Dry-fired elements are more common than most people think. It only takes a few seconds to dry fire an element. So, what exactly is a “dry-fired” element? If the elements inside of the water heater are not completely submerged in water when the heater is turned on, the elements will be damaged. The damage may not result in an immediate failure but often will show up later; typically within the first year of using the water heater. Dry-fired elements are common in new construction, where multiple parties are switching electrical breakers on and off.
Contrary to popular belief, both Copper and Incoloy elements can be dry-fired. Identifying a dry-fired element is fairly easy. Generally, dry-fired elements are no longer straight and can be bent with two hands. Dry-fired Copper elements take on a common ‘wilted’ appearance.
To maintain the mechanical integrity and life of the element, make sure the water heater tank is completely filled with water until the water is coming out of a tub spout, then open the T&P valve to release the last of the air from inside the tank. Then, turn the power on. Whether you have installed an AO Smith, Bradford White, Lochinvar, State, or Rheem, contact your local plumbing contractor with any questions.
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