How to Replace an Electric Water Heater Heating Element



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.

Repair difficulty:
Time required:

Less than 30 min.

Parts Required

  • Heating element

For manuals, repair guides, and specific part recommendations, enter your model number.

Tools Required

  • Work gloves
  • Phillip screwdriver
  • Heating element removal socket

Before you begin

Wear work gloves to protect your hands.


 Warning: Undertaking repairs or maintenance to appliances or power equipment can be hazardous. Should you choose to undertake repairs or maintenance, you are assuming the risk of injury to your person or property. In an effort to reduce the risk, use the proper tools and safety equipment noted in the applicable guide and follow all instructions. Do not proceed until you are confident that you understand all of the steps and are capable of completing the repair. Some repairs or maintenance, however, should only be performed by a qualified technician.

How to Replace the Heating Element in an Electric Water Heater

Step 1: Shut off the electricity

Switch the two house circuit breakers dedicated for the water heater to OFF.

Step 2: 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.

Step 3: Remove the heating element’s access cover

Remove the heating element’s access cover mounting screw and pull off the cover.


Fold the insulation back to expose the heating element.

Step 4: Remove the plastic shield

Lift up the tab located at the top of the plastic shield to release the shield from the thermostat and remove the shield.

Step 5: Disconnect the heating element wire connections

Loosen the screws securing the wires to the heating element and disconnect the wires.

Step 6: Remove the heating element

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.

Step 7: Install the new heating element

Insert the new heating element in the tank and tighten firmly.

 Tip: Install a new gasket on element when replacing the heating element or when reinstalling it after cleaning.

Step 8: Connect the heating element wire connections

Reconnect the wires to the new heating element and tighten the screws.

Step 9: Reinstall the plastic shield

Reinstall the plastic shield over the thermostat and heating element.


Fold the insulation back over the thermostat and heating element.

Step 10: Reinstall the access cover

Reinstall the heating element cover and screw.

Step 11: Close the drain valve

Close the drain valve and remove the garden hose.


Flip the relief valve to the closed position.

Step 12: 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: Once the water heater is full of water, water will begin to flow from the hot water faucet that you left open when draining the tank.

 Warning: Don't restore power to the water heater until the tank is full of water.

Step 13: Restore power

Flip the house circuit breakers to the ON position.