How To Replace Water Heater Element


Replacing Your Water Heater Element

Here I will walk you through each of the 6 simple steps of replacing your water heater element. Each step is as important as the other so please don’t skip a head. Here are a couple key points before we get started.

  • This blog post assumes you have already tested your water heater elements and determined that one or both elements are bad. If you haven’t test you elements yet click here to read how to test water heater elements.
  • If you have a dual element water heater don’t waste your time replacing just one element spend the extra $8.00 and replace both.


This is by far the most important step!!!!!

I recommend turning your breaker in the OFF position in your electric panel. A double 30 amp breaker is typical but what you will find but can differ (fig.1)

Please make sure you use an electrical tester to verify the power is OFF. It’s not common but occasionally breaker panels will be marked incorrectly.

Breaker Types

2 Types Of Typical 220v DT Breakers (fig.1)

Step #2 – Drain Your Tank

  1. Leave your water main and water heater valves ON.
  2.  Attach a hose to the boiler drain located at the bottom of the water heater and run to the outdoors or a close drain (fig.2)
  3. Open up the boiler drain and flush the sediment out for 30-60 sec. This will add pressure to any obstructions that may be blocking the drain and help push it through.
  4. Close the boiler drain.
  5. Shut the water heater cold water valve to the OFF position.
  6. Reopen the boiler drain and completely drain the tank. PRO TIP: By opening the T&P valve or the hot side of any faucet in your home, it will relieve any suction allowing the water to drain quicker.
  7. For more see my post: How To Drain A Hot Water Heater

Side note: You can replace your element without draining your tank but these are the reasons I recommend draining.

  1. Your water heater should be flushed yearly anyways to remove minerals and/or contaminants that may be sitting at the bottom of your heater. Why not use this opportunity to do it.
  2. You will be able to better direct where the water goes with a hose therefor less mess.

Water Heater Drain

Water Heater Drain (fig 2)

Step #3 – Removing Your Water Heater Element

How to remove your water heater element

  1. Pull the cover plate off
  2. Pull back the insulation to expose the thermostat and element
  3. Loosen both screws on the element and pull the wire off (fig.3)
  4. Place your water heater element wrench on the element and turn counter clock wise until fully loosened and remove (fig. 4). PRO TIP: Sometimes the old gasket can be let behind from the old element, make sure it is completely removed from the water heater.


Water Heater Element Wires

Water Heater Element Wires (fIg.3)

Water Heater Element Wrench

Water Heater Element Wrench (fig.4)

Step #4 – Installing Your New Element

  1. Insert your new element into the water heater. PRO TIP: I recommend starting this of by hand threading into the water heater, this prevents potential cross threading.
  2. Take your element wrench and tighten it down tight.
  3. Reinstall the wire on the 2 screws and tighten.

At this point I don’t close up the elements so when I turn the water back on I can easily see if there are any leaks.

Step #5 – Test

This is where your hard work pays off!

  1. Turn OFF your water heater drain
  2. Turn ON your water heater valve leaving your P&T valve or your faucet open while it fills. Keeping a close eye on the valve or faucet once water comes out turn off.
  3. Purge your system to remove the air that may be trapped. This simply means go through your house oping all faucets, flushing all toilets and running all tub/showers until you no longer hear air in the system.
  4. Inspect the new water heater elements for any leaks. NOTE: If you do see a leak remove the wires and try to tighten the element a little more until it stops leaking.
  5. Turn ON the water heater breaker
  6. Depending on the incoming water temperature it will take about 15-30 min to get hot water.
  7. Once you have verified NO leaks and HOT water you can install the cover plates.

Step #6 – Celebrate Your Win

Always remember to celebrate even your smallest wins in life. It will help build momentum & strengthen your confidence.



About John Verhoff

I am a creator, inventor, father and husband. Among others, I have owned a home service type business including plumbing for over 19 years.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *