Replacing The Electric Hot Water Heater Element

OK, those of you who read The Cottage Chronicles know that I have been having hot water tank problems, i.e. no hot water, but you will also know if you read my earlier post that I now have the problem fixed and the hot water is in supply. I got to thinking that there could be someone else having the same troubles so why not at least give you an idea what to do to fix it.

First of all, eliminate all the other causes, such as blown fuses, or no water going in to the tank etc. If your fuses or circuit breakers are OK and there is water coming from your hot water taps, then it’s a good bet the element is gone. The good news is, it isn’t all that hard to fix and a replacement element is not very expensive.

So, assuming the above is the case, what do you do? Start by turning off the water supply into the hot water tank using the tap on the water supply line coming in to the tank. If there is no tap, you might have to shut the water off to the cottage, and make a note to install a tap above the water heater.
Attach a garden hose to the water heater outlet valve, and open the valve allowing the water to drain. Open the hot water taps as well. Note, it probably won’t drain completely unless you remove the pressure relief valve on the side of the tank, or above it, no matter, find the pressure relief valve, put a pipe wrench on it and loosen it off. I usually take it completely out. The water should start to run out the garden hose.

While it’s draining, find the cover that houses the heater thermostat, and element etc. But first…shut off the electricity to the tank. Make sure you do this….shut off the electricity to the tank. If in doubt, shut off all the power to the cottage.
Remove the two or four screws holding the cover using a screwdriver, and pull out the insulation.

You will see the element, along with a thermostat and some wires. The element looks like hexagon shaped object with two wires attached to it. Remove the wires.

Provided you tank has drained, (no more water coming from the hose and lots on the ground) You can unscrew the element. You’ll need a big, big socket, or most folks get them out with big vice grips or a pipe wrench depending on where it’s located. There is a tool called an element wrench you may need, but a big socket will do the trick. If you are lucky enough to have a buddy like my buddy Doug, he’ll find you a 38mm socket and the wrench to go with it, and you’re in business.

Once you get the element out, you’ll probably find it rusty and or corroded. Throw it away…oh wait! Stop, before you through it with you to the hardware store and get one either like it, or the equivalent to it. Make sure the voltage is the same as the one you took out, probably 120 or 240. Mine was 240. It should look something like this…

CHROMALOX SG1077 430406 Electric Replacement Water Heater Element

To install the new element, just do everything you did to get the old one out in reverse. Make sure the new one has a gasket with it, and screw it in, tighten it up using your buddy Doug’s 38mm socket. Reattach the wires, to the element, the insulation, and assorted parts that you took off, and put the cover back on.

Then, open the valve and let the tank fill up. Of course by now you have removed the garden hose and closed the drain valve. Leave the hot water tap open to let the air escape.

Now this is important, don’t turn the power to the tank back on until you have a steady stream of water coming from the tank and you are sure it is full. You don’t want that hot water tank on without water in it, or you will burn out your brand new element all over again.

Once you have a steady stream of water coming from the hot water tank, turn on the electric, close the tap and go have a nap. When you wake up in a few hours you should have hot water!

Nothing to it….scale of difficulty 3/10 if you have the right wrench, 10/10 if you don’t!

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