In this article, we will take a look at the ins and outs of a water heater element – an important component of all electric water heaters.
Investing in a water heater for your home is essential. This is because, in a domestic space, you use hot water every day. Whether you’re cooking, cleaning, bathing, or heating up a room, this appliance is crucial for heating water. You may not realize how much you rely on hot water until you have trouble accessing it!
It is therefore very important that you choose which type, brand and model is best for your home. Once this is done, you can try to make sure you are as clued up as possible on how it functions. While there are ways to get around not understanding your appliance (like having your plumber on speed dial), it can’t hurt to be prepared.
What Is A Hot Water Heater Element?
There are two main kinds of water heaters: ones that are powered by electricity, and ones that are powered by gas. Gas heaters do not use a hot water element, so understanding these and the way they work is a different challenge. For electric hot water heaters, though, you’re in the right place.
This appliance usually has two elements to cater to your heating requirements. These are made of metal and are attached to the inside of your water tank. Essentially, these two elements are what do the job of heating the water that you use in your home.
Inevitably over the years, these powerhouses start to lose their efficiency. It is important to remember that these are things that can and should be replaced so you can ensure your water heater is working to the best of its ability. Water heater element replacement is relatively easy – so don’t jump into recruiting outside help straight away.
How They Work
Of course, it is helpful to understand how the heater element works to give you some background knowledge on the device. This way, if you have any problems with it, you will be able to gauge whether it needs fixing or replacing. Occasionally these devices do malfunction, in which case replacement elements might need to be fitted.
Location Of An Electric Water Heater Heating Element
In a standard electric hot water heater, you will normally find two elements. These elements are located inside the tank. One can be found near the bottom, and the other in the middle.
The bottom hot water tank element is what does most of the work. This is because cold water enters the tank at the bottom, so this element is responsible for the majority of water heating.
The top or middle element is there for times when there is a high demand for hot water in your home and heats the water in the top portion of the tank. Both elements are important and are a crucial part of the heating of water in your domestic space.
What They Are Controlled By
Each element is controlled by a separate thermostat within the heating appliance. These thermostats are switches that measure the heat of the water within the tank and ensure that the water is at an adequate temperature.
You can set a water heater thermostat to measure and control your tank according to pre-set temperatures. They come with a dial so that you can set the maximum temperature you will be needing in your home. These temperatures generally range between a minimum of 120 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
The option for setting your own temperature is helpful if you are concerned with saving electricity, as heating to a lower temperature will obviously take a shorter amount of time and use less energy.
A lower temperature may also allow your elements to last longer as they are at a lower risk of damage caused by extreme heat. However, you can change this whenever you want (a feature we will look at later).
How The Water Heats Up
Each heating element for water heater is electrical-resistant. This is important because the elements are what the electrical current passes through when the hot water heater is in use. A typical electric heating unit is wired to a 220-volt circuit.
As a hot water tap is turned on in a household, the heater is informed straight away. Cold water enters your tank through a drip tube. The cold temperature of this water is what triggers the bottom element and its corresponding thermostat.
The switch closes as the water is heated up, and when it has reached its preset temperature, the switch opens again. The water flows out and is made accessible through your household taps.
Even when your taps are turned off, the electrical current continues to flow through the elements until the thermostats have reached their limit. This is helpful as it means you will not need to start from scratch with cold water every time you open a hot tap.
Benefits Of An Electric Water Heater
- These devices are safe to use and do not pose any threats of exploding (unlike traditional geysers)
- Electricity can be sourced from renewable sources such as solar power and hydropower so you can be environmentally friendly in your purchase
- Because thermal energy is saved within the tank, you can save both money and time
- These devices (and their elements) are easy to install
How To Install An Element
As we mentioned before, replacing and installing an electric water heater element is hardly a daunting task. Here, we explain what you will need to do this and how to go about it.
It is not difficult to gauge whether you are in need of new elements: if water is coming out warm rather than hot, it is likely your elements need replacing. However, it may be that your water heater at large is the problem, so it is important to test your existing elements first.
Testing Water Heater Element
- Turn off the power supply to the electric heater at the circuit breaker or fuse
- Make sure the water within the heater is cold – hot or warm water can affect your test
- Take off the cover panel and remove the terminal screws on the elements on the inside of the tank. Be sure that you have removed the wires too
- Use a multi-tester and set it to its OHMS setting. Connect the red lead to one screw terminal and the black to the other
- An ohm resistance value of 0 means that there is no flow of electricity through your elements. No value indicates a problem other than one with these components
How To Change The Heating Element
To replace and install new elements on your appliance, you will need to following tools:
- Water heater element wrench
- New heating elements (check that you have purchased ones that is correct wattage rated for your needs)
Now, turn off the power to your heater and drain the water first. Flushing your appliance every couple of months is good to remove sediment from it too! Remove your existing elements by taking off the cover plates, insulation, wires, and the elements from the tank. The elements can be removed with a wrench. You should also be sure to remove the existing gasket. Now, follow these steps:
- Remove any sediment from the bottom of the tank. This can be done periodically regardless of whether you are replacing your elements as sediment can contribute to erosion and damage of the bottom element
- Position the new gasket on the heating element and replace the elements with new ones by tightening them with a socket wrench
- Close the drain valve
- Keep a hot water tap running to fill the tank with water and check for any leaks
- Reconnect the wires and replace the covers on your thermostats and the access cover panel
- Only turn the power back once you are sure the rank is filled with water
Choosing The Right One For Your Heater
It is crucial that you check the voltage and watt density elements that you are purchasing. They must be compatible with the water heater that you own.
Also, be sure to check for compatibility with other kinds of power if your household does not run on standard electricity. Environmentally friendly options can end up being budget friendly too!
There are options for stainless steel elements that can help to ensure the prolonged life expectancy of your devices. The better your choice in elements, the greater the chance of your tank as a whole working for longer.
Investing in a hot water heater can be a great idea on many levels – environmental, economical, and low maintenance. These devices are easy to keep running as long as you follow the correct guidelines and ensure safety precautions.
You can find both heaters and their elements at your local store or purchase here. Take a look at our reviews to make the best choice for you.
If a gas heater seems more up your alley, information on these appliances can be found following this link.