How To Replace The Lower Element On A Electric Water Heater

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Today we will showing you how to replace the lower element on a electric water heater.


To start you should be able to locate a sticker on your water heater that will have the recommended wattage for your upper and lower elements. On this 30 gallon heater it calls for a 3500 watt element. Most 40 gallon heater call for a 4500 watt element. So be sure to check your heater to see what size element you need for yours.


Once you have the correct element we can local the breaker that powers the water heater and turn it to the OFF position. Once we have the breaker off we can take a ¼” nut driver or flat screwdriver and remove the top inspection panel. Once we have the cover removed we can move the wires out of the way and lift the insulation out of the way. Next we can remove the plastic cover and use a 110v test meter and touch it to the top two screws to ensure you have shut off the correct circuit breaker.


Now that we know the water heater has no power going to it we can take the ¼” nut driver or screwdriver and remove the lower inspection panel. With the cover removed we can move the wires out of the way and then use some duct tape or electrical tape to hold the insulation out of the way. Once we have the insulation out of the way we can remove the plastic cover from over the terminals. Just under the lower thermostat you will see the lower element. Next we can grab a phillips screwdriver and loosen both screws and remove the wires off the element.


Now we are almost ready to remove the lower element there are two ways you can do it. The easiest way and probably the best for most viewers is to shut both valves on the water heater. The cold going in and the hot going out. Then attach a garden hose to the drain valve on the water heater and run it outside or into the floor drain. Once the hose is hooked on and run to a safe place to get rid of the water you can open the drain valve and also open the pressure relief valve and drain the tank.


The second way and the way we do it most of the time as we are in an unfinished area/ basement is two shut the cold valve going into the water heater and the hot valve going out. Then grab a bucket and hold it under the pressure relief valve and open it and drain off the top of the tank. That way the tank will be in a bit of a vacuum when we remove the element and air will be trying to get in as the water is trying to get out thus minimizing how much water comes at us. The only problem with doing this is you need to make sure that when you remove the old element you also have the old gasket on the element. You don’t want to stick the new element in and have the old and new gaskets in there as it will cause a leak.


Next we can grab a ratchet and a 1 ½ socket or a decent sized pair of channel locks to loosen the lower element. So we’ll take the ratchet and 1 ½ socket and crack the lower element loose. Once loose we can turn it by hand pushing inward on it to keep it sealed for as long as possible. While having the new element in our other hand ready to insert it. Once un-threaded we can slide the old one out and then new one in quickly making sure the old gasket is on the old element.


Once we have the new element hand tight we can use the ratchet and the socket and tighten it up. It doesn’t need to be sure tight as it’s a new gasket. Now that the new element is sealed up we can look at the old element. The reason the old one failed is because of the mineral build up right at the beginning of the element. The current seems to arc or jumping across the mineral build up and not going threw the element to generate the heat to heat up the water.


Next we can slide our wires back under the screw terminals and then grab the phillips screwdriver and tighten down the terminals to hold the wires. Give them a wiggle and a pull to make sure they are secure. Once there tight we can reinstall the plastic cover over the terminals. Next we can remove the tape and let the insulation go back into position and then move our wires back into position.


Once we have the wires pushed back into position we can reinstall the lower inspection cover. Then use our ¼” nut driver or flat screwdriver to tighten the screw to hold the cover in place. Next we can go back to the top inspection cover and reinstall the plastic cover then move the wires back into position. Then reinstall the top inspection cover and tighten the screw.


Now with the top inspection cover on the next step is a very important one. Next we need to fill the heater with water and bleed the air out of it BEFORE we turn the power on. So if you drained the entire heater you will want to turn the cold water valve on and then grab a bucket and hold it under the pressure relief valve and open it and hold it open until water comes out then let it shut.


The next step will be the same once you finished the above step if you drained the entire heater or if you did it our way. Open the hot side valve and let the hot water flow into the house. Next we need to go upstairs and run all the faucets on hot to get ALL the air out.


Once we have all the air out of the heater we can now turn the breaker back on and power up the water heater. If you turn the power on without getting all the air out you risk damaging the upper thermostat or upper element.


So with the water heater powered back up that’s it we have just showed you how to replace the lower element in your water heater.








my hot water heater quit working at my cabin in the woods. I had never worked with one or dealt with one before. I went to YouTube and you came up first. I watched your video on how to replace the element and I did it just as you showed and worked out perfectly. Thank you very much God bless ‍♂️‍♂️‍♂️

You’re welcome, Glad we could help get your water heater back up and running. Thanks for taking the time to leave us a comment and for watching. Don’t forget to give the video a thumbs up/ like if you haven’t already. Thanks

I just watched your video on replacing a lower heating element on a home water heater. Awesome video!! I have one question though: On my water heater, the lower pipe coming out of the tank is cold to the touch…while the upper one is nice and hot/warm. We get hot water at first but then if my kids shower first, my wife and I have no hot water.

I suspected a bad lower element (due to the fact the line coming out of the bottom of the tank is cold to the touch) however when I test for power at the element I see 240v, and when I disconnect the wires, I get 12 ohms. So…I guess my question is: can you still have a bad heating element even if it ohms out OK? Thanks so much!! I’m an ASE Certified Auto Tech (for a Dodge dealership) but when it comes to household stuff I’m a newbie! Thanks so much!! -Rick

Not sure what brand/ size water heater you have. Most have the pipes coming out of the top of the heater. One is the cold water in which uses a dip tube to push the cold water to the bottom of the tank pushing your hot water to the top and out the hot pipe exit. If you have nice hot water for one shower or half a shower then I would say there’s a problem with the lower element. As your using the nice hot water off the top of the tank and then when you get to the bottom its just cold water as the element hasn’t headed it up to temp. Yes if you test the element terminals it will show 240v as both those wires are bringing 240v to the element. You would need to remove one leg/wire (110v) and then test the terminal of the wire you removed to see if the other 110v leg is passing though the element and to that terminal. There are times well they will test fine but like the one in the video its passing though the build up and not the element itself. You’re welcome, Hopefully you have it fixed by now and are getting plenty of hot water. Sorry for the late reply. Don’t forget to give the video a thumbs up/ like if you haven’t already. Thanks

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