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The bottom element in my water heater burned up. I took the bottom panel off, and everything inside was scorched - the insulation, the plastic cover, the thermostat - even the edges of the panel. The thermostat still seemed to work, so I just replaced the element - and it runs like a champ now. Can the scorching cause any issues?

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It sounds like it ran dry. Hot water heaters are not supposed to do that; I don't know how they check but I imagine there's a sensor of some sort. That needs to be checked, or you might burn your new element out, too. –  staticsan Jan 26 '11 at 23:23
    
@staticsan I pretty much only saw the element and the thermostat (both upper and lower). Where is this "water" sensor hiding? –  Jeffrey Jan 27 '11 at 13:34
    
I have no idea. There may not necessarily be one as the way they are intended to be installed should prevent them running dry, anyway. Do you know why the bottom element burned up? –  staticsan Jan 27 '11 at 22:37
    
@staticsac I've no idea. I'm not sure the age of the water heater, but it is more than five years old. I figured it just aged. –  Jeffrey Jan 28 '11 at 13:18
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Possibly, but without seeing the extent of the damage no one will be able to tell for sure.

Given that you have already replaced the element I'd keep a close eye on the heater for a few days to make sure that there are no problems.

Did you clean everything and check for further damage before you reassembled the heater?

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I cleaned off all the "soot" that would come off - but it definitely has a scorched look to it. The "scorch ring" around the panel with the cover on definitely shows that it had some problems, but I don't believe there's any structural issues. –  Jeffrey Jan 26 '11 at 16:06
    
@Jeffrey - the fact that it didn't fuse/short/blow up is a good sign. If there was something seriously wrong it wouldn't be working at all. I'd be worried about things being weakened. –  ChrisF Jan 26 '11 at 16:09
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