What is an element in a water heater?

We have an electric water heater and I am guessing an element doesn't work because it keeps turning off. We weren't getting hot water so I switched the circuit thingy in the box off and on and the water heater started working again, now it has stopped working again about 12 hrs later. Someone said... show more We have an electric water heater and I am guessing an element doesn't work because it keeps turning off.

We weren't getting hot water so I switched the circuit thingy in the box off and on and the water heater started working again, now it has stopped working again about 12 hrs later.

Someone said earlier maybe its the element. It says on the heater there are 2 of them. What is this and how do you replace it? Can you tell if one or both are out?

Thanks!
Update: can you tell me anyway, my husband knows more about this stuff...
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