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[SOLVED] Electric Water Heater Help

11051 Views 9 Replies 2 Participants Last post by  BenEboY
Hello everyone. I know I'm going to sound like a complete horses butt here and you guys will probably be thinking, "What the heck is this guy trying to do this himself for?"

Nonetheless, I am attempting to repair my electric water heater myself and I'm running into problem after problem. This is going to be a real long post because I am going to be as detailed as possible since I don't really know what I'm doing or what information you guys will need to be able to assist me.

For the past month or so it seems like the hot water hasn't been lasting very long. Until the day before yesterday that is, when I lost hot water all together. I went to the basement and checked the breaker box first and found that the 30 amp breaker for the water heater was tripped. I reset it and figured in an hour or so I would have hot water. I couldn't have been more wrong. Two days later and I still don't have any hot water.

After scowling through forum after forum online, the best I could come up with is a bad element. Well, there is two of them. A little more research told me that most times it is the bottom one that goes out because of hard water and lime build up and stuff. Most forums, however, recommend changing both just to be safe.

Well, without boring you too much with all my troubles, I have recently fallen into a real financial hardship. (Hence me trying to fix this thing myself.) I could barely afford one element.

I mistakenly bought a 5500 watt element but the original is 4500 watts. If the information that I've read online is correct and if I'm understanding it correctly, this should be fine because it only draws 23 amps and I have a 30 amp breaker. Apparently both elements never run at the same time so my biggest draw will be 23 amps.

So, question number 1.) Is that true? Can I use a 5500 watt element?

My uncle was here yesterday and he used to work maintenance at an apartment complex called Miami Hills where he changed many water heaters.

The trouble is he is lazy and I can't count on him for help. He started to drain the tank for me yesterday but said he was going to have to come back with a tool to remove the old element and that he went ahead and turned the water back on so that I had at least cold water until he could return today.

Well shock and awe he stood me up so I'm back to trying to fix it myself. He did at least say I could come pick up the tool needed to change the element. When I picked up the tool he gave me the quick step by step on what to do and he mentioned I would have to shut off the power, then drain the tank again.

So after shutting the power off I turned one of the valves coming out of the top of the water heater thinking that would shut the water off so I could drain the tank again and water shot out of the valve like a spring! He had left the bottom panel off and I'm worried water got in there on those wires. I remember reading this had to stay completely dry. Of course I immediately turned the valve back the other way and just ended up shutting the main water valve off by the meter. This brings me to my second question.

2.)If those wires or anything in that panel got wet will that cause any permanent damage to the heater? (I was afraid to feel in there in case it was wet and had some kind of residual electricity or something... I don't much care for electricity.)

Anyways, I noticed he still had a hose attached to the bottom valve so I spun it open and to my surprise no water came out. I then gave the water heater a little push trying to determine if there was any water in it or not and it didn't appear as though there was.

I then turned on the main water valve again and right away heard water spraying out of the hose so I immediately shut it off again.

3.)Is there an explanation for the tank already being empty? I know he turned the valve back on because several times today when I washed my hands I accidentally turned on the hot water faucet out of habit and water came out.

One last thing I think I should point out is that when I was doing my research online it seemed like bad elements caused the breaker to trip repeatedly. This was not the case with my heater. It tripped the first time but after that it hasn't tripped again, I just can't get any hot water...

Again, I know I am a complete newb at this and probably don't have any business attempting the repair alone but I build computers, websites, and have replaced 3 car engines for crying out loud. I should be able to handle this.

I appreciate any advice you guys can give me and thanks in advance for taking the time to read my crazy long post.
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Re: Electric Water Heater Help

Sounds traumatic.

The higher wattage elements are used in the 'quick recovery' type of water heaters or for bigger units. If you can confirm that the wire going to the element is 10gauge you will be fine.

If you stripped the threads on the replacement element you might as well get the original wattage when you buy the second one just to stay on the safe side. You did not give us the make or model of the water heater and we have no way to check the specs.

Use a thread sealing compound or teflon tape on the threads when installing. Make sure the threads in the tank are clean....use a small wire brush and work in the direction the threads are going. Do not go 'across' the threads. Do not over-tighten and do not cross should be able to make a few turns by hand before needing any type of tool.
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