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What You Should Know About Water Heater Heating Element Replacement

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Appliances that generate heat rely on heating elements such as conductive coils or filaments. In most modern water heaters, the heating element is a cylindrical metal rod that extends into the hot water tank. Some heaters have both an upper and lower heating element. Heating elements wear over time due to a variety of factors and eventually need to be replaced. Here's what you should know about replacing the heating element in your water heater.

What Causes Heating Element Failure?

Sediment is the number one cause of damage to water heater heating elements. Minerals in your water supply gradually collect inside your hot water tank. These minerals form sediment deposits that can build up on the heating elements and other parts of the tank interior. When the heating element is covered with sediment, it will start to overheat. Overheating will eventually cause the element to crack or burn out.

Corrosion is another common culprit behind heating element failure in water heaters. Metal components that are constantly in contact with water will naturally rust over time. To counteract this, a part called the anode rod attracts ions in your water and rusts to protect the rest of the water heater. Failing to replace a rusted anode rod may allow corrosion to attack the heating element. Yearly professional inspections will ensure your anode rod is replaced before other components can be damaged.

What Are the Signs of a Bad Heating Element?

If the heating elements in your water heater are bad, the most obvious sign is a lack of hot water. You may have no hot water at all, your water may be lukewarm, or it may be hot at first only to quickly run out. If the heating element has not yet failed but is nearing failure, you may hear popping or rattling noises from your water heater. These sounds usually indicate high levels of sediment buildup in your hot water tank, so they warrant an inspection.

How Do You Replace a Water Heater Heating Element

Modern water heaters have removable panels that allow you to easily access the heating elements. If you have DIY electrical experience, you can test your heating element before you decide to replace it yourself. A multimeter attached to the heating element terminals will read 0 ohms of resistance if the heating element is malfunctioning. Be sure to shut off the power to your water heater before removing the panel and testing the heating element.

To replace the heating element, you will need to shut off both power and water to your water heater and drain the hot water tank. Some heating elements are removed by unscrewing them with a ratchet wrench, while others are simply held in place with screws. Many homeowners leave this process to a professional to avoid any risks of injury or causing further damage to the water heater.

If your water heater is underperforming and you suspect the heating element may be to blame, don't hesitate to call a local company such as Rooter Express Plumbing & Drain. Replacing the heating element is a quick and easy service call that will return your water heater to peak performance.