A water heater is practically an essential household appliance. Few people think a lot about maintenance on these devices, however. The most common piece that breaks on a hot water heater is the thermostat. This piece is responsible for regulating the water temperature. Without it, the water will be either too hot or too cold.
Fortunately, replacing a water heater’s thermostat is a relatively easy repair. It also costs a fraction of the money it takes to replace the entire water heater. If you have reason to think that your thermostat is broken, follow these steps to replace it.
Before starting, it will be necessary to get a new thermostat. These are usually a standard part of the inventory at most home improvement stores. Generally, most residential water heater thermostats are interchangeable. You should be aware that the thermostat from a single element water heater will not be compatible with a double element water heater.
Once you have the right piece, turn the power off to the water heater. Do this from the circuit breaker box. Next, remove the access panel, any insulation, and the safety cover that houses the broken thermostat.
Before removing the broken thermostat, look carefully at how it is wired into the water heater. Take a picture or draw a diagram of the wiring so that you will be able to duplicate it later. After doing this, remove all of the wires from the broken unit.
Next, you will need to remove the old thermostat from its bracket. Using a flat head screwdriver, pry the thermostat out. Don’t worry about damaging the bracket, since you can always bend it back into place. Discard the old thermostat.
Next, slide the newly purchased water heater thermostat into the old bracket. Make sure that it lays tight against the water tank. Then, use the wiring diagram or photograph you took earlier and wire in the new water heater thermostat. Be sure to double check your work in this step. Any mistakes could short circuit the entire water heater.
After the new thermostat has been installed, adjust the water heater temperature. Think carefully about where this number should be set. Temperatures over 120 degrees Fahrenheit have the potential to scald someone when he or she turns on the tap. Furthermore, setting the water temperature too high can increase the amount of energy that your water heater uses to heat and maintain the temperature of the water.
After you have set the temperature, replace the plastic cover, and insulation. Turn the power back on to the water heater.