Can I replace 4500watt elements with 5500watt elements?

The Tank Can I replace 4500watt elements with 5500watt elements?

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    I’m most likely going to be getting a new Rheem unit from the local HomeDepot because all the Plumbing supply houses in my area only sell to contractors. I’m replacing a Rheem that came in the house when built in the late 80’s that had the Drip Tube disintegrate but I have no recourse from that old Lawsuit. I’ve cleaned, flushed, flushed, cussed, flushed and cleaned the unit and still get some fine particles that clog up the fixtures so I’ve given up and going to replace the unit.

    Anyway. My plan is to replace the Anode to a Magnesium unit before I install the water heater. I’ve read that the newer Rheems have gone Aluminum and don’t want that.

    Locally, about the only units around that are readily available seem to have the 4500 watt elements in them except the 12yr $5-700 units. I noticed, online, that the Rheem part numbers are essentially the same for some of the tanks I’m looking at such as:

    XE50M09EL55U0 5500watt unit
    XE50M09EL45U0 4500watt unit

    My electrical service is a 30amp 240v breaker only servicing the Water Heater and nothing else. Would they actually use different wiring or controlers between these units for the different Element ratings?

    Thanks Ahead for any input.


    The NEC rates a water heater as a continuous load. A circuit with a continuous load may be loaded to 80%. 30 times 80% = 24 amps. 5500/240 = 22.92 amps. So you are good to go.



    Thanks. I’ve been trying to figure out if just installing the higher wattage elements(Rheem factory parts) and not have any issues with it. When I was looking at the Rheem parts catalog I saw that the other parts between the 4500 and 5500 watt tanks were the same. Same Thermostats and other parts were all the same for the Performance line of tanks. I wondered if I could just spend the $40 on 2 new elements for the thank instead of spending the extra $150+ and have to wait for it to be delivered just to get the same thing.

    I’m already planning on installing a Magnesium anode in the new tank because I’ve been reading that even Rheem has gone to an Aluminum rod. I wouldn’t think the Rheem would actually use smaller wire in their 4500watt tanks than in the same tank model using the 5500 watt elements that could cause a fire hazard or something.


    Randy Schuyler

    Where did you hear that Rheem is now using aluminum?

    Randy Schuyler


    I don’t remember right now. I don’t think it was specific to Rheem. It was many statements made by many of the sights like this that the newer Tanks are using Aluminum now.

    Does Rheem still use Magnesium rods primarily? I know they make other rods for water issues like Sulphur water issues and such. I don’t have any of those issues with my city water. I just really try to restrict the amount of Aluminum I intake due to the research relating it and the possible links to Alzheimers. It’s pretty common in some parts of my family.

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