It didn’t take long for me to notice I was running out of hot water rather quickly during showers as winter set in. The water was good and hot but only for about half a shower. After checking the water heater thermostat and doing some thinking, I deduced my lower water heater element had gone out. So I shutoff the breaker, lifted a lead on the element and did a check with a multimeter for proof. I had never replaced an element before, but I figured it couldn’t be too hard. I assumed I’d have to drain the tank, but I didn’t want to. So I didn’t, and it worked. Here’s what I did:

  • Shut off the breaker to the water heater.  Check with a multimeter to ensure the power is off at the tank.
  • Run some hot water in a shower for a few minutes to cool down the water in the tank (you don’t want hot water pouring on you out of a 2 inch hole).
  • Shut off the water at the meter. Don’t ever trust the shutoff valves in the house.
  • Shut off all water faucets in the house. Shut off the inlet and outlet valves going to the tank, if they exist. This helps hold the water in the tank. Sort of like holding your thumb over the end of a straw when it’s full of Coca Cola.
  • Prepare the new element by putting on the new gasket.
  • Disconnect power from the old element and push the wires out of the way.
  • Place a towel and a container below the element to capture any water that comes out.
  • Loosen the element, and with cat like reflexes, replace it with the new one and tighten.
  • Connect power to the new element, turn on the shutoff valves and the valve at the meter.
  • Check for leaks.
  • Close the breaker to the water heater and you’re done.
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