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Repairing Electric Water Heaters

If you are not getting enough hot water, make sure the thermostat is set correctly. Also drain the heater if you suspect it is filled with sediment. If you have no hot water, check for power to the unit. If none of these measures solves the problem, you need to replace the thermostats and heating elements. To determine which thermostat and element to replace.

Caution! Danger! High Voltage! Electric water heaters use 240-volt current, twice the voltage in other receptacles. Be sure to remove the fuse or

Which to Replace? Electric water heaters have two thermostats and heating elements. To find out which pair is defective, turn on a hot water faucet. If the water gets warm but not hot, the upper thermostat and element are the culprits and should be replaced. If the water is hot for a while then goes cold, replace the lower element and thermostat.

1. Remove the thermostat. Note: Shut off the power, shut off the water to the heater, and drain the heater. Remove the cover plate and use a neon circuit tester to make sure the power is off. Drain the water heater. Push aside insulation, label and disconnect the wires, and remove the thermostat.

2. Remove the element. Use tongue-and-groove pliers to unscrew the element, then pull it out. Remove the gasket if there is one. Take the old element and thermostat with you to your supplier to make sure you get the correct replacement.

3. Replace the element. If the replacement element has a gasket, coat both sides of the gasket with pipe joint compound and then slide the gasket onto the new element. Slide the element in and screw it in place. Tighten with tongue-and-groove pliers.

4. Install, set the thermostat. Slide the new thermostat into place and reconnect the wires, using your labels as guides. Snap in the plastic guard. Use a screwdriver to set the thermostat. Press the red reset button on the thermostat. Make sure the drain valve is closed and turn on the shutoff valve to fill the tank. When water flows to your hot water faucets, turn off the faucets and restore electrical power.

Repairing Gas Water Heaters

If you suddenly lose hot water, or if your unit is not heating water efficiently, remove the access panel at the bottom of your water heater and check the pilot light. If it’s not burning, relight it according to directions printed on the unit. If it won’t relight, you need a new thermocouple. If you have yellow rather than blue flame, you need to replace the thermocouple and/or clean the burner. If you smell smoke or fumes, check your flue immediately.

Regular Maintenance For Your Gas Water Heater

■ To avoid the dangerous buildup of fumes from a faulty flue, check your flue at least once a year. Be sure it is efficiently pulling fumes out of your house (see Step 4). To dismantle the flue to check for debris.

■ Once a year, or at least whenever you replace the thermocouple, clean the burner, even if it shows no symptoms of being clogged. A clean burner will burn more efficiently and help your water heater last longer.

1. Remove the burner unit. Note: Shut off the gas. If you need to replace a thermocouple or clean the burner, first remove the burner unit. Disconnect the pilot light tube, the burner gas tube, and the thermocouple line. Pull down on the tubes, and carefully pull the entire burner unit out.

2. Clean the burner and tube. Turn the burner counterclockwise to unscrew it from the tube. With a thin piece of wire, clean out the small orifice at the point where the tube enters the burner. Also use wire to clean the small orifice in the pilot light tube. Use a vacuum cleaner to suck out any rust and debris from the burner jets and inside the burner area of the unit.

3. Replace a thermocouple. If your pilot light won’t light or is not staying lit, pull the old thermocouple from its bracket. Take it to your supplier to get one exactly like it. Push the new one into place until it clicks tight. The tip of the thermocouple should be right next to the end of the pilot gas tube so the pilot flame will touch it.

4. Maintain the flue. A rusted, clogged, or loose-fitting flue will cause harmful fumes to enter your home. To check if the due is drawing, light a piece of paper and blow it out. While it is smoking, hold it near the opening at the bottom of the flue. If the smoke is not sucked out, your flue needs cleaning. Also check for leaks by holding a candle near flue openings. If the flame is drawn, tighten the joint.

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