How To Replace Your Electric Water Heater Thermostats

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Today we will be showing you how to replace your electric water heater upper and lower thermostats. Almost all residential water heater thermostats are interchangeable. However the single element water heater thermostats will not work on a double element water heater. So be sure to order the correct thermostats for your application.

First start by locating the water heater breaker within the electrical panel. Once you have we can turn the breaker to the OFF position.

Once the power is off to the water heater we can now remove the upper inspection cover. To do this you will need a ¼” nut driver or a flat screw driver. With the upper cover removed we can now carefully remove the clear/ white plastic cover over the terminals. With that removed you can take your 110 voltmeter and test the top two terminals to make sure there is No power going to the water heater and you have the correct breaker turned off.

Now that we confirmed we have the power off. We can proceed to remove the upper thermostat. First it might be a good idea to draw a diagram or snap a picture with your cell phone. After that we can now disconnect all the wires going to the thermostat and swing them out of the way using a phillips screwdriver. The water heater thermostat is held tightly against the tank with a bracket made of spring steel.

To remove the thermostat, pry one side of the bracket out with a flat screwdriver or your finger just far enough to release the thermostat. Repeat to the other side of the bracket and then slide the it upwards remove the thermostat. Be careful not to pry to hard as you don’t want to bend the spring steel as it will not hold the new thermostat tight against the tank and may affect how it reads the temperature.

With the old thermostat removed we can now unpackage our new thermostat and slide it into the spring clip. With the thermostat installed we can now reconnect all the wires using the phillips screwdriver and your diagram or picture that we took before. Double check that the terminals are tight and the wires are held under the screw. Well set the temperature to 120 degrees to start and then can increase if you need to. Any higher then 120 you will run into the scold factor for young children and elderly people. Once we have it set we can reinstall the plastic cover over the terminals.


Next we can move onto the lower thermostat. First we’ll take the ¼ nut driver or a flat screwdriver and remove the lower inspection cover. With the cover removed we can now remove the plastic cover over the terminals. You will notice that the lower thermostat only has two wires going to it. We can take the phillips screwdriver and remove both wires and then press the clips and remove the old thermostat. Next we can unpackage our new one and slide it in and clip it into position.

Once we have the new one in we can reconnect the wires using the phillips screwdriver. Once we have the wires connected we can set the temperature. The top and bottom thermostats should be set to the same temperature. Be careful not to set it to high as it will cause serious burns. Once the temperature is set you can proceed to reinstall the plastic cover over the terminals and then put the insulation back down and reinstall the lower inspection cover.

Next we can go back up to the top thermostat before we reinstall the top inspection cover it’s a good idea to power the water heater back up and you should hear one of the heating elements heating up. If you don’t you can shut the power off and then remove the plastic cover. Once you have the cover removed you can turn the power back on and grab a 110v test meter and test the top two screws on the upper thermostat to see if the power is back onto the heater. Testing both should show 220-240v and if you test each one screw separate you should see 110-120v.

Once you know the heater is heating or that you have the correct voltage going to the water heater we can reinstall the top inspection cover.

That’s it we have just showed you how to replace your upper and lower thermostats in your electric water heater/ hot water heater.


*Note: Depending on how long your water heater has been off will determine how long it will take to reach your desired temperature. If it is been off for a while or you used it until it went cold it will take about 30-45 minutes to reach temperature.







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