Water heater woes

Hello. I'm having some troubles with my electric water heater. Let me explain: Its fairly old (several years I'd guess) and I dont believe it was ever drained. I've only lived with it for a year. Fairly suddenly (like in a couple days time) it started to lose a huge amount of its hot water capacity. Showers would be limited to a couple minutes before going cold.
I read up on them a bit, and figured I should drain it since it really couldn't hurt. So, I did,but it didn't fix the capacity problem, although there was a TON of sediment in there.
Next I got out my voltometer and I couldn't see any power going to the lower element or thermostat. I decided to get a new upper thermostat since the existing one was fairly old and they are pretty cheap to replace. I got the same spec/type one from Lowes, but it still was not putting any power out from the terminals on the upper thermostat that lead to the lower thermostat/element.
I then decided to just replace both the elements and the other thermostat, just in case I was just really bad at diagnosing water heater problems. Still no go.
I've tested all of the cabling and it all checks out. The input terminals on the lower thermostat/element have 0V across them at all times. The upper element/thermostat terminals put out a steady 208V.
I've made sure the thermostats are flush with the tank. I've checked over and over that the wiring is how it was before (how it worked for years) as well as how it shows on the diagrams that came with the parts.
The worst part is that after all this, it almost seems to have lost some of its heating ability. I've read that the elements dont usually go on at the same time, they alternate. Still, the upper element is always hot and gets voltage while the lower element is always very cold to the touch and has 0V. Changing the temp settings on either thermostat does not trigger the power to switch over either. The lower and upper thermostat are both open at all times since the tank never gets hot enough to shut them off. I've tried the reset button on the upper thermostat but that does nothing since the high temp gauge doesn't get tripped. I've tried swapping new and old thermostats to no avail.
Can any experienced water-heater troubleshooting/repairing people help out? I'm really at a loss. I've put several hours and about $40 in parts into this thing and its still not working, and I cant afford a real plumber. I'm feeling a bit desperate at this point :)
Thanks, Chuck
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Mortrek wrote:

You have 208V ? Must be on a 120/208V 3-phase system?
Anyway, did you get 208V elements or the more common 240V ones? This could be a red herring, but it might be part of the problem.
Aside from that, maybe the dip tube has gone bad and the problem has nothing to with the electrical portion.
Jim
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Here's a link on the dip tube problem: http://www.rd.com/content/openContent.do?contentId 441 I just repaired one for a client. It had the classic white gunk when I flushed it out. Made in '95. Richard
Speedy Jim wrote:

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Speedy Jim wrote:

Might be a red herring? You think the small difference in heat output of 208V vs 240V is going to account for a huge and noticeable loss in heat capacity?

And why consider the dip tube, when he clearly says that with a tank full of cold water he has no power going to either the lower element or thermostat?
This just needs to be traced out with a voltmeter to find out why there is no voltage at the lower element.
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The dip tube has vacated this Earth. Install a new one. $5.
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