This DIY repair guide explains how to replace a heating element on an electric water heater. A typical electric water heater uses two heating elements to heat and maintain hot water. A broken heating element produces no heat, causing the water heater to produce very little hot water or to run out of hot water quickly. Replace a broken heating element with the manufacturer-approved replacement part.
Follow the steps in this repair guide and video to replace the heating element in Kenmore, State, Rheem, A. O. Smith, Whirlpool, Reliance and GE water heaters.
This video shows how to replace the heating element in an electric water heater.
Shut off the electricity
Switch the 2 house circuit breakers dedicated for the water heater to OFF.
Wear work gloves to protect your hands.
Switch the water heater circuit breakers off.
Drain the water heater
Turn off the cold water supply to the water heater.
Attach a garden hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the unit and run the garden hose outside.
Open a hot water faucet in the house or flip the relief valve open on the water heater.
Open the drain valve and allow the tank to drain until empty.Tip: You don't have to drain all the water if you're only replacing the top heating element. If you're replacing the lower heating element, drain all the water.
Turn off the cold water supply.
Attach the garden hose the water heater heater drain valve.
Flip the pressure relief valve to the open position.
Open the drain valve.
Remove the heating element
Remove the heating element’s access cover mounting screw and pull off the cover. Fold the insulation back to expose the heating element.
Lift up the tab located at the top of the plastic shield to release the shield from the thermostat and remove the shield.
Loosen the screws securing the wires to the heating element and disconnect the wires.
Unscrew the heating element from the tank using a heating element socket.
Pull the heating element out of the tank.Tip: Clean the area around the element opening of any sediment before installing the new element.
Remove the access cover screw.
Remove the element cover.
Fold the insulation up.
Remove the shield.
Remove the wires.
Unscrew the heating element.
Pull out the heating element.
Install the new heating element
Insert the new heating element in the tank and tighten firmly.
Reconnect the wires to the new heating element and tighten the screws.
Reinstall the plastic shield over the thermostat and heating element.
Fold the insulation back over the thermostat and heating element.
Reinstall the heating element cover and screw.Tip: Install a new gasket on element when replacing the heating element or when reinstalling it after cleaning.
Install the new heating element.
Tighten the new heating element.
Reconnect the wires to the new heating element.
Reinstall the thermostat shield.
Fold the insulation down in place.
Reinstall the heating element cover.
Reinstall the screw.
Close the drain valve
Close the drain valve and remove the garden hose. Flip the relief valve to the closed position.
Close the drain valve.
Remove the garden hose.
Flip the pressure relief valve to the close position.
Fill the tank with water
Turn the cold water supply on to the water heater and allow the tank to fill with water.
Once you see water coming out of the hot water faucet, turn the hot water faucet off.Tip: Clean the area around the element opening of any sediment before installing the new element.Warning: Don't restore power to the water heater until the tank is full of water.
Turn on the cold water supply.
Flip the house circuit breakers to the on position.
Flip the circuit breakers to the On position.
If the water temperature fluctuates or you don't get enough hot water, follow these instructions to replace your water heater's thermostat.
Replace a broken temperature/pressure (T&P) relief valve on an electric water heater using these instructions.
If your water heater runs out of hot water quickly and one of the two heating elements has failed, replace the element following these step-by-step instructions.
Find out what’s wrong with your appliance by following a circuit.
Learn how to decipher symbols so you can buy the right part for your problem.