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Diagnosing And Replacing A Failed Element In An Electric Water Heater

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When the hot water in your home turns lukewarm, the most likely cause is the failure of one of the elements in the water heater. Your water heater has two heating elements in it that heat the water inside of the tank. When one of the elements stops functioning correctly, then the remaining element is only able to keep the water lukewarm and not heat it to its usual temperature.

Here is the procedure to diagnose and replace a failed heating element in your hot water heater's tank:

Diagnose the Failed Heating Element

After verifying that there is no water leaking outside of the water heater that could shock you, run your hand along the side of the water tank from the top to the bottom. If the top element is the one that has failed, then the upper half of the tank will be cooler to your touch than the lower half. A cooler temperature on the lower half of the tank signals that the lower element is the bad one. If your water heater is not warm on the top or the bottom, then check the power panel to see if a breaker was tripped by a power surge.

Replacing the Failed Heating Element

Replacing the failed heating element in your water heater is something that you can either do yourself, or you can have a licensed plumber do it for you. If you want to tackle the job yourself, then the procedure is very similar to draining and flushing the water heater.

  1. Turn off the power.
  2. Turn off the cold water supply line.
  3. Connect a garden hose to the water heater.
  4. Open the hot water tap in the nearest sink.
  5. Drain the tank.
  6. Remove the garden hose.
  7. Remove the failed element with a socket.
  8. Put the new element in the water heater.
  9. Turn on the cold water.
  10. Turn on the power.

It is important to note that you should not turn the power back on to the water heater until you have completed filled the water heater back up with cold water. The elements need to be in contact with the water as they heat or they will fail.

Finally, if one of the elements in your hot water heater has failed, then it is very likely that the other one is not too far behind. Rather than replacing just the failed element, it is always the better choice to replace both of them at the same time. For more information, visit Anderson Water Systems.