Wondering how to install a hot water heater? Installing a water heater isn’t particularly difficult. However, there are many potential consequences that can occur if the device is improperly set up, including carbon monoxide leaks due to improper ventilation, scalding, and tank explosions. Moreover, following plumbing codes is essential. It is wise to call a local plumber to learn the correct codes and permits required in your area. Once these precautions are taken, you are 4-6 hours away from a new hot water heater.
Before you begin, make sure you have a fire extinguisher handy and clear the area of flammable or dangerous items. Next, ensure that you have the appropriate tools required for the job. Hot water heater installation sometimes requires tools most people do not have in their home, such as the correct pipe wrench size.
Once you have all the necessary tools, check the measurements of your old and new water heaters, paying special attention to ensure the same center-to-center dimension between the hot and cold water pipes on the top of the units. For the plumbing connected to your old heater, make sure there is a union in the gas line (for gas water heaters). If your pipes do not have these, your job will be more difficult because the pipes will need to be cut and new pipes installed.
Transporting the new and old water heaters is no easy task, so the use of a dolly and at least two people is recommended. Once you have everything in place, the first step is to shut off all utilities to your old hot water heater, including the water, electricity (for electric heaters) and gas (for gas heaters). To ensure the gas is shut off, check that the pilot is no longer lit. After all utilities are shut off, drain the water from the tank.
When the water heater is disconnected and drained, remove the old water heater. Clean the area under the old unit and put the new water heater in its place, aligning the plumbing and electrical or gas outlets. Install the fittings, such as the temperature and pressure relief valve, according to the manual. If the manual does not provide useful images, a guide book on how to install a hot water heater with detailed photographs could be helpful.
Now you are ready to connect the plumbing and gas/electric. Using dielectric unions, connect the pipes and sweat the copper joints to meld the units together. For gas water heaters, connect the gas line to the gas burner control valve.
Check that your connection isn’t leaking by brushing soapy water on the joints and unions. If there are bubbles, that means you have a leak and it needs to be tightened. If you continue to see bubbles after tightening, contact a plumber for further assistance. For electric water heaters, connect the power lines to the water heater junction box.
For gas models the next step is to install the exhaust flue. There should be detailed installation directions in the unit’s manual. When all the connections are made, it is time to fill the water heater with cold water. Once filled, turn it on by reinstalling the fuse (for electrical units) or making sure the gas valve is open and lighting the pilot (for gas units). Lastly, set the thermostat temperature between 110 and 130 degrees.
After following these steps you should have a working water heater. If you’re still unsure of how to install a hot water heater, call your local plumber to either schedule a consultation or to inquire about proper techniques and codes.