How to Maintain an Electric Water Heater | This Old House

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Keep the hot water flowing with This Old House plumbing and heating expert Richard Trethewey and Kevin O’Connor. (See below for a shopping list and tools.)
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Tools for Maintaining an Electric Water Heater:
– continuity tester
– heating-element socket
– pipe wrench
– screwdriver

Shopping List for Maintaining an Electric Water Heater:
– heating element
– thermostat

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How to Maintain an Electric Water Heater | This Old House

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27 COMMENTS

  1. Instead of down a floor drain or to the outside, would it be advisable to drain it into a basin with an extractor pump in it?

  2. I need to fix mine. The hot water doesn't get very hot and it doesn't last that long anymore. The heating elements and dip tube are pretty cheap. I also have to replace the plastic drain valve as well. Looks like project time this weekend! Wish me luck lol.

  3. Thanks for the upload! My tank is half the efficiency it was when we first moved in. I am thinking, it is time to replace an element and some other parts.

  4. Also you want to mention to drain the water from tank and shut off power to the unit before testing
    the water can give a false reading the water acts like a insulator when checking with continuity
    And your element can test good but really bad

  5. It seems that if you test an element in water it would read good meaning that continuity would be present due to the water.

  6. I have only 2 feet of clearance. How can I change the dip tube without disconnecting the entire water heater? Please help

  7. You are great in explaining. I have a foul taste in my water. Can it be "old" water affecting water quality/taste?

  8. Just pulled my bad split element out and it had so much calcium on it I could open a supplement company. Southeast pennsylvania! I just found a new way to make calcium supplements.

  9. Electric water heater, total or whole “house GROUND” (call it what you want) runs thru the cold water input line, source. This line GROUNDS the “whole house” DEAD to earth ground.(copper rod 5/8” if your lucky… usually 8’ in length again “if your lucky” and it hasn’t been cut in two. “pushed” into the earth usually right at your electric service panel (entrance)(2700’ … and some will say “nope! My daddy told me that 2589’ is absolute!” of underground water line give you the best “man made” absolute ground possible) Now you have anybody and everybody changing out their own ELECTRIC water heater, as instructed by you and many others, YET I see nowhere regarding PRECAUTIONS about the “IN” cold pipe (komzinta) and the “OUT” hot water pipe (gozata) at the elec water tank. At the point of “disconnect” of either or both of these two pipes you have now LOST YOUR WHOLE HOUSE GROUND (earth)….Yeah I know, you’ve already stated to “shut the breaker off”… just NOT emphatically enough for this guy. … So what about this same guy doing his own “electrical” work and he/she creates a “FALSE” ground??? Well I didn’t want to go in-depth re this ISSUE, BUT I do think it needs to be recognized. Then again you will have the guys who puts their car JUMPER cables (or wrap a coat hangar, that’s s good one, the whole time that he’s leaning over his work and holding onto the soldered on brace between the two pipes). across these two pipes before they disconnect, ugly but it works. I WILL STATE THAT IM NO PLUMBER, ELECTRICIAN, Or inspector (so none of you brilliant “codeguys”“harping” on me about all of the little in-depth things (technicalities) and codes that I’ve omitted. i just wanted to make a point re “GROUNDS”, “earth!”… you can’t just pickup a six-pack of “grounds” at Walmart or buy a ground on Jeopardy for $250… but with a little bit of in-site you can keep your self around a little longer)… but this can lead to serious problems if not recognized. Just an old retired guy who has been “bitten” by electric before!!! GREAT JOB GUYS. (BTW this info holds true for gas water tanks also, just not dealing with the 220v “2-110v circuits” involved)

  10. hii,

    do you have any cut away video of heat exchanger tank ? it is a tank just about the size of these hot water tank, but with more inlet and outlet (normally it is used in conjunction with tankless style water heater.

    thanks
    andrew

  11. I checked the anode rod after almost 8 years and it was almost completely used up. I plan to check again in 5 years, as long as the heater lasts. Also replaced the dip tube though it wasn't necessary but I had ordered one just in case. Now I've replaced the soldered joints with sharkbite fittings and the copper pipe with flexible copper lines. It's an electric heater and I intend to replace it myself next time. Because, when the plumber came out to do the job last time and I asked him the cost, he wrote the price on a piece of paper and handed it to me! I knew then it was too much. It was $850 but that was in 2008. I hope flushing the tank and replacing the anode prolong the heater's life. By the way, the elements can be changed without emptying the tank. Look for the video.

  12. Also, make sure there's an electrical disconnect switch beside the water heater for service, unless the circuit breaker is within sight of the electric water heater. This is an NEC requirement that is often overlooked, especially on existing water heaters.

  13. If your dip tube goes bad and breaks apart you will also get hot water but not for long. Cold water doesn't get to bottom of tank. Possibly plugged up faucets and fixtures with plastic bits as well.

  14. My name is Eric and i have watched ThisOld House since the days of Bob Villa and like many im a huge fan! im always so enveloped into the show but this time i noticed the cool bike hanging on the wall. Recently Ive been thinking about making a board track replica /motorised bike. after getting just a glimps of that bike im thinking it would be a good starting point. maybe in a future episode however unlikly ! But realy, we all love u guys keep it up. p.s. i love the old classic shows

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