How do you change a lower heating element in an electric water heater?


The heating element is the primary part of any electrical heat-producing product. From hair dryers to toasters and industrial iron smelts, an electric heating element helps each one get to the proper temperature. Commonly produced from a metallic amalgam called nichrome, heating elements come in many types, but they all serve a single purpose. There are other materials used to create heating elements, each with unique characteristics that aid in a particular style of heating.

A basic heating element is anything that electricity passes through and encounters a resistance and then produces heat. The amount of heat given off depends on the amount of electricity that passes through the electric heating element and the amount of resistance. For example, an element that passes a great deal of electricity but does not provide much resistance will give off a small amount of heat. On the other hand, something that uses a lot of electricity and incorporates a large amount of...

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The way that water gets hot in your electric water heater is with something called a “heating element”. Most water heaters will have two electric heating elements in them. There will be one element on top and another element on the bottom. If you have a low boy water heater you probably won’t have dual heating elements.

The water heater elements are controlled by a thermostat. The thermostat can be adjusted so that you can have the water temperature as hot as you desire. The elements and the thermostat are protected by a safety trip system, so if you have no hot water and think your elements are bad you should make sure that its not just the safety that has tripped. This is a common mistake many people make, they go out and buy new elements, they install them and then they realize it was just the circuit that tripped and they replaced the water heater elements for no reason.

Replacing the water heater elements will require a few tools. You will need a large socket to...

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Check electrical panel to be sure that circuit breaker is in the "On" position (not in tripped or off) or fuses (if used) are installed securely and not "blown". Reset circuit breaker to "On" or replace any blown fuse(s) and wait 30 - 60 minutes for the water to warm. If water has remained cool, continue troubleshooting steps below.


Shut off the power. Most water heaters are supplied by voltages that can cause shock, burns and even death should an energized conductor come in contact with the body. Shut off power in the electrical panel by removing fuses or by moving the handle of a switch or circuit breaker dedicated to the water heater to the Off position. Completely remove and "pocket" the fuses or otherwise secure or lock the panel and place a note on the cover to alert everyone that work is being performed on the water heater circuit. This will prevent the accidental energizing of the circuit while you are working on it.



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Unlike gas water heaters that have gas burners to heat the water, electric water heaters rely upon an upper and lower pair of metal heating elements. These heating elements are made of metal and get hot from electrical resistance, similar to what you would find in an electric cooking range.

In a water heater, the cold incoming water is not delivered at the top of the tank, but rather near the bottom through a dip tube as seen in the diagram Anatomy of a Water Heater.

As a result of a cold water... supply coming in near the bottom of the tank, the lower heating element is the workhorse of the electric water heater. The upper heating element really only contributes when there is a high hot water demand and only serves to heat water in the upper portion of the tank. A constant supply of lukewarm water during a shower is indicative of a defective upper heating element. Short duration hot water supply during a shower is indicative of a defective lower heating...

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[Summary]Help in Removing Screw-In Element for Electric Water Heater Our troubleshooting (and friend's opinion) leads us to believe we need to replace one or both elements in our electric water heater. We've used pliers, channel locks, and the element wrench


Help in Removing Screw-In Element for Electric Water Heater

Our troubleshooting (and friend's opinion) leads us to believe we need to replace one or both elements in our electric water heater. We've used pliers, channel locks, and the element wrench - nothing has aided in loosening the element. We're assuming that the inside is likely pretty scaled. Any sugg...

How to Remove and Replace a Water Heater Elements

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Help remove stuck screw in type electric heating element.

I'm not even sure it's the elements now....

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How to replace electric heating elements on the water heater. See what are the most common causes of the water heater element failure, testing tips and solution.

Types of the heating elements

Most of the electric water heaters have two heating elements, upper and lower, where the screw-in type is the most common type. Water heater element with the flange is another type, but is used less. Both types are immersion type elements, U-shaped that heat water when energized with the electricity.

Manufacturers will use various types, which are different in voltages and watt densities, where 240 volts and 4500 watts are the most common. These two values can be checked on the rating plate on the water heater.

The thermostat setting is what allows the heating element to provide more or less power, or lower and higher temperature of the outgoing water.

When selecting the best electric water heater for your home,...

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How to test and replace an electric water heater element. Explore the common reasons for the element failure and how to troubleshoot grounded and open element. Types and buying guide.

Electric water heater element is an immersion heater element type that heats water in a tank type heater when energized with electricity. The electrical current that flows through the heating elements is regulated by a safety device, called high limit.

The temperature of hot water is controlled by a thermostat. The most common electric heaters you will find, like Rheem, AO Smith, Kenmore, GE, Whirlpool usually have two thermostats and two heating elements.

These thermostats are manually adjusted and are designed as surface mounted, for contact with the external portion of the electric heater.

Thanks to the electric water heater element where the electricity is used as a power source for heating, you can install a unit almost anywhere, which is not a case with...

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As the price of photovoltaic modules (solar modules, solar panels) continues to drop there are many discussions about using solar electric modules to heat water. No more leaks, messy and complicated plumbing, heat exchangers, controllers to fail, pumps to maintain and fluids to freeze.

Solar hot water has been plagued with leaks, freezing (or poisonous antifreeze), air in the pipes, controller and pump failures just to mention a few of the difficulties we have had over the past few decades.

However it was the only way to make hot water with the sun. Just a decade ago solar electric modules cost over $10 per watt. Solar thermal was much less expensive per kW or BTU.

Our goal is not to bash solar thermal hot water as it serves a purpose, has performed well for many including our own homestead, and produces more hot water per square meter (or square foot) than photovoltaic ever will.

We currently have a 20 tube evacuated solar hot water heater in...

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When you don't have hot water your elements may be at fault. Electric water heater element testing is one way to determine if one or both of them are bad.

For a typical electric water heater you have four items that may have failed. Any one of them can cause you to have less hot water or no hot water. The first thing to check is the elements themselves. There are two simple tests that can tell you if they are bad. See the articles, 'Testing Water Heater Elements for Continuity' and 'Testing Water Heater Elements for Ground'.

The other common item is the thermostats. There are two of them, see the article 'Testing Electric Water Heater Thermostats' for a discussion and instructions on checking them.

How Water Heater Elements Work

Most electric hot water heaters have two elements. One or both of them could go bad. In addition there is a thermostat for each one.

If the thermostats go bad the elements won't heat up. Is this something you can do? The...

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A common question I get asked is

“Can I use a standard 120/240 AC heating element or hot water heater element as a DC dump load for my wind turbine/water turbine/solar system?”

(Wondering what a dump load is? Click here)

(More advanced diversion load info for solar, wind and water power)

The answer is yes but don’t expect it to consume (dump) as much electricity as it is rated for. The lower the voltage of the electricity you want to dump (the voltage of your battery system), the less electricity the heating element will consume.

The first thing to stop worrying about is whether the element is rated for AC or DC. Both will work fine and there will be no difference in performance.

If the heating unit/element has some type of fan for circulation, thermostats, electronics or remote control devices it will not be suitable for a dump load as these add-ons will not work on DC electricity.

Now let’s look at an example:Let’s pretend your...

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Calculating comparative heating costs

I live in Richmond, British Columbia, Canada and have basically two choices for heating my home: natural gas, or electric. My home has been heated with natural gas since it was built about 30 years ago. I recently did a calculation comparing electric space heating to natural gas to see if it might be worth switching. I was interested in comparing both cost, and greenhouse gas emissions. Here is what I found out. These results are specific to my home and my region.

There are many units of measurement for energy (ex kWh, GJ, BTU, Therms, etc). For ease of comparison, I’ve used kWh for both electric and gas, even though gas is more commonly quoted in GJ. Notice I’ve included two columns for gas. The one with values “per kWh used” takes into account the efficiency of my gas heating system. Electricity is inherently 100% efficient (or close enough that system losses are negligible). This isn’t true of combustion based heating systems....

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