Can I Install My Own Water Heater?
We'll take you through a step-by-step water heater installation in under one day. And although you may not need to replace your water heater at this time, there's still a good chance that you will in a few years time.
The typical lifespan of water heaters is between 7-15 years. If yours falls between this range, then pay attention to this article. If you're familiar with basic tools, it wouldn't be difficult to replace your water heater.
Installation of Your New Tank
In our demonstration, we are replacing a natural gas heater. However, a propane heater follows exactly the same steps for replacement, while an electric heater isn't so different.
Nonetheless, ensure to be cautious when planning to replace a water heater. Always confirm if a permit would be required from your local inspections department. Also ensure your work is checked by an electrical or plumbing inspector.
Costs of Labor and Installation
Gas costs about $600-$800 for many residential water heaters, and an added $600-$800 on installation by a plumber. There are also gas water heaters which have dedicated venting systems. However, these are more expensive and difficult to install so we won't be talking about them here.
When Do You Need to Replace Your Water Heater?
Once the tank leaks, you can be sure that your heater unit is dead. A slow drip under the tank, normally a visible trail of rusty water, is a clear indication that you'll need a new water heater installation. It means the steel tank is damaged beyond repair. Other signs, like scarce or no hot water, mostly indicate other problems which can be fixed.
If you notice a leak, plan to have the water heater replaced immediately. Don't wait until it worsens. You will find instructions on installation in your new water heater, and also a lot of warnings to ensure you safely handle the electrical, gas and other connections. In addition to those basics, here we'll give you the techniques and “real life” advice from an experienced plumber.
But beware: Both propane and natural gas which you may be working with are hazardous substances. If you are unsure, contact a professional to handle the tough areas. And also make sure your work is inspected upon completion.
There are different plumbing codes for different regions. Inform your local plumbing inspector of your planned water heater installation, as well as the kind of materials you want to use. It's better to be guided adequately first, than having to make changes later.
Connections for Steel
Galvanized steel is used for water pipes in many homes. These are quite difficult to replace. Therefore, we advise you disconnect the pipes at the closest tee and make use of stainless steel and brass to complete the connections.
It is easy to install flexible stainless steel connectors, particularly when the tank inlets and existing pipes don't align.
Step 1: Turn off the water and gas.
Shut the water heater gas supply by turning the nearby valve by a quarter. It will be at a right angle to the pipe when off. Also shut the main supply of water to the heater and ensure the lines are empty by leaving a faucet open, preferably on the least floor.
Step 2: Drain water from the tank.
Connect a garden hose to the drain regulator in order to drain any water left in the heater tank. Be careful, as the water will be steaming hot. Use a pair of wrenches to detach the gas line at the nearby joint, and a pipe wrench to disconnect the pipe from the gas control regulator.
Step 3: Sever the water lines.
Have the vent pipe unscrewed from the draft diverter and place it aside. Then use a tube cutter to sever the cold and hot water lines. (If present, unscrew the nuts on flexible connectors or joints for galvanized pipes.) Move the old water heater installation away.
Step 4: Fix the relief valve.
With three turns of Teflon tape, wrap the new pressure and temperature relief valve threads. Use a pipe wrench to screw it into the tank, ensuring it is tight. Connect a discharge pipe.
Step 5: Fix the water lines.
Position the new water heater. Extend or recut old piping as needed to meet the new, and use copper slip couplings to solder the pipes together. If the connections don't align, you can offset the lines using two 45-degree elbows.
Step 6: Reconnect the vent.
Have the vent reattached. Push it tightly across the draft hood and use three 3/8-inch no. 6 sheet metal screws to secure it. The holes should be pre-drilled, and the vent needs to be elevated vertically at least 12 inches before taking a turn at the first elbow.
Step 7: Connect the gas line using two wrenches.
Reattach the gas line. Use pipe joint compound to coat the threaded ends and have the first nipple screwed into the gas valve. We recommend you use two pipe wrenches so as not to stress the valve.
Reattach the remaining nipples in order to complete the joining. Then fill the tank with the following four steps: shut the drain regulator; Turn on the main water supply at the regulator and leave open the cold water inlet to the heater; open a hot water faucet nearby until water starts running; and check the water heater installation for any leaks.
Step 8: Carry out back-drafting checks.
Many water heaters depend on a natural draft to send combustion fumes up the duct. If the draft isn't functional, the possibly deadly carbon monoxide fumes will be let loose into your home. Check the draft after your installation is done.
Shut all exterior windows and doors and turn on the exhaust fans in your bathroom and kitchen. The leave open a hot water faucet nearby until you can hear the ignition of the water heater gas burner.
After about a minute, take a smoking match round the draft hood edges at the heater top. The smoke should normally go up the vent duct. If this isn't so, then the burner fumes aren't venting. Shut the gas supply to the heater and contact a licensed plumber to fix the issue.
Step 9: Carry out leakage checks.
While the gas is turned on, check for leaks in the connections by brushing a balanced mixture of water and dishwashing liquid through the joints. If you notice any bubbling on the mixture, then there's a leak.
Reconnect or tighten any leaking joints, and wipe them dry when done. Get a plumbing inspector to cross check your work. Make sure the connections are well tightened, as you can be guided by the how-to information that follows it.
Step 10: Put on the pilot light.
Switch on the pilot light as instructed by the manufacturer. (For electric heaters, turn on the power at the mains after your work has been checked by the electrical inspector.)
Lastly, put the temperature at 120 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the installation guide. Switch on the pilot light on the new water heater installation and regulate the temperature.