Upper Element

Rheem electric water heater 50 gallon. No UPPER ELEMENT INSTALLED? Unit is 2 years old.

Tell the buyer just to take fast showers.

How many watts on the lower element?
What size wire and breaker?

Rheem makes a single element water heater. Did you notice a solar panel anywhere?

No solar panel. Data tag shows wattage for upper & lower element. This unit could have been connected in series in the past. I have called several plumbers they have never seen this, before.


Does RHEEM make a single element water heater for the USA? I think they do for AUSTRALIA.


Rheem does make 50 gallon single element special order units. Not sure if it would make a huge difference in heating the water since in a two element heater only one element is on at a time. Do you have a photo of the nameplate?


First time I ever seen one. I learn something everyday. If you do not, it was not a good day.


The way I always understood how a water heater worked is the second element kicked on when a lot of water was being used such as taking a shower. And some water heaters kick on both elements at the same time. Was I misinformed?

I’m no expert on HWH’s but of all of the ones that I’ve wired over the years they were all set up for non-simultaneous use of the two elements. Maybe someone has a photo of a nameplate that does show simultaneous dual element operation. This is from the Rheem PDF that I posted earlier:

From what I have seen of dual element’s the upper element satisfies the upper t-stat first. If the the cold water entering the tank cools the bottom t-stat the upper relay closes and the lower element is energized until the lower t-stat is satisfied resulting in a full tank of hot water. If only the upper element is working you will only have a partial tank of water. If the upper is not working, generally you will have no hot water.

This type water heater configuration with lack of an upper thermostat and heat element is normally ordered for a series or solar panel installation.
The upper element normally only turns on at start up.
Once the upper thermostat detects the set heat it will divert power to the lower thermostat.
With that said, theoretically the lower element works 99% of the time because the hot water rises as the lower element heats the entire tank.
Since the cold water coming into the tank enters at the bottom as the hot water goes out the top, the lower element engages as soon as the mixed water drops below the set temp in the bottom thermostat.
The upper element will over ride the lower element if it detects a temperature that goes below the both preset levels which should be the same temp setting.
Commonly you will not engage the upper element unless you use most all the hot water in the tank.
What is important is the lower thermostat should have reset button on it, if it does not remove the old and install a new one with a reset.
You should never notice the upper works are missing unless you use a lot of hot water in a short time.
Recoup of heat loss will be a little longer if the tank is used to capacity.

No. Only 1 element is on at a time. If 2 (total 6000 watts) were on for a 50 gal US (40 gal Imp) tank, the draw would be 25 amps on a #12 AWG wire!!

Up here, the arrangement of element use is called “flip-flop”. The top stat is always satisfied first as that is where water is drawn from- the top of the tank. With this demand arrangement, there is always hot water available where it’s drawn from.

When the top stat is satisfied and the bottom stat is calling for power, it then comes on to heat the cool/cold water at the bottom of the tank where it is/was introduced by the supply tube.

Maybe I didn’t make myself clear…once the upper t-stat is satisfied the upper element is not energized…