How to wire a hot water heater element

Updated February 21, 2017

The hot water heater element wires to the thermostat, and the thermostat regulates the temperature of the water. When the water temperature inside the tank lowers to a temperature less than the thermostat setting, the thermostat allows electrical current to pass through the heating element. The electrical current flowing through the element heats the water, raising the temperature to meet the thermostat temperature setting.

Turn off the 30-amp double-pole circuit breaker inside the main electrical panel that supplies power to the water heater.

Remove the two screws holding the access panel to the side of the water heater and lift the panel off the tank. Remove the insulation from behind the access panel to access the thermostat and element.

Attach the yellow wire from the thermostat around one screw on the face of the element and the blue wire from the thermostat around the remaining screw on the face of the element. Tighten both screws to hold the wires securely to the water heater element. Unless specifically marked on the element, either wire can be attached to either post.

Replace the insulation over the thermostat and element and reattach the access panel. Turn on the 30-amp double-pole circuit breaker inside the main electrical panel.

Things You'll Need

  • Phillips or slotted screwdriver
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About the Author

Cecilia Harsch has been writing professionally since 2009. She writes mainly home improvement, health and travel articles for various online publications. She has several years of experience in the home-improvement industry, focusing on gardening, and a background in group exercise instruction. Harsch received her Certified Nurses Assistant license in 2004. She attended Tarrant County College and studied English composition.