The hot water heater element is the part in your hot water heater that heats the water. Most electric hot water heaters have two of them.
Are you unsure what your problem is? You need to check out the article 'Electric Hot Water Heater Troubleshooting' to determine your problem. Don't know which element is bad? See the article 'Hot Water Heater Element Testing', for more information.
Convinced it is your heating element? Read on.
One or both of your hot water heater elements can be bad. This can cause you to have no hot water, very little hot water, a noisy water heater and dirty or discolored water. You may have wound up here after coming to the conclusion that your heating element is bad. The other reason you would be here is if you need to take an element out to clean the scale off of it.
Hot Water Heater Elements - The Issues
What Can You Save? - Electric hot water heater elements cost less than twenty dollars each. To change them both you have to drain the tank down, a bit of a job in itself. This repair is probably one to two hours for a plumber. Your savings is probably between $150 and $200.
How Hard Could It Be? - Replacing electric hot water heater elements is a fairly difficult job. You have to drain the tank, the elements usually take a special wrench and you have to unhook the wiring. These repairs will have a Difficulty Level of: Difficult. These repairs require a Skill Level of: Determined Handyman. For and explanation of the terms in this section, see 'How to Use This Site'.
Check the Simple Things! - For an electrical item you always want to check the breaker first. Make sure it has not tripped. There are also reset buttons on the thermostats. Even this is not simple. Turn the power off, remove the cover plates and check the reset buttons. It usually means trouble somewhere else when they trip.
What Can Go Wrong? - Not getting done will leave you with some issues. You know the translation of that, 'no hot water'. Draining the tank can be messy, be prepared to deal with water spills. This is a serious electrical device. Never work on it unless you are sure the power is off. Yes there is enough current to kill you.
Troubleshooting Hot Water Heater Element Issues
Before you can replace you heating elements you will need to purchase replacement parts. There are three different types and several wattage levels available. The article 'Purchasing Hot Water Heater Elements' discusses all of the things you need to know before you buy new ones.
'Shutting Down an Electric Water Heater' talks about the steps you need fo follow to safely shut down your tank. Take these steps before you attempt any work.
The water heater elements are mounted directly into the tank. Therefore, you will need to drain the tank before you can remove them. The article 'Draining an Electric Water Tank' provids instructions.
'Installing New Hot Water Heater Elements' gives instructions on the three possible installations you could have.
The last step, 'Electric Water Heater Start Up' enumerated the procedure for starting up the water heater without damaging the elements.
This was kind of a big job. Getting the tank drained down and getting the old elements out was a little bit of work. You probably had to buy one of those wrenches. After that you had to make a trip to the supply house. Look at the bright side, you saved a significant amount of money.
What will you do now? This could be a chapter in your memoirs or at least a diary page. Hopefully this repair has been successful. Everyone can take a shower, right? Now you can move onto other projects.