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Water heater repair

Our water heater quit working on Monday, the water was getting warm but nowhere near hot enough to take a shower (Andrea found out the hard way, sorry babe!). Rather than calling a plumber I decided to give this fix a shot myself, it was a learning experience but in the end I got it working for only $30.00 in parts.

What I learned:

• There is a racket for the “tool” used to remove the heating element from a water heater, the “tool” is nothing more than a pipe that has one end bent into the shape of a hex nut and it cost $8, there is a picture below

• Water heaters are very simple, there are less than 10 parts to check and the ones that break most often are very easy to access. In my case the lower heating element had shorted out so I replaced that and the lower thermostat as well

• I have hard water. Since I had the water heater take apart my uncle recommended that I try to remove the calcium deposits that had built up in the bottom. After building the right tool for the job using duck tape a shop vac and water hose I removed 10 pounds of calcium sediment from the water heater (gross).

Pictures are posted below click one to see the full set on Flickr

Burned up heating element and thermostat:
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Thermostat after removal (Scary, looks like a small fire took place):
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The $8.00 “tool” required to remove the old heating element (These are universal to most water heaters):
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Old heating element, covered in mineral deposits:
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Don’t forget to drain the water heater before working on it:
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Shot of the inside of the water heater before I cleaned it:
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The same shot after being cleaned:
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The hose from my shop vac would not fit into the water heater opening so I used duck tape to attach a water hose to the shop vac (the water hose fit inside the water heater):
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I ended up pulling over 10 pounds of mineral deposits out of the bottom of our water heater:
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The old and new heating elements side by side:
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3 thoughts on “Water heater repair

  1. * You should just get a water softener – they’re not very expensive and over time all your appliances will last longer and you’ll you less soap saving you money.

    * I believe people say that the water heater should be replaced every 8 to 10 years anyways as they tend to leak over time… often times it just makes sense to replace over fix since its close to the time to replace anyways – and water heaters are relatively inexpensive anyways.

    * Consider solar – free hot water in the hot texas sun. The new system even work in the winter. I believe the solar water system should pay for it self in just a few years.

  2. Good tips Richard – Thanks! I will probably go the water softener route since it will help save the life of just about every appliance in my house that uses water. The solar sounds “cool” too, not to mention the geek bragging rights.

  3. A water softener will actually reduce the life of a water heater … It introduces salt to the water and as you’re probably aware – salt water and metal don’t mix! Check any water heater manual if you don’t believe me – they specifically state that a water softener will reduce the life of a water heater. They do however reduce the use of soap and may increase the life of your dishwasher / washing machine.

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