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What Size Socket for Water Heater Element? (Answered)

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

what size socket for water heater element

Replacing a storage tank electric water heater’s heating element requires precise sizing. Otherwise, you will end up with an appliance that cannot produce hot water. But then, do you know what size socket for water heater element you should use?

Continue reading if you are clueless about this topic. We have just the tips to help.

Table of Contents

What Heating Element Socket Size Should I Pick for My Water Heater?


Water heater element sockets vary in size and shape, depending on the water heater brand, size, and heating element.

Standard-sized electric models require a 1.5-inch (38 in mm) heating element socket. Although the size applies to most water heaters, homeowners should still read their owner’s manual to check their appliance’s specifications.

It is also worth noting that the heating element size varies slightly from the anode rod size. Most water heaters require a 1-1/16-inch (27mm) socket size for water heater anode rods.

Homeowners must determine their unit’s heating element size to know which socket to use.

Most water heater heating elements come in three sizes, as follows.

  • Standard-sized water heaters – 9.0 inches long and ¾ inches (19 mm) in diameter
  • Medium-sized water heaters – 12 inches long and 1.0 inch (25.4 mm) in diameter
  • Large water heaters – 18 inches long and 1.5 inches (38 mm) in diameter

The most accurate way to determine a heating element’s size is to remove it from the water heater. You can then take the measurements for the diameter and length. Use this information to find the correct socket size.

Alternatively, lower a measuring tape inside the storage tank until the end hits the tank’s bottom. Mark the tape at the position between the tank’s interior and exterior. Measure the tape’s length inside the tank.

Water heater size is not the only factor you must consider when choosing a heating element socket. The brand is a crucial parameter, too.

For example, a Rheem water heater might require a 9 x ¾-inch, 12 x 1-inch, or 18 x 1.5-inch socket, depending on the series and model.

Meanwhile, Bradford White water heaters need a 1-inch-diameter by 12-inch long socket for their heating elements.

These sizes are for residential water heaters. But what if you have a water heater in your recreational vehicle or motorhome? The average RV water heater anode socket size is 7/8 of an inch or 22 millimeters.

RV owners might want to read their motorhome water heater owner’s manual for the correct size. Alternatively, they can contact their dealer or search the internet for information.

The Following Table Summarizes the Heating Element Bsocket Sizes for Different Water Heaters.

Water Heater Element Socket Size
Standard, universal, or generic 1.5 inches (38 mm)
Recreational vehicles 7/8 inch (22 mm)
Whirlpool water heaters 1.5 inches (38 mm)
Rheem water heaters ¾ inch to 1.5 inches (19-38 mm)
A.O. Smith water heaters 3/4 inch
Bradford White 1.0 inch (25 mm)
General Electric ¾ inch (19 mm)
Kenmore ¾ inch to 1.5 inches (19-38 mm)

What is a Socket? How to Use it?


Electric storage tank water heaters have heating elements that heat the water when electricity passes through them.

It is similar to a coil-type electric stove or a regular oven. Once the coil has done its job, heat travels to the water in the tank, raising its temperature to produce hot water.

Some electric water heaters have screw-in heating elements, while others have a flange style. The former requires a tool to rotate the “screw” to loosen the heating element from the storage tank water heater.

This tool is what we call the water heater element socket. Plumbers choose the correct socket size for anode rod or heating element to loosen the screw, remove the water heater component, and replace it with a new one.

Water heater sockets must form a snug fit around the component. Otherwise, it will be impossible to loosen or tighten it.

Plumbers insert a metal rod through the socket’s two holes and turn it by hand.

Ways to Use Socket


You have several ways to use a socket, provided it is the correct water heater element socket size.

First, insert a screwdriver through the socket’s two opposing holes. The screwdriver serves as a lever, allowing you to turn the water heater element socket and remove the anode or heating element.

Second, connect the element socket to a ratchet and use it to loosen water heater parts. One issue with this technique is the drive ratchet’s stubby handle. Turning the hand tool can be challenging in space-limited water heaters.

Frequently Asked Questions


Are all water heater elements the same size?

No, the size of water heater elements varies across brands. Most products have a 1.5-inch or 38-mm diameter heating element. For example, Rheem and Whirlpool have this size.

Some brands have a 1-inch or ¾-inch diameter heating element, with a 12- and 9-inch length, respectively. Water heater elements with a 1.5-inch diameter are 18 inches long.

You can check your appliance owner’s manual for the correct size to eliminate errors and ensure proper heating element replacement.

Which socket is required for water heater?

Water heaters require a socket that forms a snug fit around the water heater’s heating element.

The correct water heater anode rod socket size is necessary to ensure good contact between the heating element and the socket and provide quick maintenance.

Tips to remove a water heater element without a socket

Here are some tips to remove water heater element without socket.

  • Use a spanner the same size as your water heater element. Most homeowners have this kind of hand tool, allowing them to remove the water heater element without a water heater element wrench.
  • Use a pipe wrench to loosen the water heater element before replacing it with a new one.
  • Use a pair of pliers to rotate the water heater element. Unfortunately, this trick can be challenging because you need a firm grip on the pliers.
  • Breaker bars can also help.


Determining what size socket for water heater element to buy can be challenging, especially for first-time water heater owners. Although most water heaters require a 1.5-inch diameter socket, some brands might have a different requirement.

Homeowners might want to remove the heating element or anode rod to determine its precise measurements. You can also hire a plumber to remove these parts if you are not confident doing it yourself.

Either way, precise heating element measurements are necessary to help you determine the correct socket size for your water heater.

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