Expert’s Guide On How To Check Hot Water Heater Elements


One of the most important and often overlooked aspects of maintaining a good water heater is checking the elements. In this article, we will discuss how to check different elements on your water heater so you can replace them before they break down.

What Are The Types Of Heating Elements??

There are two types of heating elements, those that run on electricity and those that heat up or cool down with a temperature change. The electric ones turn to the same colour as the element is running, while thermally activated ones will stay black until they’ve reached their desired temperature.

An electrically heated water heater consists of an electric circuit in which one end provides power to a resistance wire coil wrapped around a cylindrical insulating sheath known as an “element tube” (and containing air gaps). A thermostat then determines when it should be turned on and off by sensing changes in its electrical resistance caused by fluctuations in ambient room temperatures. This type of system has been around for a long time but is slowly being phased out.

Thermal-activated heating elements work by taking in heat from the surrounding air or environment as they are working, and so require no outside power source. They can be gas-powered or oil-powered; if you’d like to check on your water heater’s status, then it is simple enough to turn off all electrical sources and see what changes happen when one of these two types of devices has been activated.

A similar task would involve shutting down electric wiring completely with an emergency switch inside the room where your device is located. If nothing happens, then there may have been an issue with how the unit was connected up initially and will need maintenance before use.

Tools Needed To Check The Water Elements

  • Needle nose pliers or long, slender needle
  • Wire cutters and electrical tape (just in case)
  • Safety Gloves
  • Screwdrivers
  • Digital Multimeter
  • Safety Goggles
  • -A partner to help you check the element. You may need someone else’s hands if your water heater is very high up. The best way to do this would be with a ladder.

Be Safe First

  • Turn off the electrical power to your water heater.
  • Open up a nearby window and door for ventilation as you will be working with gas in the air and electricity that could potentially give you an electric shock.
  • Put on safety goggles, gloves, and, if possible, ear protection too. Safety is imperative here. If you are wearing clothes of some sort, then make sure they don’t have any loose ends or buttons because those can get caught into things like screws or wires easily. It’s also good to wear old shoes so that nothing will go through holes and onto hot surfaces such as pipes which may still contain live cooling rods underneath them.

Open The Heating Element

  • Locate the heating elements by looking at your water heater. You will likely see pipes coming out of it with different-sized holes in between them from top to bottom. These are usually labelled as “top,” “bottom,” and “side.”
  • It is important that you do not touch any wires while working on a gas appliance, so use caution when opening or accessing anything like this because things can live with electricity even if they don’t look like they’re connected.
  • Using an adjustable wrench, loosen the nuts one after another until all of them have been removed before going back to tighten each nut on both sides again for safety reasons. This way, everything stays secure, and there’s no chance of some loosening up.
  • Keep your pliers handy for removing any stubborn pipe connections.
  • Then check and make sure the pilot light is lit on your water heater to ensure it’s working properly
  • Finally, use a screwdriver or wrench to remove the access cover plate from the top of your water stove for safety purposes. This way, you can see if anything is clogged in there, like hair that could be causing an issue with the gas flow or something else important.

Common Issues With The Heating Elements

Build-up Of Limescale

A build-up of limescale is a common issue with heating elements. The build-up will eventually seep through the element and cause it to corrode, which can lead to failure in operation.

The best way to avoid this problem altogether is by regularly descaling your water heater using an acid-based solution such as OxiClean or CLR (Cleaning Laundry Restore). This should be done once every two months for most models on average.

Fluctuations In the Voltage

Fluctuations in voltage could be the result of an issue with your heating element, or it might simply indicate a problem with the wiring. In either case, you should turn off the power to the water heater and call for professional help before attempting any repairs yourself.

If there is no fluctuation at all, then it may just mean that electricity isn’t getting through to your home, which can also be fixed by calling an electrician as soon as possible.

Scorched Elements

A burnt-out or scorched element will require easy access from behind, so you’ll need to find out how this process works on your particular model of water heater before taking action. Make sure not to break anything else while trying, just in case.

Open Circuit Of The Heating Element

An open circuit is when there are no visible signs that an electrical current is being passed through the heating element, but the resistance reading shows a high (or infinite) value, and it cannot be tested for continuity. This means that it has been damaged internally, which requires replacement instead. Another reason for an open circuit may be mechanical stress at the connection due to voltage fluctuation and vibration over time.

Wet Heating Elements

Due to the water leaks, the moisture can seep into the water heating elements. This can cause the element to sheath and split.


Now, you’ve learned how to check the elements on your water heater. We hope you never have to replace one, but if it does happen, make sure that you have a backup plan and know what you’re doing. When in doubt, contact an expert who can answer any questions for you or help with installation.