red glowing heating element curled inside a toaster oven

Heating Element

Originally contributed by • last updated 3/17/2021

Kitchen Gearoid
Kitchen Gearoid

Heating elements may not seem like a hot topic but things can get pretty toasty when these little strips of wire get fired up. Having to replace a broken one, on the other hand, can take the steam right out of any hot shower. Luckily, for the most part, these cooked-up coils require very little maintenance and rarely need to be replaced. But, if you’re in the need for a new one, there are a few things you should consider before you go out shopping.


The term heating element typically refers to a metal wire(s) or ribbon(s) of various thicknesses, often coiled or bent, that convert electrical energy into heat. They can be found in common appliances such as toasters, stove tops, dryers and inside water heaters. In some cases, such as with toasters, the element itself is visible and will often glow red and emit heat when turned on. In other cases, such as with water heaters, the elements are hidden and/or can be covered by protective sheaths. For the most part, they need little repair or maintenance and are best left untouched as tampering with them can often lead to failure in their operation.

What Are The Signs Of A Bad Heating Element?

Heating elements can be found in various appliances throughout the home, from toasters to hot water tanks. Typically, they can last for a long time and will have little to no problems. But, like most things, they don’t last forever and they may need to be replaced from time to time. Here are a couple of key signs to look out for if you think you have a bad element:

  • Whether you’re dealing with a water heater, a stove top, an oven, or a dryer, if they are not producing enough heat, there may be a chance that there’s a problem with the heating element. In most cases, replacing them is the easiest option.
  • There are some tests you can run with a voltage meter to see if your heating element is working properly. But, unless you’re an experienced DIYer or a professional, you may want to call in someone with experience to help diagnose any major problems.

It's safe to say that unless you have plenty of experience, since heating elements combine both heat and electricity, you should consult with an expert.