Guide on How to Replace Water Heater Element Without Draining

Replace Water Heater Element in 10 Steps

Water heaters are an essential part of every home, especially during the winter times. You can’t imagine a day without it. These heaters do require regular maintenance to work efficiently and one of the important components is the heating element.

Over time the heating element can be damaged, which might lead to decreased efficiency and potential leaks. 

To replace the water heater element without draining, you can use an element wrench, pliers, and pipe wrench as other substitutes. Generally, an element wrench is used to perform this task by loosening the heating element clockwise till it becomes removable.

If you want to know more about how to replace water heater element without draining, keep reading till the end!

How to Replace Water Heater Element Without Draining 

a professional water heater expert trying to replace water heater element without draining

Replacing a water heater element without draining can be a bit challenging, but it’s possible and can be done easily. Here’s a step-by-step guide to performing the task:

Step 01: Turn Off the Power Supply

Before working on your water heater, turn off the power supply and electricity. You can use an electrical tester and test to confirm that the electricity is turned off.

This is crucial to prevent electrical shocks. 

Step 02: Turn Off the Water Supply

Turn off the water supply to your water heater. You can find the shutoff valve near the top of the water heater. Turn it clockwise to shut off the water supply.

Step 03: Locate the Element

Now it’s time to locate the element. Typically, the water heater element is located near the bottom of the tank.

Depending on your water heater model, you can also find the element at the top of the tank. It’s often located behind a panel or cover.

You can use a flashlight to see it clearly.

Step 04: Drain Some Water

To reduce the water pressure inside the tank, you must drain a small amount of water. You can use a garden hose to connect to the drain valve at the top or bottom of the tank and turn on the valve. 

Wait for a while to let the water drain out of the tank.

Step 05: Disconnect Wires

After draining some water from the tank, proceed to disconnect the wires attached to the heating element and make a note before checking the placement of the wires. Use a screwdriver to loosen the screws that hold the wires to the element. 

Step 06: Remove the Element

Once the wires are disconnected, use a heating element wrench to loosen and remove the faulty heating element from the tank.

Attach the element wrench to the heating element by inserting the square end of the wrench into the square hole on the heating element. By creating a handle, you can use a screwdriver to hold the element wrench in place.

After that, turn the element wrench counterclockwise to loosen the heating element and be careful not to damage the threads in the meantime. Continue turning it by hand until it comes out of the tank.

Step 07: Inspect and Replace

Once you’ve removed the element, inspect it for any damage or signs of wear. If it’s damaged, replace it with a new one by screwing a new element in its place using an electric wrench again. 

After removing the old heating element,  replace the new one. Insert the new element into the tank and tighten it with the wrench.

Try to go for a heating element of the same size and wattage as the old one. 

Step 08: Reconnect the Wires

Once the new heating element is securely in place, reconnect the wires to the new element.

Make sure to attach each wire to the correct terminal and tighten the screws with the screwdriver.

Step 09: Refill the Tank

After reconnecting the wires, close the drain valve and turn on the water supply to refill the tank. 

Check for leaks around the heating element area and fix any leaks if necessary.

Step 10: Turn on the Power

Finally, turn the power supply to the water heater by switching on the circuit breaker or turning on the gas valve. 

Allow the water to heat up for a few hours before using it.

Note: For a better visual understanding, you can check out the video and execute the process. 

ALSO READ: Water Heater Not Heating After Replacing Elements

Different Types of Electric Wrench to Replace Water Heater Element 

 An electric wrench can be useful for replacing a water heater element without a socket. It can provide a quick and efficient way to remove the element without the need for manual effort. There are different sizes of electric wrenches available:

1. Small Size Water Heater Element Wrench

The small-size water heater element wrench is the one that is utilized the vast majority of the time. 

This wrench normally has a diameter of 3 inches (7.6 cm) and two handles that provide a dual-handed grasp. 

The small-size wrench is developed to install and remove heating components found in smaller water heaters.

2. Medium Size Water Heater Element Wrench

Medium Wrenches for water heater elements are larger than their smaller counterparts but are still quite compact. 

These wrenches have a diameter of around 4 inches (10.2 cm) and include four handles for improved ease of grasp. These wrenches are perfect for use while in water heaters of medium size.

3. Large Size Water Heater Element Wrench

The big water heater element wrench is the tool that should be used while working on large water heaters. 

Generally, the diameters of these wrenches range from 5 inches (12.7 cm) to 6 inches (15.24 cm), which is a substantial increase in size compared to the other two kinds (15.2 cm). 

Because of this, they are an excellent choice for installation on more substantial water heaters.

Substitutes for Using Water Heater Element Wrench 

While using a water heater element wrench is the recommended method for removing a water heater element, there are a few possible substitutes you can try if you don’t have an element wrench on hand.

1. Pliers

To take out the heating element, you can grab it with a set of channel lock pliers or slip-joint pliers and then spin it in the other direction, counterclockwise. 

Pliers, on the other hand, might not give a secure enough grasp on the element and might end up damaging either the element or the tank in the process.

2. Pipe Wrench

Another tool that could be helpful in releasing the tightness of a water heater element so that it can be removed is a pipe wrench. 

Nevertheless, it can be challenging to place the wrench properly on the element, and the teeth of the wrench have the potential to cause damage to the element if they come into contact with it.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How do I know if my water heater element needs to be replaced?

Replacing a water heater element is a bit of a difficult task. There are a few signs, such as – inconsistent water temperature, heater taking a long time to heat up, and quick hot water depletion.

  • Can I replace a water heater element myself, or do I need a professional?

Although replacing a water heater element on your own is feasible, having some plumbing expertise and electrical wiring experience is important. If you’re uncertain or uneasy with the procedure, it’s advisable to seek professional assistance to prevent any safety hazards or tank damage.

  • How often should I replace my water heater element?

The lifespan of a water heater element can vary depending on usage and maintenance. Generally, they can last 10 years. But if you notice any signs of wear or damage, or if your water heater is not functioning properly, you may need to replace the water heater element before the time.

Final Words

By now, you have understood how to replace the water heater element without draining. Removing or replacing a water heater element without draining may seem daunting, but it’s easy. 

Following the steps outlined above, you can remove and replace your water heater element quickly. 

If, on the other hand, you feel uneasy dealing with a water heater, we strongly recommend that you seek the assistance of a trained expert.

Keep in mind that doing maintenance on your water heater on a regular basis may increase its longevity, which in turn can save you money on your monthly energy costs.

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