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Install & Replace

Water Heater may need element replaced...

I had a flood in my house from the bedroom a shower stall to the basement... the electrician cut all the power off in the house and the water coming from the well. Now the water heater is giving different temperatures of water and we can't get a steady stream of either hot or cold for more that 2 minutes. I called several places and was told that it's most likely an element that burned out. I would like to kn if I can replace it myself.

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Posted 2011-02-12T18:41:39+0000  by Me13499 Me13499

Hi Me13499,


From the great advice that you received by doing your homework, I'd have to agree with everyone else that the culprit is most likely going to be the water heater element. Even after the waters receded the leftover of calcium carbonate or even just plain Jane rust gets onto the element, hindering a efficient temperature and making the hot water sporadic. Grab a screwdriver, flashlight, and your replacement water heater element. Luckily, its a cinch to replace the element, provided you follow these simple steps:



  • Turn off the power to the water heater. Make sure that everyone knows that you are working on the water heater and they should not turn the breaker on the electrical panel box back on.
  • Remove the access panel at the top of the water heater using the screwdriver to expose the heating element. There are two elements on the heater, one in the top and one in the bottom. You should remove them both.
  • Test the resistance of both elements by setting the multimeter to read X1000 and attaching one lead to one of the screw terminals and the other to a heating element mounting screw. If the reading is anything other than infinity, you should replace the element. Test the other element also to determine if it also needs to be replaced.
  • Attach the hose, close the water inlet valve and open the drain valve to drain the heater. This is necessary before removing the elements from the heater.
  • Unscrew the terminals from the element and unbolt the element from the heater. Chances are very high that the lower element has a much greater build up of calcium carbonate on the element than the upper element.
  • Make sure that the heater element that you purchase is the same configuration and model and is rated the same.
  • Replace the elements in the reverse order and make sure you secure the mounting bolts and terminal screws.
  • Make sure the drain valve is closed, then remove the hose. Reopen the water inlet valve and allow the heater to refill before turning on the electricity again.
  • Replace the access panels over the two elements and finally turn on the breaker to the hot water heater.
Try this out Me13499, and if these steps don't work, you may have other issues you may have found during these steps like the inlet valves or physical oxidation (rust) that can see with your flashlight on the inside of the tank. But hopefully, this should get your back on your feet and into hot water again, in the good way!
If there is any futher questions, please do not hesitate to ask,


Posted 2011-02-12T20:14:22+0000  by Joseph_HD_ATL

1. Shouldn't the tank be drained before the old elements are removed ?

2. A bad element will read infinity on the ohm meter not " anything other than infinity".

Posted 2011-03-23T22:01:43+0000  by pluto

Hello Pluto, and welcome to our community.


  • Attach the hose, close the water inlet valve and open the drain valve to drain the heater. This is necessary before removing the elements from the heater.

Yes, the tank should be drained.  Thanks for the clarification.



Posted 2011-03-25T18:12:57+0000  by Angelo_HD_CHI

The only true way to check a water heater element is to read amps on one of the wires going to the element while in operation.  An ohm reading can give a false positive according to why it is bad.


Also in order to remove the element you must have a 1 1/4 inch socket.  Almost impossible to do with a wrench of any kind.


If you turn the water off at the top of the water heater and remove the pressure from the tank you don't really have to drain the tank.  If you have the new element ready to go in (gasket installed etc.) and you are quick enough you can swap out an element and lose only a cup or two of water.  This saves time and does not require losing a whole tank of water.  Of course if the tank is still hot then precausions must be taken not to get burned

Posted 2011-03-27T20:40:43+0000  by amayesin

Hey amayesin, welcome to the Home Depot Community!


I think that you are right about reading amps directly as this would be the most accurate way to judge the heating element condition during operation.  I have my own "easy" way to judge what may be wrong.


What I do is to shut off the power and use a multimeter to measure resistance, looking for a reasonable number.

What's reasonable?  Well, Ohm's law says amps=volts/ohms.  Assume 240 volts.  Reasonable current draw can range from 5 amps to 30.  You can look at the appliance's specs, there should be a plate/label that states what the item draws.  Water heaters usually have 2 elements, though both rarely run at the same time.


8Ω = 30 amps,  48Ω = 5 amps.  This is what I consider a reasonable range.


If you measure the elements, (power off please!), and see resistance well above 48Ω you know something is wrong.

In practice a bad element will show resistance in the hundreds -> infinity.

If you are looking at a very low number well below 8Ω, then though unlikely you also know the element is bad.  I say unlikely because circuit breakers should be shutting down due to the high current draw, and you would already know that before doing these measurements.


This kind of "reasonableness" test works just as well with electric range elements, dryer heating elements, etc.


As an example, the last time my dryer quit heating, my reasonableness test told me the heating element was OK, leading me to check out the sensors instead.  One easy sensor replacement and all was well again!


I hope this helps,



Posted 2011-04-01T16:26:30+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI
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