How To Install A New Upper Thermostat In A Prepped Water Heater

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The upper thermostat on a water heater is a sensor that ensures that the incoming water, added after you've used some of the tank, is brought to the correct warm temperature. If the incoming water isn't heated properly or as quickly as possible, this cold water supply can dilute the overall warmth in your tank and cost your unit in efficiency.

If you are fairly sure that your unit has a faulty upper thermostat, the part isn't difficult to fix. If you're not completely sure this is the broken part, call in a plumber or a water heater repair company for a consultation and diagnostics.

What You Need:

  • Flathead screwdriver
  • Electrical tape
  • Pen and paper or digital camera, optional
  • New upper thermostat

Step 1: Locate and Unhook the Upper Thermostat

Make sure the power supply is off to your water heater by pulling the plug or flipping the circuit breaker. Locate the upper access panel door and use your screwdriver to remove the mounting screws. Place the panel door and the screws somewhere safe and out of the way.

Look inside the hole you just opened and you should see a block of foam insulation covering the area. Look for the bottom edge of that foam and lift up. The foam is a door attached to other foam so you don't want to rip it out. Simply lift up until the face of the foam is up against the exterior wall of the water heater. Use electrical tape to secure the foam to the unit to keep this piece out of your way as you work.

You should now see a plastic access cover with a notched tab at the top. Slide the end of your flathead screwdriver into that tab and press up firmly to release the cover from its mountings. Lift up and out to fully remove the cover and set aside with the other parts you have removed.

Now you should see the actual upper thermostat, which has a series of wires on the front held into place with screws. Make note of the wire orientation with either your memory, a pen and paper, or a digital camera. Use your screwdriver to loosen those wire screws, one by one, until all of the wires are loosened. Pull the wires free from each of the screws and leave the wires hanging within the access area.

Depress the two metal tabs on either side of the thermostat then pull up and out on the thermostat to fully remove the part.

Step 2: Install the New Upper Thermostat

Prepare your new thermostat according to package directions. Slide the thermostat into the access area and the mounting brackets. Hook the wires up the screws making sure the wires are in the proper orientation. Tighten the screws to secure the wires.

Snap the plastic cover back into place over the thermostat using the tab as a line-up guide. Gently peel the electrical tape off the foam door and the unit then allow the foam door to drop back into place over the plastic cover. Discard the tape.

Place the access panel door back over the area and secure its screws to fasten. Restore the power supply to the unit and check your water supply after at least an hour to see if the heating problem is fixed. For more information, contact local professionals like Mr. Rooter Plumbing.

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