Is It Difficult To Replace A Water Heater?


How to Replace a Water Heater


All plumbing facilities must comply with the local plumbing code so contact the local building department for your area specifications. Because installation differs by location and type of heater, the steps below merely show the general process and may or may not relate to your situation.


Shut Off the Water and Gas or Electricity


Shut off the water heater to the existing utilities. Turn off the water at the central water shut-off valve of the home or the shut-off valve running to the existing water heater at the cold water supply line. Then, shut down the electricity or gas supply:


  • Electric water heater: Turn off the circuit breaker on the water heater's circuit at the home's breaker box. This is typically a 30-amp, double-pole breaker.

  • Gas water heater: Turn off the gas supply at the shutoff valve on the gas pipe nearest the water heater.


Drain the Water Heater Tank


Connect a garden hose to the drain valve near the water heater underneath. Open the nearest hot water faucet, like in the shower, to avoid suction in the line which can delay the draining. Place the other end of the hose over a drain on the concrete, or run it outside. Slowly open the drain valve, so that the drain valve is not obstructed by the water. Let the tank drain full, then shut off the valve and take off the hose.


Disconnect the Water Heater


Disconnect the water heaters from the hot and cold water lines. These can be connected to the heater with flexible hoses (typically attached with compression or union fittings) or with soldered connections (soldered lines must be cut with a tubing cutter). Then, unplug the gas or electricity:


  • Electric water heater: Confirm that the circuit is off to the water heater, using a non-contact voltage tester, then disconnect the wiring connections and circuit cable from the water heater. 

  • Gas water heater: Confirm that the gas supply is shut off at the shutoff valves, then disconnect the gas line to the water heater. Disconnect the vent pipe from the draft hood on the top of the heater.


Remove and Replace the Water Heater


Have an assistant help dolly load the old water heater onto the refrigerator and remove the old appliance. Sweep up the floor that held the old heater. Move the new water heater into place, lining the current plumbing with the plumbing connections of the water heater. Level the new water heater by shimming beneath the legs, as needed.


Install the Relief Valve and Other Fittings


Install the different fittings which come with the water heater. This always involves a valve for temperature and pressure relief (TPR valve), and drain pipe for discharge. Install any additional fittings as appropriate, following the directions of the manufacturer.


Connect the Water Pipes


Replace the cold water supply with a shut-off switch, if it does not already have one. Link cold water inlet and hot water outlet to the cold and hot water pipes on the water heater. Make sure you are using the right kind of fittings. Many connections often include a dielectric union to avoid electro-galvanic action called electrolysis which results in premature metal corrosion. Flexible connections are useful in case the inlet and outlet are not exactly in line with the old plumbing. 


Connect the Gas or Electricity


Connect the gas or electrical sources, as applicable: 


  • Gas water heater: Attach the gas line to the control valve at the gas burner. Use a versatile gas line where applicable and local code permit. Search for leakages by turning the gas supply valve on and cleaning the gas union and all gas joints with a soapy water solution. If you see any bubbles, the link leaks and needs tightening up. When you still can't get a good seal without bubbles, call the gas company or a plumber to help.

  • Electric water heater: Attach the circuit wires to the water heater which leads to the heater device in the electrical junction box. Circuit wiring is usually contained in flexible metal cable or pipe where it attaches to the water heater.


Attach the Vent (Gas Water Heater)


Fasten the vent pipe onto the water heater draft hood (only for gas water heaters). Specific parts and instructions should be given for the new water heater. Link the vent according to instructions given by the manufacturer and local code.


Set the Water Heater Temperature


Get the new water heater running with the following steps, as applicable:


  • Switch the cold water supply valve onto the water heater and switch on the water supply valve (or water supply to the room, as appropriate). Let the water heater tank fill with water: turn on a hot water faucet in a remote bathroom or kitchen; fill the tank (water will be cold) when water comes out of the faucet.

  • Restore power for an electric heater, to the water heater chain. For a gas heater, ensure the main gas valve is opened and check that the pilot igniter is functioning properly, following the directions of the supplier.

  • Set the thermostat on the water heater as desired (120 degrees F is standard) at a temperature between 110 and 125 degrees F and let the water in the tank reach temperature.

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