How To Replace A Water Heater Element


Hot water is a great thing to have. It’s often a resource that many of us take for granted—until it’s gone. When you notice a fluctuation in or loss of hot water, it’s time to take a look at the water heater. There’s a long list of things that could cause a loss in hot water, but today, we’re going to focus on one of the most common causes, a bad heating element. This is easy to detect and repair, so let’s jump into how to replace a water heater element. 


How To Tell If A Water Heater Element Is Bad


Before we jump into how to tell if a hot water heater element is bad, you need to do a few things first. Before you check the element, you need to turn off the unit. The best way to be safe here is to cut off the breaker to the heater. Using a non-contact voltage tester, touch the wires to the water heater to ensure there is no power going to the unit. 

After you’ve confirmed the power is off, you need to drain the tank. To drain the tank, get a garden hose and attach it to the drain outlet at the bottom of the heater. Next, get a bucket to put under the pressure relief discharge pipe on the side of the heater. Then, you’ll want to cut off the water supply to the tank. You should leave one hot water tap on throughout the draining process to eliminate air gaps and speed up the draining time. Now, it’s time to use a flat head screwdriver to open the drain valve next to where the garden hose is attached. Make sure to open the pressure relief valve to help as well. The water should flow and drain out over the next thirty minutes. 

After the water is done draining, you can test your heater’s elements. There should be an upper and lower element and two access panels. After you take off the access panels, use a multimeter to test the resistance of each element. To do this, set your multimeter to the lowest level and touch the probes to the screws on the element. If you get no reading, the element is bad and needs to be replaced. 


How To Replace A Water Heater Element


After testing the elements, you will know which one is bad. Sometimes, you may find that both are bad and need replacement. Let’s dive in and go through the steps of replacing an element. First and foremost, remove the screws on the end of the existing element. These screws are what keep the wires on the end of your element. Once the screws are off and the wires are away, unscrew the element with an element wrench. After the element is out, test it again to make sure it’s bad. Finally, screw in the new element and reconnect the wires. Use a little bit of lubricant on the washer seal of the element to prevent unnecessary damage.

After the element is installed, replace the cover, insulation, and panel. Close the pressure relief valve and drain valve before turning on the water. Let the tank fill up all the way, and leave the hot water tap on to eliminate air. You’ll know the tank is full when there is no sputtering or spurting from the tap. Finally, turn the power back on and wait about an hour for it to heat your water. 


Want The Pros To Handle It? 


Now you know how to replace a water heater element. Not too bad, is it? Well, for those who would rather leave this one to the pros, give us a call at Autry Plumbing! We would love to help you with any of your plumbing needs.