Heating elements in your hot water heater will often times fail long before the hot water heater needs to be replaced. Replacing them
can be done without a plumber if you have the time, knowledge and tools for the job.
Electric hot water heater problems
If your electric hot water heater is slow to heat, runs out of hot water faster than it used to, or doesn’t deliver any hot water at all, there’s a 90 percent chance that simply replacing one or both of the heating elements will solve the problem. The fix is straightforward, and replacement elements are inexpensive ($8 to $20) and readily available at home centers, hardware stores and appliance parts dealers.
We’ll show you how to test the heating elements, remove one if it’s bad, and install a new one. Just keep in mind that water heaters have a typical life span of 10 to 15 years. If your heater is approaching old age, replacement may be smarter than repair.
Of course, there are other potential causes of a lack of hot water. Before you test the elements, check to make sure the circuit breaker is on and not tripped. Also press the reset button on the high-temperature cutoff located just above the upper thermostat. Resetting either the circuit breaker or the high-temperature cutoff may resolve the problem, but the fact that they were tripped in the first place may indicate an electrical problem. If they trip again, test the heating elements.
If the heating elements are good, the problem could be with the thermostats or cutoff switch. Testing is complicated, but since they’re inexpensive—about $20 for both thermostats and the cutoff switch—you could simply try replacing them
Watch this video for guidelines on how to replace your thermostat and water heater elements.
Common electric water heater problems are bad heating elements, thermostats, pressure relief valves, leaking water heaters and the water heater drain valve.
Because of the amount of current running through your water heater, if you don’t have the right skills and take the right precautions, a wrong move can be lethal.
Costs to Repair or Replace Your Hot Water Heater
A new hot water heater can run from $250- $3500 depending on the size, type and efficiency of the unit. Installation costs can range
from $200-$1600 depending on the amount of plumbing needed and the removal and cost of disposal of the old unit.
If it is a repair, the part typically isn’t that expensive, could be around $20-50, and the service call should be around $100 more or less.
So for the cost of purchasing all the tools and risking your safety, it may be better to just hire a plumber to fix your hot water heater.