Find Discounts on Your Favorite water Products and Save Up To 20%!

Let's Go!

Are Water Heater Elements Universal? Find Out The Facts

We may earn a commission if you click on a link, but at no extra cost to you. Read our disclosure policy for information.

Tim Rhodes

Are water heater elements universal?

A heating element is what heats the water in the water heater’s storage tank.

Metal coils extend into the heater, and the electricity that runs through these coils heats the surrounding water.

Water enters the heater through a tube from the bottom of the tank.

This water, which is at first cold then heated by the heating element.

All electrical water heaters have a minimum of one heating element positioned at the very bottom of the tank to make certain that all of the water is heated.


Are Water Heater Elements Universal?

The default temperature of a water heater is usually set to 120 Fahrenheit, but are water heater elements universal?

Before we continue, check out these top water heaters on the market:

EcoSmart ECO 11 Electric Tankless Water Heater, 13KW at 240 Volts with Patented Self Modulating...
5,006 Reviews
EcoSmart ECO 11 Electric Tankless Water Heater, 13KW at 240 Volts with Patented Self Modulating...
  • Endless On-Demand Hot Water; Consistent hot water when you need it that never runs out; Continuously monitored water...
  • Save Space; EcoSmart tankless electric water heaters are 90% smaller than traditional tank heaters; may be installed on...
  • Save Energy; EcoSmart tankless electric water heaters are 99% thermal energy efficient; Only heats water when called...
  • EcoSmart ECO 11 Sizing; 13-kilowatt tankless electric water heater ideal for providing hot water for a bathroom, small...
Tankless Water Heater 5.5kw 240V, ECOTOUCH Point-of-Use Digital Display,Electric Instant Hot Water...
  • 【INSTANT & SUFFICIENT HOT WATER】Applied with 5.5KW heating system, the electric water heater supplies instant,...
  • 【SMART SELF ADJUSTMENT】The hot water heater adjusts power input based on flow rate and temp setting in real time....
  • 【CONVENIENT USE】The tankless water heater comes with digital display & touch control panel so temp setting is easy...
  • 【SAFE and DURABLE】Applied with multiple protection devices, every piece goes through strict tests to ensure 100%...
  • 【POINT of USE】The sleek tankless water heater is compact as an oatmeal box, making it possible to install anywhere...

Last update on 2023-12-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Varieties Of Heating Element

There are two major varieties in a heating element like a screw in and bolt in.

Both of them have completely different electrical power ratings and may work on either 120 or 240 voltage.

Screw-in: is the kind, which is a more common heating element.

These are generally used on all newer water heaters, and the heating element is screwed into place.

Bolt-In: There are many different styles of bolt-in heating elements, if you have a little older storage tank this kind may be used.

Four bolts place the heating element.

A universal adapter kit is available in the market if someone wishes to adopt a screw-in heating element into a bolt-in heating element.

How Do Water Heaters Work?

When electricity passes through an element, it gets resistance.

This resistance creates heat, very like rubbing your two hands fast.

The wattage determines how much heat is going to be produced.

When electricity passes through a heating element it meets resistance.

This resistance creates heat, much like rubbing your two hands together very fast.

The wattage determines how much heat will be produced.

Electric water heaters operate by use of either one or two heating elements, managed by either thermostats or a microchip control module, that heat the water within the tank to the specified temperature.

The standard residential electrical hot-water heater consists of a manual reset high limit switch, upper thermostat, lower thermostat, one or two heating elements, and wires.

When we turn on the power of the heater, the higher component is energized and heats the water within the upper third part of the tank.

When the upper third of the tank is heated to the temperature to the setting of the upper thermostat, power is switched to the lower component.

The lower component continues to heat until the water temperature of the lower portion of the tank reaches the lower thermostat setting.

Impact Of Water Hardness On Energy Consumption Of Water Heating Elements

Globally, water-heating appliances are ones that use most of the electricity.

Poor water quality for domestic functions may be a concern, which will affect the efficiency of water heating appliances.

The water heater element was tested with and without electronic descaler technology.

The results showed that the accelerated scaling technique developed for shortening the scaling time of the water heater element was successful.

Moreover, the results have shown that scale formation of 1.5 KW and 3KW water heater elements due to total water hardness inflated the power consumption by 4%-12%.

How Do I Determine Which Type Of Water Heater Element I Need?

Here are some tips:

  • Examine your existing heating element
  • You have to resolve the voltage and electrical power
  • This information can be found on the label fixed to the side of your hot-water heater tank
  • Compare and match your results of volts and watts to the volts and watts columns given in specifications
  • Select the volts that match your voltage 120 or 240
  • Select the watts that are closest to your electrical power
  • Ensure the tank diameter of your hot-water heater can accommodate the heating element you’ve chosen
  • Consider your water quality – ripple style or fold back style elements are especially helpful for those with hard water
  • These elements function the same and have the same voltage/wattage, but the greater surface area causes less wear on the element

How To Choose The Right Water Heater Heating Element?

When you are choosing the right water heater’s heating element, you’ll have to consider these three factors:

  1. Element flange style (Flat, Screw-In, etc.)
  2. Wattage/Voltage
  3. Watt-density

Element Flange Style

Water heater parts are sold in different styles.

Ever since the innovation of the trendy water heaters, water heater makers have utilized different methods of putting in new elements into their client’s water heaters.

We still have several of the older models operating to the present date, and that they feature the old water heater’s storage tank parts.

The most common types are the Round Head style, Flat Flange, and the Universal Flange.

The Flat and Universal flange elements are fixed to the tank victimization four 3/8“ bolts.

The Round Headwater heater element is bolted to the tank using a separate four-bolt flange.

Today, all residential water heaters and manufacturers only use Screw-in style water heater elements’.

This style permits stress-free serviceability and installation since it bolts into a spud welded right on the water heater’s tank.

The thread is standard for all domiciliary water heaters that utilize screw-in water heater elements’.

Important Things To Keep In Mind

You got to understand the voltage and power.

There also are screws, flange, and raised flanged type designs.

You can realize the voltage and power from the hot-water heater label or on the old part.

A flange kind isn’t as common in newer water heaters.

If you cannot recognize one, seek for adapter kit.

With this kit, you’ll replace the recent flanged type with a modern screw type.

In most cases, you do not need to purchase whole specific parts.

Wattage And Voltages

Most residential water heaters utilize a 240-v power source.

The 120-v water heater elements are primarily used for smaller water heaters or in locations where 240v circuits aren’t available.

The electrical power rating that controls the heat output of the 240-v element tends to be anywhere between 10000 watts and 6000 watts.

120v water heaters element’s wattage rating is around 1000 watts to 2500 watts.

Every water heater model is designed for a precise wattage/voltage rated water heater element.

Your replacement heater element has to be the same or equal wattage and voltage as the water heater element you are replacing.

Do not ever go outside the nameplate rating on the water heater element.

Watt Density

The other critical difference that you just have to be compelled to note once you are choosing the right water heater element is the watt density construction.

Irrespective of whether the element is 240v or 120v, bolt-in or screw-in, there are 3-watt density ratings available.

A water heater element’s watt density is mainly the amount of heat focused at any point on the element’s surface.

The lesser the watt density, the upper the quantity of element surface.

The heat per square inch of the surface is reduced, but then again the total surface is increased such that the total heat of the water heater element is similar for a precise wattage.

In general, a lower watt density during a heater’s component implies the component can last an extended time.

However, note that lower watt density heater’s components can last for much longer in water with a high lime content.

The fold-back feature of the many “lime life” and low watt density tank components is to stay the length little enough to suit all tanks.

What Is Water Heater Element Density?

Density denotes the surface area of the heating element.

More the surface area the lower the density.

a low-density heating element can slow deposit build-up and that they have a longer life.

Below are some of the standard watt density elements.

Regular High Watt Density Element

It’s the foremost customary heater component.

It is less costly and might be utilized in all replacements as long as the same voltage and power are used.

Better, Low Watt Density Element

Most of those are “fold back” parts.

They better suit regions with water problems (hard water, lime, etc.).

The lower watt density has no loss of effectiveness however reduces lime deposit build-up.

It can likewise be utilized to swap any high watt density heater’s component as long as the same voltage and power are used.

Premium, LimeLife Element

Features a special metal surface, extremist low watt density, and a restricted five-year guarantee.

The special surface metal reduces the possibilities of lime build-up.

It might be costly, however, it is worth each penny.

It might even outlive the time of the heater.

Common Things To Keep In Mind Regarding Water Heaters Elements

Common residential water heaters have two parts, however; they do not work at the same time.

The element is the most likely part to fail on an electric water heater.

The hotter the heating element or water a lot of sediment and metal build-up within the tank.

If a new part makes a buzzing or vibratory sound it’s as a result of the loop on the part being horizontal within the tank.

Most elements can solely work once submerged in water.

Factors That Determine How Much It Will Cost To Replace A Water Heater Element

How Many Elements Need To Be Replaced

Your electrical tank has 2 heating parts: an upper element and a lower element.

If one of them gets bad, you’ll notice warm water.

If both become bad, you won’t have hot water at all.

Since it needs a lot of labor and components, if you wish to replace both heating components, you have to pay more compared to changing only one.

The Heating Element Material You Choose

You can choose from 3 different types of heater elements:

  • High density (least expensive): High-density heating components are made of copper and coated with zinc
  • Their life is short because they are liable to corrosion
  • Low density (mid-priced): Low-density heating components are made of copper and coated with magnesium oxide and nickel to form them resistant corrosion
  • Extra-low density (most expensive): Extra-low density heating components are made with stainless steel that makes them corrosion resistant
  • These heating components typically give a lifetime guarantee

The Contractor You Hire

More experienced contractors generally charge a lot for their services.

However, they do the job right for the first time that prevents you from spending money on further future repairs.

We’ll share many tips to assist you to discover a high-quality contractor:

  • Verify that the contractor is authorized and insured
  • Make certain they have a good business record
  • How long have they been in business? 
  • The longer, the better
  • Are they direct with pricing and willing to give a written estimate? 
  • That’s an indication they’ll keep their word and won’t throw you any surprises once the job is completed

Single Element Water Heaters vs. Dual Element Water Heaters

The dual-element water heater is a comparatively recent introduction to the water heater market.

For an extended time, the sole option for buyers searching for an alternative to the gas water heater was an electrical water heater with one component.

However, once dual-element electric water heaters hit the market, it was very clear that they were superior to the single element models.

Nowadays, nearly every modern home has a dual element water heater.

There are two reasons for their popularity, which were efficiency and cost.

Are Dual Element Water Heaters Are More Energy Efficient?

One major reason for the recognition of the dual element water heater systems other than the fact that they heat water quickly and with efficiency.

Single element water heaters solely have one source of heat situated at the near bottom of the tank, thus it takes a longer time for the water at the top of the tank to heat up.

This will be a problem if you run out of hot water, as you have to wait longer for the water close to the hot water outlet to heat up.

Dual element water heaters solve this problem.

The two heating elements coordinate with one another to confirm that there is forever hot water at the top of the tank.

If the water temperature at the top of the tank is less than the temperature the top thermostat is set to, then the top component can activate and start the warming water.

Once the water at the top of the tank reaches the temperature indicated by the thermostat, the top element can shut down, and therefore the bottom part can activate.

The bottom element can then heat the remainder of the water within the tank to the specified temperature.

In a shell, the top element ensures that hot water is available quickly.

Thus, you don’t get to wait for hours to take a shower whenever some use all of the hot water.

The bottom element ensures the majority of the water sitting within the middle and bottom of the tank is heated once the water at the top is taken care of.

This suggests you’ll have a bigger supply of hot water once lower element complete heating.

Can Dual Element Water Heaters Save Money?

The other good thing about a dual element heater is that it usually costs less to use than one part heater.

The dual-element system uses less energy overall than one element system.

Thus, you’ll notice some savings once the monthly electric bill comes.

One can note that dual-element maintenance is often extra costly than single element maintenance.

This is often just because there are additional elements to switch.

It may be a small amount of additional difficulty to switch apart on a dual element system because the top and bottom parts are two separate devices.

If the top element fails, you would like to switch it with another top element.

You wouldn’t be able to use an additional bottom part to switch a broken top part, because these two aren’t interchangeable.

Most of the people will change out the thermostat once the top heating element is replaced.

Will A Water Heater Work If One Element Fails?

Modern water heaters are designed with the thermostat connected with the top element.

If the top element fails, the thermostat won’t permit the bottom element to run through the very bottom element is in good condition.

However, if the bottom element, the top part can still work.

However, hot water supply will get less, resulting in a small amount of hot water followed by warm water then cold water.

Heating Element Problems That Are All Too Common In a Water Heater

Failure in an electrical heater may be the result of a different part’s defect within the system.

A heater that has issues needs a repair service on time to keep the problems contained, that is why we hire the experienced and authorized contractor.

When your electrical heater isn’t providing enough hot water or fails to heal completely.

You’ll have a defective heating element, that may be a comparatively common problem.

Some common issues area like:

The Heating Cycle

A hot water tank contains two heating elements that perform heating roles separately and are connected by individual thermostats.

In a hot water system, there is a tube that facilitates the supply of cold water to the bottom of the tank.

As you use the hot water in the tank, the amount goes down and triggers a cold water supply that subsequently cools down the lower thermostat, which in turn causes the corresponding element to heat.

Looking at this cycle, it indicates that any defect in one of the heating elements means trouble for your heater.

Broken Elements

A common reason for the failure of the heater’s element is its breakage due to consistent heating and cooling.

After a passage of time cracks appear on heating elements causing impacts on heating performance.

Faulty Thermostats

Damage of the thermostat is another reason behind the element’s failure in water heaters.

A thermostat is used for setting the temperatures that a heating element uses to provide its heating.

Once having a faulty thermostat, a water heater tends to supply water that’s too hot or not hot at all, making repair necessary.

Sometimes, heating components are also too old to perform properly, thereby, it needs replacements and similar goes for thermostats.

Getting The Right Water Heater Element

All heating parts aren’t created equal.

You would like to make certain that you know the specification of the heating element precisely to get an adequate replacement.

Here are many various things you have to look out for:

  • Check whether or not your part is mounted with screws or bolts
  • Modern elements either are screw-in, however, it is good to check your setup meets or differ from the norms
  • Top parts and bottom parts are entirely completely different devices
  • You can’t replace a high part with one designed to be used on the bottom, and vice versa
  • Make sure the electrical power of the replacement part is less than or equal to the electrical power of your current part
  • Don’t purchase a replacement part with an electrical power that’s over the one you’re currently using
  • Determine whether or not your part could be a high watt density part, a low watt density part, or a lime life part

Final Thoughts

This article answers the question, are water heater elements universal?

It is found that there are different fitting of heating elements used in different types of water heaters.

You need to have specifications of the heating element to use.

In the market, a variety of elements are available you can select heating elements equal to or less than the rating mentioned on the water heater.

Dual element water heaters are more efficient than single element water heaters but the maintenance cost of dual element water heaters is more.

Proper maintenance will go a long way towards helping you get the efficiency of your water heater.

Overall, it can be said that other than the mounting style of the water heating element, all are the same and serve the same purpose so you have to choose according to requirement.

Last update on 2023-12-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

In a Hurry?

Take a look at the most popular and trending water products.