Electric water heaters use the heating element to heat the water inside the tank. Electricity passes through the thermostat and then the element, with the heat generated by the electricity heating the water. The water heater element is the most common item on a water heater to fail. However, it is a universal part that is found in most local hardware stores. You can choose the right water heater element by finding the information from the one you are replacing.
Turn off the power to the electric water heater by turning off the breaker inside your main electrical panel.
Remove the thermostat and element cover from the side of the heater by removing the screws that hold it onto the tank. Remove the plastic thermostat cover from the thermostat to expose the face of the element.
Find the voltage and wattage printed on the face of the element. Note if the element screws into the tank or bolts on. A bolted or flanged element connects to the water heater with four bolts. These are difficult to find but are replaceable using an adapter kit with a screw-in element.
Turn the power to the electric water heater on by turning on the breaker inside your main electrical panel.