Electric Water Heaters

Electric water heaters are very similar to their gas counterparts.  The main difference between the two is the fuel source. Electric water heaters need no venting and require no flue for exhaust gases.

The heating elements on electric units are small. As a result electric water heaters may take a slightly longer time to recover when used. Read about saving electricity here. Read about gas water heaters in the Plumbing section here.

Review and follow the manufacturer’s instructions and maintenance timetable for your electric water heater.

Maintenance is just as important for electric water heaters, so learn about the importance of regularly draining several gallons of water from the tank. This service needs to be done frequently as it will remove build-up of mineral deposits from the bottom, and will increase the life of the tank thus saving energy.
Cutaway drawing of electric water heater showing all components
Electric water heater anatomy
Avoid setting the temperature of your water heater above 120 degrees, because higher temperatures waste energy dollars and increase the danger of scalding injuries. Dishwasher makers recommend an operating water temperature of 140 degrees to get really clean and sanitary dishes. A compromise would be to set the water heater to 130 degrees. Test this first and see if it causes any scalding problems with the anyone in the family.
Hot water takes longer to arrive at fixtures far away from the water heater. As a result, considerable amounts of water are wasted when cold water is flushed out waiting for hot water to arrive. To shorten the waiting time, and save water, equip your water heater with a re-circulator pump to keep hot water available at all times.

Electric demand water heaters

Demand-type water heaters have been available in an electric version for quite some time. I have one in my barn to serve the bathroom. It also provides hot water for a laundry, small kitchen and the horse wash rack. Granted we only use one fixture at a time but the tiny Eco-Smart heater puts out an amazing amount of warm water for its size.


  • Drain the tank if it is being shut down during periods of freezing temperatures.
  • Keep the area around a water heater clear of stored household items.
  • Never use the top of the water heater as a storage shelf.
  • Keep the temperature setting at 120 degrees max.

Common Troubleshooting

  • If you discover you have no hot water, check the breaker, the temperature setting, and the water- supply valve before calling for service. Refer to the manufacturer’s literature for locations of these items and other troubleshooting information.


  • 1x per year: Drain several gallons of water from the bottom of the water heater spigot to remove sediment that may have developed on the bottom of the tank.
  • 1x per year: The heating elements in the electric water heater will require periodic cleaning. The frequency can vary in part by the quality of the water in your area. Refer to the manufacturer’s literature for step-by-step instructions and drawings or contact an authorized service company.


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