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When it comes to hot water heater, there are two most common types of systems, electric hot water heater and gas hot water heater. Electric hot water systems have two heating elements. These elements are the parts responsible for heating the water inside the unit. In case of gas water heaters, they have a burner that heats the water instead. In electric water heaters, the lower element is typically the one that burns out more quickly, especially in case of hard water conditions. The sediments from dissolved calcium and other water minerals encase the lower element, which eventually leads to shorting out of it. Be sure you purchase a replacement element with the same voltage and wattage ratings as the damaged part.

Things you should get before you start the procedure:
  • New element and gasket
  • Garden hose
  • Phillips screwdriver
  • Water heater element wrench

1 - Shut down power to the water heater. Some times the units are plugged into the wall unit. Also, sometimes they are hard wired directly in your electrical line. Hence, if it is plugged in the wall, just unplug it, and if it is hard wired, just turn off the main breaker to the house. Shut down the heater at least two hours before attempting to remove the element. The water inside the tank is about 120 degrees or higher, and it can scald you if it contacts your skin.
2 - Next, you will need to turn off the cold water line that feeds the water heater tank. The top of most of the heaters have the word "COLD" stamped where the line goes into the tank. On top of that, most of the cold water lines are marked blue to indicate that it is the cold water line. If yours do not, feel the supply line and you would be able to tell which line is cold to touch. Once you have located the link, turn the valve counterclockwise to stop the line from feeding the water heater.
3 - Now, open the closest hot water tap located near the system and open it. This will let the air steep inside the system and will help in draining of the hot water heater.
4 - Find a length of garden hose long enough to reach from the tank to the outside. Connect one end of the hose to the spigot located at the bottom of the tank, and run the other end outside. Open the spigot and allow the tank to drain. The water should no longer be hot, and you can use it to water plants or the lawn. Most tanks hold 55 gallons or more, so it’s worth using that water rather than contributing to runoff.
5 - Now you will have to remove the screws that hold down both of the element's access cover in place. The cover is 6 or 7 inches long, and is typically held in place with two Phillips-head screws. Once you have removed the cover, push the insulation aside so as to be able to reach the heating element.
6 - Now loosen the screws that are holding the two heavy gauge wires in the system. After you have done so, bend the wires and move them out of the way.
7 - Slip a heating element wrench onto the element if your water heater has a screw-in type element. This is a specialty tool with a wide mouth designed to fit over the element’s nut in a tight space. You can purchase one from most hardware stores or home centers. If your unit has a flange-style element, remove the four Phillips-head screws that hold it in place. A screw-in element has a large nut where it meets the tank; the flange does not.

 8 - Remove the existing element. You may need to wiggle the element to free it, especially if it has burned through.
9 - Once done, push the rubber gasket over the new heating element threaded end. You should’ve got the gasket with the new heating element. Hand fit the new element into the place, and make sure that it easily turns, this indicates that there has been no cross threading. Secure the element as tight as with you hand and then finish tightening it with the heating element wrench. For flange-style elements, insert the Phillips-head screws into the flange and tighten them in place, making sure the new gasket slips into the recess in the tank. Tighten the screws in a diamond pattern so the flange contacts evenly.
10 - Turn the tank’s drain spigot clockwise to tighten it, and remove the garden hose. Re-open the cold water supply, and allow the tank to fill. Check the nearby hot water tap you opened earlier. It should pop and sputter as air leaks out of the line. When cold water flows, shut the tap.
11 - Attach the two heavy gauge wires to the new element. Pull the insulation back into position, and then re-attach the access cover. Wait until the tank has filled completely, then turn the breaker back on or plug the water heater back in.