Replace An Electric Water Heater

Hot electric water heaters can go out at any time. Learn how to replace yours by reading this article. You can do it yourself and save money.

Electric hot water heaters are about as troublefree as any appliance can get. Hardly anything goes wrong with them, and when a problem does occur the problem usually is very easy to solve-even to the point of replacing an old water heater. Most electric water heater maunfacturers advise draining a few gallons of water from the tank of the heater every 6 weeks to remove sediment when the heater is new and every 6 months after the heater has been in operation for a year.

To do this:

Turn off the water to the heater. Turn off the power to the heater at the main service entrance.

Replacing the heater sounds like a tough job, but it isn't. In fact, replacing an electric water heater is much easier than replacing a gas water heater and the gas heater isn't very hard to replace.

The new electric water heater that you buy should be the same dimensions as the old water heater, unless you have space around and above it for a larger model. If the heater that you are replacing had a small hot water capacity and you want to increase this capacity, you may be able to find a larger capacity model with the same outside dimensions as the old one-if the space is limited and you have to buy-to-fit.

Turn off the water at the main shut-off valve.

Then turn off the electric power to the heater at the main circuit breaker or fuse box. Drain the heater. This can take plenty of time, so schedule your work accordingly. You can attach a garden hose to the draincock and drain the water into the floor drain. Or, the slow way, you can drain the water in a bucket and continually empty the bucket. Also, turn on all hot water fuacets.

Disconnect the water lines. You can use an adjustable or pipe wrench for this; the lines usually join into a union fitting, or you may be able to remove them at the tank.

If the pipes do not have a union fitting, it's smart to install one when you install the new water heater. This will save you plenty of time and trouble later. If there are no unions and you can't remove the pipes from the heater, cut the pipes with a hacksaw, go back to the nearest fitting, and install a union and new pipe at this point.

Remove the old heater and set the new heater in position. You will need a helper for this; water heaters are heavy. Sometimes 200 pounds or more. Before you set the new water heater in position, install any pipes, fittings, the relief valve and any other accessories. It may be easier to do this out in the open than in a confined heater area.

Install the pressure-relief valve, using a wrench to seat it properly on top of the heater. Then make the necessary electrical connections. The power should be connected to the water heater the same way, or almost the same way, as it was to the old heater. Turn on the water at the main valve. Then turn on the water at the heater valve-- if there is one.

Let the tank fill completely. Drain some of the water from the heater, couple of gallons or so, from the draincock at the bottom of the heater. This will remove any sediment from the tank. When the tank is full of water, turn on the electrical power. Then set the thermostat. A good setting is between 140 and 160 degrees, or according to manufacturer's instructions.

Every six months, drain several gallons of water from the heater to remove any sediment. Then, after the first year, drain the tank every ten months or so to remove any sediment. Insulate both the hot and cold water pipes to keep the hot water warm and to stop water condensation on cold water pipes. You can also buy an insulated "jacket" for your new water heater. This helps conserve energy.

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