Hot Water Heater elements

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Hook

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Gregory
We got home from vacation Tuesday night to very little hot water (gotta love it). :wmad:

Wednesday, being the licensed bean counter I am, I started doing the math to determine if I should call a plumber while I was out looking over the water heater. I put my hand over each cover and the top cover was warm, the bottom was cold - element had gone bad. Well, if I called AHS, it might take them a week to get a contractor here and for $60 they were only going to replace the lower element.

So I decided to venture into the world of replacing the hot water heater elements. Step one, turn the breaker box panel switches for the HW heater to the off position, close the main valve going into the tank and make sure all of the faucets are off. Step to remove the panel covers for both elements, remove the insulation and pull the little plastic cover off the controls. Step 3 detach the wiring from the elements. Step 4, attach a hose to the drainage spigot at the bottom of the tank, open the valve to the spigot and open the pressure relief valve, making sure the other end of the hose is watering the lawn or flowers or something - have old towels on hand to clean up the mess in the garage.

Here's where things got interesting. I thought I could just use some channel locks to get the old elements out (I'd seen my uncle use vice grips), but no, they slipped way too much. As I stood there scratching my head, :icon_scra I decided step 5 would be to write down all the spec information on the tank related to the elements - 240 Volt, 4500 watts etc... Off to the hardware store I went. For $41 I brought home two elements and a special socket like tool to remove/install heating elements. I figured by the time I got home the tank should be pretty much be empty.

Top element came out first - let me tell you that little socket tool did a slick job removing those elements, easy as pie!:cool: Interesting thing - the elements I took out were 3500 watt elements, didn't look anything like the one's I'd just purchased. I checked the wattages all over again, sure enough - the specs called for 4500 watts :eusa_thin Someone had done this before, maybe?

Anyhow, both elements were a bit rusty but the bottom element was caked in sand and residue and when I cleaned it off there were chunks of the element that appeared to have rusted right off. I cleaned up the threads on the tank, removed the old gaskets and installed the new elements, following all the above steps in reverse order, and waiting to flip the breaker until the tank was full again. Bleeding the hot water lines was a little time consuming as I had forgotten to start with the one that was furthest away, but it got done and an hour after I flipped the switch, I had scalding hot water again. Yeah Me!!!!

If anyone needs to borrow that slick little tool, let me know - no sense in buying one if you're nearby.

Usually I apply murphy's law to a job like this, but mr murphy did not show up this time.

2 4500 Watt elements - $34
1 HW Heater element removal/installation tool - $7
3 hours start to finish $0 (I'm on vacation)
Not having to call and wait for AHS or a local plumber - priceless
:gar-Bi
 

Sealeveler

Tony
Corporate Member
Congrats on the diy job.I have to replace my bottom element about every 3 months.I have sulfur water with plenty of other healthy minerals in it.The element socket works great.I hook a hose to my heater regularly to flush some of the solids out.Tony
 

Gotcha6

Dennis
Corporate Member
+1 on flushing the tank when you replace the element(s). It's easy to just turn off the power & open the drain for a few minutes before you shut off the water supply. Many times the sediment will cake onto the drain valve seat & it may take some 'persuading' to get it to run. In any case, it will make draining the heater a cleaner job.
 

Travis Porter

New User
Travis
Congrats! Been there done that. One thing I learned the hardway is to make sure to bleed all the air out of the hot water heater before turnnig it on our you will need another element.....
 

Glennbear

Moderator
Glenn
:eusa_clap Nicely done, it is a great feeling when a DIY project goes fairly smooth and Murphy is out of town. :gar-La; Your post reminded me that I really should drain my heater soon. :wsmile:
 

aplpickr

New User
Bill
One other thing that you should have done: With a piece of coat hanger wire formed with a hook on end, scrap as much of the scale out of the element hole. This will lengthen the time before your next replacement.
 

Trent Mason

New User
Trent Mason
Nice work! One of the heating elements is out in our HWH right now, but I don't own this place so I'm gonna let them fix it. :wink_smil Thanks for sharing the process though. I'm sure I'll end up having to do this at some point and will look back for this thread. :thumbs_up:thumbs_up
 
T

toolferone

Always enjoy the satisfaction of doing a job yourself and saving money too. That is how I have learned all I know so far is doing it myself and learning.

Now for a little teasing, it is not a "HOT" water heater. Why would heat water already hot? It is just a water heater.:gar-Bi
 

Sealeveler

Tony
Corporate Member
I also have a piece of 1/2 rubber hose I connect to a wet/dry vacuum cleaner to get as much of the sediment as I can out of the bottom element hole.Tony
 
M

McRabbet

BTDT2... crawled under my house in Durham many years ago to do it. Didn't do a repeat 2 years ago here, just bought a new one because the old one was 12 years old going on eighty!
 

Jim Hancock

Jim
Corporate Member
You may also want to consider replacing the sacrificial anode, though they are usually quite a bear to remove due to rust. Depending on your water quality these things can last from 3-8 years. The anode is put in there to minimize corrosion of the internal parts of the tank first. I have done this several times and in at least one case the anode was completely eaten away. You can find them online, I have never been able to find them locally.
 

LeftyTom

Tom
Corporate Member
God on ya, Greg! You'd be surprised how you can fix a lot of stuff (washing machine that fills slowly/won't fill, washer doesn't spin out water, dryer doesn't dry completely) with a little eyeballing and head scratching.

Figure a plumber would cost you at least $100 (WAG), and you can see a new tool in the near future.
 

Dust Storm

New User
Jim
I read your posting a few days ago and smiled to myself. There is a lot of satisfaction in solving/correcting a home problem. But I was glad it wasn't ME that had to crawl around under my house.
Well, Murphy's Law was alive and well and struck last night. My Wife informed me that we had no hot water (she didn't used those exact words:realmad:). I checked the circuit breaker and it was fine. I was just starting to panic when I remembered your posting. This morning I re-read your post and then went to HD. I got the 2 elements and the socket tool and within 2 hrs, my tank was drained, elements changed, filled, bled, and powered back on. I was the first to take a nice warm shower to get the pollen off. Thanks for stimulating my confidence.:notworthy:
 
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