How to Replace a Water Heater Element: Your Ultimate Step-by-Step Guide

Water Heater Element

Water heater elements are the souls of water heaters. Where a premium-quality one can elevate your water heating experience to another level, a poor-quality or nonfunctional one can do the opposite. However, if you have found your element worn out, you must be browsing for How to replace a water heater element? This is precisely where I got you!


In this detailed guide, I will answer your curiosity-filled how and why-based queries in-depth. You will explore the water heater element replacement guide and some vital information about the component. I suggest sticking to the focus until the end so you can take advantage of all critical explanations. Hop on to begin!


What to Know About Water Heater Element?

Water heater elements are the main components of water heaters, mainly linked with converting electric energy into heat using the Joule heating principle. This heat comes in handy in warming up water which can be used for household or industrial purposes. Typically, a pair of water-heating elements is used. One works to heat water in the tank’s upper half while the other takes care of the lower half.

On turning the hot water faucet ON, the lower heating element begins working, and the upper part comes for support when needed. These elements are mainly designed to work effectively; however, over time, they might become nonfunctional due to the deposition of minerals. You must ensure maintenance and replacement when needed.

Like the water heater element, the circulation heater is also applied in multiple scenarios. Click here to learn more.

Applications of Water Heater Element

Water heating elements are widely used in all kinds of water heaters, be it an immersion heater, a circulation heater, or an over-the-side heater. Besides this, these are also used in standard heating devices, like pathway heating to melt snow, furnaces for industrial heating, floor heating, roof heating, dryers, toasters, hair dryers, etc.

The commonly used heating elements are molybdenum disilicide, iron-chromium-aluminum alloy, nickel-chromium alloy, and silicon carbide. These are equipped with the necessary features; high toughness, low-temperature coefficient of resistance, high oxidation resistance, high melting point, etc.


When Do You Need to Go for Water Heater Element Replacement?

Before hopping onto the guide, you must know when you should go for water heater replacement. Look for symptoms like sudden lack of heated water signals the burn out of the heating element. Moreover, a reduced supply of heated water signals that the part needs more power to meet your wild water demands. The culprits remain minerals in hard water that build up.


These minerals accumulate at the bottom of the tank, reducing the heat transfer to the water. The elements must overwork to compensate for the increased heat demand, eventually burning out. This is precisely when you must learn how to replace a water heater element.


How Often You Need to Replace Water Heated Element?

The entire scenario of mineral buildup to burning out takes eight to ten years if your heating elements are high quality. Usually, the lower element burns out quicker than the upper one because it’s the principal element of the pair, doing most of the work. The upper element is for supportive purposes, and its heightened location also gives it an edge, as mineral buildup minimally affects its work.


How to Test the Water Heater Element?

Not every time your heating element causes the problem; other reasons can lead to the unavailability of hot water. However, before directing it to the water heater element replacement, you should check your heating element first.

Check if your circuit breaker has tripped or if someone has accidentally turned it OFF. If your breaker works fine, check the red-colored reset button in the upper access panel. Push it and observe if the heater trips again. If it does, you need to replace your heating element. You can also test your piece with a multimeter.


Pre-Replacement Preparations

Before you begin, you should know about a few things. These include information about the types of water heater elements and more. Hop on below to give them a quick read!

Heating Element Styles

Water heater elements can be either the style screw-in or built-in. The former is the most common, and I will share a guide for their replacement. If you have an old water heater, it may feature built-in elements; these are somehow hard to handle. You can rely on the replacement kits or get professional assistance.

Heating Element Types

Consider “Which type should I get when purchasing a new heating element?” Here is what you need to know about them:

  1. High-Watt Density Water Heating Element – These are the most commonly used types that work in almost every replacement case and are cheaper than those with low Watt density. However, they have no mechanism for preventing or reducing lime buildup and can wear out quicker.

2. Low-Watt Density Water Heating Element – Suitable for use in hard water, these heating elements work with lower watt density without impacting their efficiency. This helps in reducing the lime buildup.

3. Lime Life Water Heating Element – These are superior to the other types. With the ability to work at even low wattage density, as does the above type, they have better adaptability to work in hard water. However, they are pretty expensive.


What Tools Will You Need?

You will need the following tools and materials to replace the water heating element:

  • New heating element
  • Screwdrivers
  • Garden hose
  • Non-contact circuit tester
  • Wrench and sockets

Wrench and sockets

How to Replace Water Heater Element?

The wait is over; now, I will share a guide on replacing the water element. It includes two sections; one features steps to remove the worn-out, followed by another with efforts on water heater element replacement. So, let’s begin exploring! Follow the steps below to begin removing the worn-out heating element:

Step 1: Cut off the Power and Water Supply

Cut off the power supply by turning OFF the fuse or circuit breaker linked with the heater. You can find them on the main water power panel. Please return to the heater and cut off its cold-water supply when done. This is done by shutting OFF the valve on the cold-water pipe above the heater.

Step 2: Reveal the Heating Element

Using screwdrivers, remove the access cover panel and the insulation over the terminal block of the element. Fold this insulation outward, away from the main component. Though you have turned OFF the power supply, for safety concerns, recheck if it’s OFF via a non-contact circuit tester.

Detach the thermostat from the heating element after removing the thermostat cover. Now, disconnect the circuit wires by unscrewing the screws holding the wires to both terminals.

Step 3: Empty the Water Heater

Grab the garden hose and empty the water heater by connecting the hose to the drain stopper. Proceed with opening the drain valve to empty the tank.

Step 4: Remove Your Worn-out Water Heater Element

Use a one-1/2-inch socket and ratchet wrench to turn the element clockwise, eventually removing it. Also, disengage the heating element from the tank by removing the gasket.


How to Install New Water Heating Element?

Once done with removing the element, follow the instructions below to install a new one:

Step 1: Match Specs

Match the specs of your new water heating element with the heater. You can find voltage and wattage information on the data plate of your heater.

Step 2: Set in Place the New Heating Element

Before doing so, clean the gasket placement area with a rag and place the new gasket on the heating element. Use a socket wrench to secure in place the heating element moving it clockwise.

Step 3: Refill the Tank

Close the drain valves, turn ON the valve on the cold-water pip, and refill the water heater tank. Also, open your nearest hot water faucet and let it be for around three minutes to remove the air. Meanwhile, look for leakages around the heating element.

Step 4: Connect Wires

Connect the wires to the terminals on a heating element by wrapping and rotating them clockwise. After tightening, ensure proper fastening by tugging on the wires.

Read this article for more details about the wiring methods of heating elements.

Step 5: Screw the Cover Plate

Replace your heater’s thermostat cover and move the insulation inwards, setting it in place. Eventually, screw the cover plate using a screwdriver.

Step 6: Test Your Installation

Rush towards the main power panel to turn ON the circuit breaker or fuse, powering the water heater. After resuming the power supply, let the water heat up for several hours. Test the temperature of the water and tweak the thermostat adjustments as needed. Voila! You have successfully installed your new element!


Wrapping It Up!

Water heating elements are crucial components of water heaters widely used for household and industrial purposes. However, if your element is worn out, that’s a rare event though you can replace it on your own without professional assistance.

In this comprehensive guide, I have explained in-depth procedures involved in water heater element replacement. Strictly follow the instructions from beginning to end to ensure correct replacement. I hope you find this info helpful; stay tuned for more informative guides!

Contact us for a quote; Hasteco can give you the best price.

Sales representive Luke


As the devoted CEO of Hasteco, I've spent countless years nurturing my passion for heating elements. Warmly inviting you to connect & collaborate for cozy, tailor-made solutions. Get in touch!

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