Electric Water Heater: Heating element fails often

If you install a new heating element to fix a lack of hot water and the cold-water blast returns again...and again...the problem isn't defective heating elements. Often, frequent failure of the bottom heating element is because there's too much sediment inside the tank. Disconnect power and shut off the water supply, and then drain the tank to flush out sediment. Refill the tank before restoring electrical power to an electric water heater to avoid damaging the heating element.

If the heater doesn't have built-up sediment, high voltage could be damaging the heating elements. Have an electrician check the voltage supply for your water heater if you suspect this problem.

electric water heater

These repairs may help solve your electric water heater problem

Drain water heater tank sediment

Drain water heater tank sediment

Maintain your water heater by regularly draining the tank to flush out sediment. Every year, empty all the water from your water heater to prevents mineral sediment in the bottom of your tank that could reduce the water heater's effectiveness and possibly damage the heating elements. For instructions, see How to drain the tank on an electric water heater video.

Symptoms common to all water heaters

Choose a symptom to see related water heater repairs.

Main causes: water supply needs chlorine treatment, anode rod too reactive
Main causes: thermostat temperature set too high, thermostats need adjustment, faulty thermostat, shorted heating element
Main causes: thermostats need adjustment, water heater capacity too low, bad heating element, thermostat failure, excessive tank sediment
Main causes: lack of power, no gas supply, thermostat limit switch tripped, bad element, bad thermostat, gas valve failure, bad thermocouple
Main causes: faulty pressure relief valve, water is overheating
Main causes: broken heating element, thermostat failure, excessive tank sediment, tank size too small, burner valve assembly failure
Main causes: loose water pipe fittings, leaky drain valve, bad temperature-pressure relief valve, leaky heating element, cracked tank

Repair guides for electric water heaters

How to replace an electric water heater anode rod

If your hot water begins to smell like rotten eggs, replace the anode rod with a zinc-aluminum anode rod following the instructions in this repair guide.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 15 minutes or less
How to replace an electric water heater thermostat

If the water temperature fluctuates or you don't get enough hot water, follow these instructions to replace your water heater's thermostat.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less
July 1, 2015
By Lyle Weischwill
How to replace a water heater drain valve

If the drain valve on your electric water heater is leaking water, replace it following these step-by-step instructions.

Repair difficulty
Time required
 30 minutes or less

Articles and videos common to all water heaters

Use the advice and tips in these articles and videos to get the most out of your water heater.

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How to read a wiring schematic video

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Water heater common questions

By Sears PartsDirect staff

These common questions and answers can help you make the most of your water heater.