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Electric water heaters have a TPR valve (Temperature Pressure Relief) or T&P valve, which is a safety device that releases pressure if the pressure or the temperature reach an unsafe level. All tank type units must have a TPR valve, otherwise they could blow up. There is a manual release lever located on the valve. According to most water heater manufacturers, TPR valves should be periodically tested by lifting the manual release lever at least once a year. Sometimes the TPR valve is mounted on the top of the tank, and sometimes it is mounted on the side of the tank. Due to the scalding potential of the discharge from the TPR valve, the outlet from the valve should be piped to a safe area. Typically TPR valve discharges are piped down to within 6 inches of the floor or even outside of the dwelling at near ground level. Check with your local building department for local building code requirements.
The sacrificial anode is a metal rod usually magnesium or aluminum
which helps prevent corrosion of the electric water heaters tank.
Electrolysis eats away the anode instead of the tank.
Once the anode is completely gone the tank itself begins to corrode,
so you should check your anode and replace it if needed. The anode
is screwed into the top of the tank and can
in theory be easily replaced. In real life, getting any fitting
unscrewed after many years can be quite challenging. Sometimes the
anode is built into a special outlet
A dip tube is a long slender plastic tube that drops down into the inlet fitting, usually with a small hole (about 1/8" dia.) near the top of the tube.
The dip tube directs incoming cold liquid to the bottom of the
tank, preventing pre-mature mixing of incoming cold liquid with the
out going hot. If
your dip tube is broken, it will seem as though you run out much too
The thermostat senses when the temperature in the tank drops below a certain set temperature and causes the electric heating elements to come on. When the heater reaches the desired temperature the thermostat shuts off the elements.
Usually the top and bottom elements each have their own thermostat and are wired so that only one element comes on at a time. Normally the upper thermostat comes on first, and then when the top is hot, the upper thermostat re-directs the electricity to the lower thermostat and element.
When the tank gets too hot it trips the high limit switch, (a
circuit breaker). The high limit switch is in the top thermostat and
usually has a red button. In order to get it working again the high
limit switch must be manually
reset by pushing in the red button.
A drain valve allows draining periodically for removal of sediment,
or for replacement. In areas with high mineral content it is
recommended to drain at least 5 gallons from the drain valve every
six months or so to prevent sediment build up.
Plastic drain valves are common. Be careful not to break it.
I'd recommend replacing it with a brass ball valve. A ball valve has
bigger opening through it making draining sediment clumps much
Typically there are two heating elements in an electric water
heater, one near the top, and one near the bottom. The heating
elements are controlled by the upper and lower thermostats and the
high limit switch.
Be sure the power is shut off at the circuit breakers. Disconnect
one of the two wires from the heating element. Now using an
ohm meter measure the resistance between the two terminals.If the
heating elements are good then you will get a reading of less than
50 ohms. If the heating element is burned out the meter will
read infinity, or open circuit.
The meter should also give you an open circuit reading between the
terminals and the metal housing of the water heater element.
For more water heater information: Water Heater Information