How to Set the Upper & Lower Thermostats on Dual Element Water Heaters

Hot water heaters may have a single element near the middle of the tank or dual elements located near the top and bottom. The elements heat from either electricity or gas to warm the copper element in the tank and the surrounding water. The hot water flows into a home through the plumbing and release into a sink or shower when a faucet valve is turned on. Each element has an adjustment knob or digital keypad to change the temperature of the thermostat.

Water heaters warm water for use in a home.
  1. Insert a screwdriver into the top access panel screws on the water heater. Turn each screw counterclockwise to loosen and remove them.

  2. Swing the access panel door open. The door pivots on hinges.

  3. Remove insulation from the access panel to reveal the top heating element and controls.

  4. Turn the knob left to lower the temperature or right for a higher temperature. Set digital thermostats by using the up and down arrows to raise or lower the temperature.

  5. Repeat this procedure to change the temperature on the lower heating element thermostat.


  • Do not disturb the plastic covering over the elements. This is a protective shield that keeps moisture away from the element wiring.
  • Water temperatures over 125 degrees Fahrenheit are a scalding hazard.

About the Author

Mary Lougee has been writing for over 10 years. She holds a Bachelor's Degree with a major in Management and a double minor in accounting and computer science. She loves writing about careers for busy families as well as family oriented planning, meals and activities for all ages.