How to Replace Water Heater Element without Draining: Is It Doable?

You don’t need to purchase a brand-new water heater whenever the machine does not work according to your needs. Unless you are a billionaire, you can replace its element.

Now you may wonder how to change the element when you cannot work with machines. Can you replace the water heater element without draining possible to do?

How to Replace Water Heater Element without Draining

Water Heater Element Testing

The basic trick to know whether your water heater element is broken is to ‘feel’ any of these symptoms below:

  1. It takes very, very long to get hot water – unlike the customary circumstances.
  2. Your water heater doesn’t have you provided any hot water at all, although the water heater has been turned on, or no visible errors occurred.

These symptoms show pretty apparent that the water heater heating element is broken. If you think it is not the right time to get a whole replacement for the water heater, you can prepare a new element to replace the old one.

However, purchasing a new heating element can be avoided by checking for the cables and the circuit breaker. Is it accidentally switched off? Or has it tripped?

If you find those parts fine, then the next thing you should check is the reset button. Try resetting the water heater and restarting the water heater again. If the issue persists and the reset button does not pop out, chances are the heating element is causing you a problem.

Read also: How to Scrap a Water Heater?

How to Replace Water Heater Element without Draining

To remove the broken water heater element without draining, you will need these appliances:

Tools and Materials You’ll Need:

  • New heating element
  • Screwdriver or socket wrench
  • Garden hose
  • Pipe wrench
  • Teflon tape
  • Safety gear (gloves and safety goggles)

Steps to Replace a Water Heater Element Without Draining:

  1. Turn Off the Power:

When performing repairs on your water heater, safety comes first. Start by shutting off the heater’s electricity at the circuit breaker. This guarantees that during the replacement, there is no chance of electric shock.

  1. Shut Off the Cold Water Supply:

Shut off the valve that supplies your water heater with cold water. This valve, attached to the cold water inlet, is often found close to the top of the tank.

  1. Open Hot Water Faucets:

Open a hot water faucet in your home. This helps to relieve pressure within the tank and allows air to enter, facilitating the draining process.

  1. Connect a Garden Hose:

Connect a garden hose to the tank’s bottom drain valve. Ensure the hose is positioned so the water can be safely drained, such as by placing it outside or in a floor drain.

  1. Drain Some Water:

Turn the drain valve counterclockwise to open it carefully. Give the garden hose a few gallons of water to escape through it. By lowering the water level in the tank, this step facilitates easier access to the heating element.

  1. Locate and Remove the Old Element:

The heating element is typically located near the bottom of the tank. Use a socket wrench or a screwdriver to remove the cover or access panel, exposing the element.

  1. Replace the Heating Element:

Take out the old heating element’s wiring. Extricate the old element from its housing with a pipe wrench. Using Teflon tape on the threads to stop leaks, replace it with the new heating element.

  1. Tighten the New Element:

Carefully tighten the new heating element into place using the pipe wrench. Be cautious not to overtighten, as this could damage the tank.

  1. Reconnect the Wiring:

Reattach the wiring to the new heating element, ensuring proper connections. Double-check to ensure everything is secure.

  1. Close the Drain Valve:

Close the drain valve by turning it clockwise. This seals the tank, allowing it to refill.

  1. Turn On the Water Supply:

Open the cold water supply valve you closed earlier. This lets water flow back into the tank.

  1. Check for Leaks:

Inspect the area around the new heating element for any signs of leaks. If you notice a leak, shut off the water supply and tighten the element further.

  1. Turn On the Power:

Return to the circuit breaker and turn the power back on.

  1. Monitor Hot Water:

Be patient as the water heats up. It may take some time for the water in the tank to reach the desired temperature.

Read also: How Much Does it Cost of Replacing a Water Heater

How to Remove Water Heater Element that is Rusted

Often, the rusted water element is tough to plug out. So, what should you do to tackle this situation?

In case you plan to remove the rusted water heater element, you need to prepare a 6-point socket with a 0.5-inch drive socket wrench. This big socket will provide more leverage and ease the socket to fit over the heating element. You can also prepare a breaker bar, but if you don’t have it, that’s OK.

Read also: How to Check Water Heater Element

  1. Cover the thermostat with some cloth and bend out the heating element wires.
  1. Prepare a 1:1 vinegar and water solution. Wet a toothbrush with this solution and brush the solution onto the heating element’s seam and the heating tank side. Apply it moderately. Let sit for around 20 minutes.
  1. Place your socket over the element, then try to turn it counterclockwise.
  1. If the heating element isn’t dislodged, move it with a breaker bar. Slide the bar over the wrench handle. Then, ask someone to hold the wrench top over the heater element while you retry to turn the wrench with the bar.
  1. Once the heater element starts to turn, remove the bar and turn the element using the wrench.

So that’s the procedure to replace the water heater element without draining. Note that, in general, water heaters’ life span is around six to ten years. If your water heater is as old as that, or maybe even older – then it’s best to have a new one. If what happens is vice versa, you may consider buying a replacement for the water heater element.

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