The heating element can be considered the heart of every water heater. There wouldn’t be any hot water inside the tank without it and the winter season would be a very unpleasant experience for everyone. So, what is the heating element on your water heater and how does it work? Let’s take a look at the quick rundown of its features.

How does it work?

Your heating element is what electrical engineers would call a resistor. And it’s a large one at that. When current passes through this resistor it converts electricity into heat that is released into the surrounding area. This process is known as Joule’s heating and it happens because of the electrical resistance of this element. In electric circuits, this can be a bad thing and there may be a need to implement some cooling element or agent to get rid of all this heat. In your water heater though, this is just the thing you need. The more watts of power this component draws the more heat it discharges. Then, that heat can be used to convert the otherwise ice-cold water into every human’s paradise – a hot bath.

What is the purpose of the heating element?

The heating element is the only element of your water heater that can make the water in the tank hotter. As such, the water tank would be just a container that is holding some water inside without this component. If we want to take a nice hot shower, this unit is essential.

The heating element is also the primary spender of electrical energy inside the water heater. Electrical energy is mostly spent on heating in every circuit and the whole purpose of this unit is to make a lot of heat from electricity. Because of this, the heating element will take by far the biggest piece of the electrical energy used in the water heater. Additionally, sediments and calcium in the water tank build up much faster the hotter the heating element and water are.

Most of the residential water heaters have two of these elements inside, but they never work at the same time. Furthermore, an interesting thing to point out is that the heating element is usually the main suspect if the water heater breaks down and needs maintenance. Most of these units won’t work if they are not submerged in water. If we turned on the power and there is no water in the tank, the heating element would burn out.


For more information, contact Vinny’s Jersey Plumbing, located in Wayne, New Jersey.  We also service other towns in New Jersey, such as Lodi, Livingston and Cedar Grove.