Home Fix: Fixing electric water heater can be a simple DIY fix
By C. DWIGHT BARNETTTribune News Service
Q: My electric water heater is failing, and I’m not getting enough hot water. Do I need a new water heater, or can I fix this and wait? What about tankless water heaters?
A: Electric water heaters have two heating elements, each covered with a removable access plate. One is near the top of the heater and one is near the bottom.
The heating element near the bottom does most of the work in heating the cool water that enters the tank. Because hot water will rise to the top of the tank, the top element works to keep the water at a set temperature. If you have hot to warm water only for a short time, it is most likely that the bottom element has failed.
This is a simple DIY fix if you are comfortable working around high voltage equipment. If not, hire a professional to make the repairs.
First turn off the electric power supply to the water heater. In most cases the water heater will have a separate electric panel or fuse box. Simply turning off the main breaker or fuse at the main panel could leave the heater energized if it has its own separate electric panel.
The next step is to turn off the cold water supply to the water heater. This may be a valve at the water heater or one for the entire house. You then need to remove the pressure from inside the tank by opening several hot water faucets. It is not advisable to open the drain at the bottom of the heater or to vent the temperature relief valve on the heater. Either of these valves can become blocked with sediment and would need to be replaced to prevent leaks.
You can now safely remove the bottom element and replace it with a new one of the same wattage. There should be a manufacturer’s identification label on the water heater’s jacket with the wattage rating listed. If not, go online to the manufacturer’s website and refer to the model number of your unit.
When finished, close the hot water faucets, turn the water on slowly and make sure there are no leaks. Reattach the cover plate to the heating element and, once the heater is filled with water, turn the electrical power back on. Follow the same procedure for replacing the top element.
As far as an electric-fired tankless water heater, until improvements have been made, the availability of hot water these units produce is less than a storage water heater. Homes that have domestic solar hot water can be enhanced with a tankless electric water heater. However if natural gas or propane gas is available, a gas-fired tankless water heater is, in my opinion, superior to a common storage-type water heater.
C. Dwight Barnett is a
certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.
Write to him with home improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, Ind. 47702 or e-mail him at d.Barnett@insightbb.com.
Can not find him listed on the CMI site http://certifiedmasterinspector.org/results/?browse_letter=b