement. While most heating elements are universal, you will need to know the shape as well as the length of the part. Also, you will need the specific voltage and wattage of the device. Some elements have the specific electrical information printed on the plastic part where the wiring attaches. If you do not see this information, then look on the sticker attached to the front of the heater. 

Go to your local home store to find a replacement heating element. Screw the new element into place and attach the wiring to the unit. Tighten the screws keeping the wires in place and refill the tank. Do not turn on the electricity until the tank is full. Electricity will run through the element as soon as electricity is restored and the current can destroy the new element if water is not in the tank. Turn on the electricity once the tank is filled, wait about 30 minutes, and turn the water on to see if it is warm.

If this isn't a process you're comfortable doing on your own, don't hesitate to reach out to a professional like H.R. Stewart Inc.