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Thread: Two elements vs. one element

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  1. #1
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    Default Two elements vs. one element

    I'm building a new house and am wondering, is it better to use a hot water with two elements rated at 4500w or a water heater with a single element rated at 5500w? The catalog claims the 5500w has a 20% quicker recovery rate.

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    It's quicker because it is 20% bigger, not because it is one element verses two. With two elements, they are normally setup to operate with one or the other, not both. The hot water comes off of the top of the WH and the dip tube directs the incoming cold water towards the bottom of the tank. When you get close to running out of hot, the only element that normally is running is the one at the top which is trying to keep the water going out the pipe as hot as it can get it; otherwise, the bottom one kicks on once the top reaches the set point. So, with only one at the bottom, you might recover quicker, but the last of the water coming out might just end up getting colder and colder without that extra kick of the upper element. I'm told that you can get some where it can operate both elements at the same time, which would be larger than the single element one. Either might require rewiring and a new breaker, as the current draw is larger.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    You can get two element heaters with 5500 watt elements. With 2 elements, you have a "backup" when the lower one burns out, which will keep some hot water in the tank until it is repaired. With one element, when it burns out you have NO hot water until it is fixed. One element heaters are usually a lower level model than those with two elements. In fact, Bradford White one element heaters often only have a one year warranty.

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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    You can get two element heaters with 5500 watt elements. With 2 elements, you have a "backup" when the lower one burns out, which will keep some hot water in the tank until it is repaired. With one element, when it burns out you have NO hot water until it is fixed. One element heaters are usually a lower level model than those with two elements. In fact, Bradford White one element heaters often only have a one year warranty.
    Do you know what brand has two element/5500 watts? All the duals I have found are 4500. I did find a hybrid but I don't see how it would help me. If I put it in the garage it's going to take the heat out of the air and in the winter that might be enough to freeze my pipes.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Every brand can be ordered with them. AO Smith ProMax can be ordered with 4500, 5500, or 6000 watt elements. Some 9, 10, and 12 year warranty heaters come with 5500 watt elements so you actually get some benefits from the extra cost.

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    So, other than a quicker recovery is there an advantage or disadvantage of 4500/5500 watt? It seems like if I can get a 5500 watt, why would I want a 4500 watt. There would be no more energy consumed with the 5500 watt since it would be on a shorter time than the 4500 watt. I'm thinking a 5500 watt dual element with all the insulation I can get would be the best. Perhaps a jacket as well. Does this seem right? Why aren't they all made with 5500 watt elements to start with?

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