Marathon Water Heater – What Marathon water heater elements are available?

We are often asked why Marathon water heaters can come with water heating element options of 4500, 3800 and 3000-watt configurations. There are good reasons and markets for each. Keep in mind, a Marathon water heater’s wattage has no bearing on the efficiency of a water heater.

4500 watt Marathon water heater elements used to heat water in a 50 gallon barrel or in a 50 gallon Marathon water heater will draw the same energy, it’s just the Marathon will store it much more efficiently. Likewise, a 50 gallon electric water heater with 4500 Watt heating elements and an identical one with 3000 Watt elements will also use the same energy. The 3000 Watt water heater elements will just take longer to do it.

The 4500 Watt Marathon water heater heater elements are the mainstay of the water heater market. Most units sold at home centers and hardware stores will have 4500 Watt elements. It provides good recovery of 21.7 gallons per hour with solid reliability. Most consumers are familiar with this configuration and it represents about 60% of Marathon water heater sales. 

The 3800 Watt Marathon water heater elements provide a couple of advantages over the 4500 Watt Marathon heater elements. While it has a nominal reduction in recovery at 17.6 gallons per hour, its wiring requirements are less stringent. A 4500-watt element requires 10/2 wire and a 30 amp (220volt) breaker. The 3800 can be wired with 12/2 wire and a 20 amp breaker.

This may be an important consideration in an area with older housing stock that may have limited capacity in their panel or an older model electric water heater that commonly used this lighter gauge wiring. Installing the 3800 Watt Marathon water heater allows the customer to install an efficient water heater without having to upgrade their wiring or service.

The other benefit derives from the fact the 3800 Watt Marathon water heater element is the same size as the 4500 Watt Marathon water heater element. It simply has reduced wattage going through it. This is known as “watt density.” As you reduce watt density it reduces the surface temperature of the element resulting in reduced thermal stress and less mineral build up. The combination of lower watt density and less mineral buildup will increase the service life of these Marathon water heater elements in harsh water conditions. This is the reason our titanium elements are all available in a 3800 Watt configuration. A titanium element will be going into harsh water conditions so we want to give them every advantage possible.

 The 3000 Watt Marathon water heater elements are used by utilities looking for an inexpensive way to control water heating peak load. For example, if a utility finds that at 6pm 50% of their water heaters are being run as people come home from work, installing 3000 watt units rather than 4500 watt units allows the utility to reduce their load by 1500 watts per water heater. The 3000 Watt Marathon water heating element has the lowest recovery rate at 16 gallons per hour.

Marathon water heater elements are interchangeable as long as the element is correct for your tank size. If you have a tank with 4500 watt elements in a demanding dairy barn application, the bottom element can be changed out for one of Marathon water heater’s super durable titanium elements. You are always OK to put a smaller element in a tank designed for a larger element. However, code does not allow you to run a larger element such as a 4500 watt in a tank rated for 3000 watts. For more information contact your Marathon water heater rep or email to