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Thread: Hot Water tank - Electric

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  1. #1

    Default Hot Water tank - Electric

    We have an electric 40 gal. hot water tank in our garage and I believe something could be wrong with it. In the mornings, the water temp. seems a lot cooler than usual. This has been going on for quite a while and is not due to the colder water in the winter. We have two elements: 2500 watts upper and 2000 watts lower. Total says 2500 so I assume only one heat element is active at a time.

    I want to check the thermostats and heater elements but don't know the correct procedure. If I need to change either one, MUST the water be drained from the tank first???? I don't want to unscrew anything and find water all over the place.

    Thanks all for any information that you may offer.

    Len

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    YOu could have deposits in the tank that insulate the elements. COuld be lots of things. FIrst, try draining some water out and see ifyou get gunk. How old is it?
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    DIY Member jrejre's Avatar
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    I am not a professional plumber, but have done this several times myself. The steps I would take are:

    1) Turn off the electrical power at the circuit breaker panel - MAKE SURE IT"S OFF!

    2) Turn off the supply water to the water heater.

    3) Drain the tank - I use a hose connected to the bottom drain valve

    4) Take off the covers to the access panels for the heating elements. These usually come off with 1 or 2 screws. There's usually 1 about 1/3 the way up and 2/3 the way up.

    5) Usually there is a small insulation pad or insert that has to be pulled out in order to get to each heating element.

    6) Disconnect the wires to the heating elements. Usually you just have to loosen 2 screws for each element.

    7) Get a water heater heating element wrench - not very expensive and available at every hardware store that I'm been to.

    8) Take out each heating element. Often failure is apparent. Replace 1 or both heating elements. Depending upon your appetite for $$, I usually just replace both of them. I think of them kind of like light bulbs. If one goes, the other one will probably go soon. Just my opinion.

    9) Screw back in the new element(s), reconnect the wires, reinstall any insulation cover, screw back on the metal access cover.

    10) Turn on the water and allow the water heater a good 30 minutes to fill. If you turn on the power before both elements are in water, you'll burn out the heating element that's not in water. Better to allow ample time to fill.

    11) Go around and turn on a faucet or to to bleed out air.

    12) Once you are pretty certain it's full of water, turn back on the circuit breaker.

    That should do it.

  4. #4
    Plumber Deb's Avatar
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    Default Deb

    Jadnashua has asked you the most important question: How old is the tank?
    Also, did ANYTHING else, even if you think that it is not related, happen when this seemed to start?
    Do you drain and flush the tank regularly? Deposits can and do encrust the lower element making it less effective, which could conceivably allow the water in the bottom of the tank to cool slightly, if hot water had not been used for a long period, like overnight. However, hot rises and hot is pulled off the top of the tank, so this is not really an option.

    Before you get too carried away checking and/or changing elements and thermostats, lets try to figure out a little more. What you are telling us does not make logical sense, so we need to make some sense out of what is going on. Thermostats and/or elements will affect the heater all the time, not just in the morning. So, do not drain the tank and replace the elements (you can check these for continuity without draining the tank).

    First of all, check the actual temperature at different times of the day. Run the hot only from a two handle faucet when checking. Make sure that no other fixtures are being used.

    Cold water temperatures differences in winter and summer are not really significant (when dealing with hot water temps only, it does affect mixed temps like showers)--the water will heat to a preset temp, it will simply take a very short time longer. And water lines are buried below frost lines, so, unless you have a pressure tank in a colder location, the outside temp may have little to do with the water temp.

    Deb
    The Pipewench

  5. #5

    Default

    Thanks for all the useful informatiom.

    The tank is about 6 years old and we haven't done a think with it besides using the hot warm it produces.

    Nothing unusual happened. I just began to notice that in the mornings the water was not as warm as usual. So, I thought an element or thermostat might have gone out.

    I was just wondering how to proceed. I did turn up the thermostats from about 125 to 130 or so. On Mondays, when my wife washes clothes, she is now complaining that there is not enough hot water. She does that first thing in the morning.

    I didn't know you need a special wrench to remove the heaters. Looked like a
    regular curved head, I forget what you call them, wrench would do it. Looks like a nut that is used in electrical boxes to me.

    Len

  6. #6
    DIY Member jrejre's Avatar
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    Default

    I'm not advocating / promoting this site, just the first good picture I could find of the wrench.

    http://************.com/store/6711634.htm

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