Do it Yourself: Repair An Electric Water Heater.
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Do it Yourself: Repair An Electric Water Heater.

Simple steps to repair an electric hot water heater. Where to find parts and tools for repairing an electric hot water heater.

Repairing a faulty water heater yourself can be a frustratingly difficult experience. It can also be ultimately simple. It's up to you. Any handy person can repair a water heater if they follow these simple steps .The first signs that your water heater is faltering will either be unusually scalding hot water followed by a rapid decline in hot water or a complete lack of hot water all together. At this point you need to see if your water heater is repairable. If it is, a relatively handy person can usually fix it in less than an hour and for under fifty bucks. Having it serviced by a technician will cost from $150 - $350 for repair or on up to $2000 for replacement.

If the pan under your water heater is full of rusty flowing water and that water is flowing out of the pan's overflow pipe... Turn off the supply valve to the hot water tank. This is usually located above the tank. Call a technician at this point. Your water heater has run out of life and will need replacement.

If however your water heater looks perfectly fine, isn't leaking but just isn't producing hot water... it's probably fixable.

There should be two covers on the front of your water heater. With a screwdriver remove the top one first.There should be a red high limit trip switch beneath this cover. DO NOT TOUCH ANY OF THE WIRES. Press the red button. If it clicks, you may not have to do anything else. Wait a few hours to see if your water heats up and you should be all set. If however your water doesn't heat up or the limit switch continually trips, then further action is necessary.

Step #1 Shut off power to the water heater at the breaker box.

Step #2 Shut off the water supply to the water heater.

Step #3 Attach a garden hose to the spigot located at the bottom of the water heater and drain the water out of the water heater into the yard.

Step #4 Remove the top and bottom cover plates from the water heater along with any insulation. There should be two thermostats (One on top and one at the bottom.) there will be wires attached to them and they are attached to heating elements. You will need to replace these. You will need to go to Lowe's, Home Depot or a plumbing supply store to get a replacement element kit for about $35. The kit will include two heating elements and two thermostats. When buying heating elements remember that size doesn't matter so buy the shorter ones because they're easier to install. You will also need to buy an element wrench but I recommend buying a 1 1/4" shallow socket for your ratchet if  you have one. (You won't be able to buy this socket at Lowe's or Home Depot but you will be able to get one at a plumbing supply store for about $13. If the brand name of your water heater is a State, you will need a     1 3/8" socket and element kit only available at a plumbing supply store.) The element wrenches are cheap and tend to strip out and the socket is much more reliable. Also pick up some duct tape.

Step #5 Place duct tape around the edges of both openings on the water heater. The housing edges are very sharp and skipping this step will result in numerous cuts on your hands.

Step #6 Detach the wires from the top element with a screw driver and remove the top element with your ratchet. Next, carefully install your new element. Screw it in being sure not to cross thread it. Once you get it started snug it tight with your ratchet being sure not to over tighten it. Repeat this step for the bottom element.

Step #7 Close the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. Open all hot water faucets in the home before refilling the hot water heater so the system doesn't become air bound. Turn on the water supply to the hot water heater and wait for water to be coming out of all faucets with a normal flow before shutting them off.

Step #8 Check the water heater for leaks. If there are any leaks try carefully snugging the elements a little tighter to stop the leak. If either element is leaking you will have to turn the water supply off and re-drain the heater. Remove the leaking element and try some pipe dope on the threads of the element. (I prefer not to use this but you may have to for a stubborn leak.) Repeat step #7.

Step #9 Assuming your elements are in, the water is on and you have no leaks it's time to replace the thermostats. This is very simple. Remove one wire from the old thermostat and put it in the same spot on the new one. There should be enough play in the wires to accomplish this so you don't have to worry about mixing the wires up. once all is re-wired,turn on the power. As long as no breakers trip and nothing smolders etc. you're done. Carefully replace the insulation being sure not to touch any wires and replace your cover plates.

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Comments (2)

Interesting. Informative. Well written.

This is outstanding work. Thanks for sharing.

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