Water heater element replacement or replacing hot water heater
element is a job most homeowners can do.
On this page you'll find a step by step guide with pictures of how to
change a water heater element.
In this water heater replacement guide we'll replace a screw type
element. All of the steps are the same for a flange type element.
For water heater element replacement you'll need:
1. multimeter - to check power
2. garden hose - to drain water heater
4. water heater element wrench - for screw type elements
This water heater element tool
will fit most domestic water
heater elements that screw
into the tank.
This element tool is just a
large socket with holes in one
end to insert a screwdriver or
something similar to use as leverage.
Replacing hot water heater element without this tool is not recommended.
Turn the water heater breaker off.
Remove the top access panel, insulation, and plastic safety cover.
The plastic safety cover should snap off. Be careful not to touch any wires.
If the water heater breaker has been mislabeled the wires will still be hot.
The pic above is of the upper element, thermostat and limit.
Check water heater power
The two wires above the red reset
button are each 120 volts.
Check these wires to be sure that the
power has been turned off.
Test your multimeter on a wall
outlet that you know is working.
Place one probe on one of the terminal screw (see pic). Place the other probe on the tank. Scratch the tank with the end of the probe to get a good ground.
You should not get a reading (no power).If you do the wrong breaker has been cut off.
Check the other wire the same way. If you have no power your ready for the next step.
Important - If you place both probes on the top two screws and the
breaker is on you will read 220/240 volts. If you do not get a reading their
could still be 120 volts on the system. If one side of the breaker has failed
or a wire has burned into somewhere you will not get a reading unless one
probe is grounded to the tank.
Both probes on both terminals will read 220/240 volts, it will not read 110/120 volts.
Drain your water heater
Turn the water supply off at your
water heater (its located on the cold
water line near the water heater).
Remove the aerator from the
kitchen faucet and open the hot
side of the faucet.
Removing the aerator will keep it from clogging when the water
heater tank is refilled.
Opening the hot side of the faucet will allow air into the tank so it
can drain. It will also allow air to be pushed out when the tank is
drain water heater
Attach a garden hose to the drain valve (see pic). Run the hose
outside to a point lower than the water heater.
Open the drain valve, check the hose to make sure its draining
properly. It takes 20-30 minutes to drain a water heater.
Upper and lower elements are
both replaced the same way.
Remove the two wires from
Place the water heater element
wrench on the old element (see pic).
Hold the wrench tight against
the element and turn to the left.
If you can't turn it, use a
longer leverage tool.
If you have a flange element remove the four bolts and pull the
element straight out. Reinstall the same way. Be sure to use the
new rubber gasket.
Unscrew the element and pull
it straight out.
Slide the new element into the
Screw the element in with your
hand until the rubber gasket
touches the metal tank.
Tighten the element with the water
heater element wrench.
Install the two element wires on
the new element.
Turn the drain valve off and and remove the garden hose.
Open the water supply valve and fill the tank. Let the kitchen
faucet run until all the air is out of the line. Replace the aerator.
Open the hot side of all the faucets in the house to remove
any air that may be trapped.
Check the new elements closely. If they are not leaking you are
ready to replace the plastic safety covers, insulation and access
Turn the power on. You should have a full tank of hot water in
about an hour.
Can I open the water heater relief valve to drain the tank?
Yes you can but its not recommended. The relief valve handle
is spring loaded, if it snaps shut it could damage the valve.
Why do you recommend opening the kitchen faucet instead
of the faucet nearest the water heater?
Thanks for visiting water heater element replacement.