Most homes are equipped with gas or electric water heaters. Electric water heaters use either 120- or 240-volt power to energize heating elements that protrude into the water and heat the water. These elements are subjected to water that encompass them. Every electric water heater has either one or two heater elements that are mounted in the side of the water heater tank.
A common problem with electric water heater failure is that the elements burn out. But how do you check to see if indeed this is the problem? Well to determine if it has failed, you can go to your nearest faucet and turn on the hot water. If the water is only warm, but never gets hot, it is likely that the top heating element is defective. However, if the water starts out hot and quickly gets cold, the bottom element has likely bit the dust.
If you replace one or both of these elements and it doesn’t cure your hot water problem, it’s time to check the thermostat. The thermostat is the user’s way of adjusting the hotness of the water to be delivered to the faucets throughout the house. It is located under the access panel on the side of the water heater. The cure for the problem may be as simple as turning the temperature up, although it is not likely. Another thing to check is the reset button on the thermostat. It is a red button about the size of the end of your index finger, usually located at the top of the thermostat.
As with any electrical project that you may attempt to do yourself, always turn the power off to the circuit or circuits that you will be working on before you begin the project. Electrical safety should always be observed before you begin and while you perform electrical repairs. Always replace heating elements with the same voltage and wattage rating listed on the element’s nameplate rating. Never replace a 120-volt element with a 240-volt element!
If you do have to replace either the thermostat or the elements, be sure to draw a diagram of the way the wires are connected and it is even easier if you label each wire. Always disconnect power and then drain the water from the tank before attempting to remove the elements. There is a drain located at the bottom of the tank located on the side below the bottom element usually. After replacing the element, simply fill the tank again and open the faucets to release the air that is now in the tank. After the tank is full again and the water flows at full strength from the faucets, turn off the faucets and turn on the power to the water heater. Hopefully, this will keep you from having to take a cold shower!