The time will come when you have to replace one or more components of your water heater. You want to get the right part. One area water heater owners have that gives them trouble is choosing a water heater element. That’s because most residential electricity-powered water heaters have two heating elements. So they wonder, are upper and lower water heater elements the same?
You can find the answer to your question here.
Are Upper And Lower Water Heater Elements The Same?
The upper and lower element on a single water heater will be identical. But different brands and models may each have different types of elements.
That means, if you plan to replace the element on your water heater, you need to find the proper design.
Designs Of Water Heater Elements
Water heater elements are designed in several different ways. The design varies based on manufacturer and model. Here are some common things you need to know about how a water heater element looks.
- Water heater elements come in different sizes.
- They also come in different shapes. The most common shape is the U. It screws into a female threaded receiver connection inside your tank.
- You will find elements that are on the short side. The diameter of the tubing on these elements is wider.
- Some elements are longer. The tubes on these elements will be narrower.
- The heating surface of both the short and long elements are identical.
But that does not mean they will fit the same water heater. We will talk more about this later.
- Manufacturers also use different materials to make their water heater elements. The type of material they use affects how well the elements perform and how long it will last.
The type of material used will affect:
- the level of heat per square inch of the surface
- ease of installation
- dry-firing protection
These are all important factors to consider when buying a replacement element for your water heater. Having this information will help you choose the type you need.
Water heater elements also connect in different ways.
So, look for an element with an end that matches the design of your water heater.
How To Know Which Water Heater Elements You Need?
There is only one way to determine the type of element your water heater uses. Perform a thorough examination of the one you pull out of your unit.
Here are the things you need to look for.
- Start with the voltage and the wattage of the element
The volt and the watt of the element will match that of your water heater. You will see this information on the face of the element.
If you cannot find it there because of wear and tear, do not panic. You will also find this information pasted to the body of your water heater.
- Get the model number of the element
The model number is also to buy the right heating element. That number will also match the model of your water heater. But your model number also needs to match the voltage of your unit.
We will talk about this next.
- Match the model number to the correct voltage
It is not enough that you find the correct model number.
Sometimes, you will find that elements have the same model number as your water heater. That does not mean that they will match the unit you have.
The difference will be with the voltage. The voltage of your water heater element and your water heater must match.
Find out if your water heater works using 120v or 240v before buying your new element.
- Choose the wattage that matches your water heater
Sometimes, it is possible to find an exact match. Other times, you may not.
If you cannot find an exact match, do not fret. Choose the closest lower wattage. Do not choose higher. Your water heater may not handle it.
Using a higher wattage element will also void your warranty.
- Choose the right size and shape element
Your water heater was designed to house a specific water element design. Think of the diameter, the length, and the fit method (bolt, clamp, or screw.)
- Know the hardness of your waterIf you have hard water, choose an element that can withstand the effects. An element with a greater surface area is the better choice.
- Choosing the right element density
The next thing you want to ensure is choosing the best element density for your water heater.
Use this guide to help you find the right density element for your water heater.
- Good – high wattage density
The material used to make these elements is copper tubing. It also has some magnesium and oxide with nickel plating. They have a zinc-plated threaded base of carbon steel.
New water heater designs have high-density elements. But you can use either high or low with your water heater. The most important thing is ensuring you have the right wattage, voltage, and fit-in method.
- Better – low wattage density
The material used to make these elements are the same as above. But here is the difference. They are burn-out resistant and work better with hard water.
- Best – ultra-low wattage density
These are elements designed with nickel (high grade) and stainless steel. The base also is steel-plated nickel.
And it is the best kind of element for water with extreme hardness.
Why Does My Water Heater Need Two Elements?
Each water heater works using a different thermostat. Every time the water to the tank’s top gets hot, the upper heating element shuts off. That’s when the lower heating element kicks in to heat the water below.
The dual elements in your water heater are the same design. If it is time to replace them, you need the right size, shape, and correct fit-in method.
Whether you want a high or low-density element is a matter of choice. But the low-density element has a higher life expectancy.