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Water heater installation guide

Published on:
January 15, 2021

If your water heater starts to leak you’re going to have to replace it quickly. If you’re using an electric water heater, the installation of a replacement water heater differs slightly compared to a gas water heater. This can be handled as a DIY home project to save some money and avoid having to wait for a professional to come in, as long as you follow instructions in a water heater installation guide to prevent mistakes that could be frustrating and/or potentially dangerous. You’ll want to check with your local department of inspections to make sure you don’t need a permit, and also have an electrical or plumbing inspector come in to check your work. 

When You Should Replace Your Water Heater 

You know that your water heater is no longer working when you have a tank leak, typically in the form of a slow drip with a trail of rusty water. If this happens, it’s clear that the steel tank has rusted through. If there’s insufficient amount of or no hot water, it’s a signal that there are problems you can fix. At this point, it’s a good idea to talk to a local plumbing inspector about the materials you plan to use and how you plan to conduct the installation so that you can get clear guidance.

Removing the Current Water Heater 

First, you’ll need to go to the circuit breaker and shut off the electricity. Use a circuit tester to ensure that the power is off and put tape down to mark wire connections, then disconnect the wires. While you have the water supply on still, turn on the hot water and let this run until it cools. Turn off the cold-water line, then connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom. 

Open the valve and empty the heater completely either down a drain or in buckets.This may go faster if you open a hot-water faucet on a sink. After the tank’s empty, take the discharge pipe off of the temperature and pressure relief valve. Disconnect the supply lines. 

 A Step-by-Step Guide to Installing a Water Heater

  1. Put your new heater in a drain pan. If you’d like to avoid any possible flooding, you can route a pine from the drain pan to a drain. Make sure you’re not reusing the old T&P valve - you might need to purchase one separately from the water heater. This is crucial to have since it automatically opens if the pressure or temperature gets too high for the tank. 
  2. Position the valve’s discharge pipe so that it’s pointed towards the drain or floor. You should put a bucket underneath if you’re not using a drain. The pipe shouldn’t be more than 6 inches from the bucket. 
  3. A flexible hose kit is best for the water hookup. Place plumbers tape on the threads of the heat trap nipples and then attach hoses. 
  4. In some instances, you may require dielectric fittings if there is likely to be corrosion between two types of metal. You can find out the guidance on installation from your area’s local ordinances and codes. 
  5. Put plumbers tape on the connector body threads, then secure the fitting to the hose and check that there’s slack between the hose and pipe. Mark the appropriate on the pipe and then cut it, taking care to remove burrs. 
  6. Slide on the compression nut and ring. Push the pipe into the fitting, then tighten the nut. 
  7. Depending on the area where you live, you might need to have seismic straps to avoid earthquake damage to your water heater. They brace the tank against the wall, preventing it from falling over. They should be installed about 6 inches from the top and 18 inches from the bottom of the heater. Find the wall studs that are closest to these measurements and drill your pilot holes. Use a socket and ratchet to secure the end of the strap to the stud. Wrap this strap around the heater and adjust for size, then secure the adjustable bracket onto the other side. Do the same with the lower strap. 
  8. Take the aerator from your nearest faucet, then open up the hot side of it. Slowly turn on your water supply and check the connections around the heater to make sure there are no leaks. Once you see there aren’t any leaks, you can fill up the tank. If there are leaks, shut the supply off and tighten the connections gently. Repeat this step until you know the connections are secure. 
  9. When you see that water is coming out of the faucet, it means the tank is full. Keep it running for about three minutes to get air and debris out of the tank. 
  10. Take off the junction box cover, then attach the ground wire to the green ground screw. Use wire connectors to twist the wires together. 
  11. Place the cover back on and go to the circuit to turn on the power. Check connections if you’re not getting power to your water heater. 
  12. Use the instructions from the manufacturer to set the heater’s temperature at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. This first time may take a few hours. 
  13. Wait a few hours and check on the T&P relief valve’s discharge pipe. If it’s dripping, you know the pressure is higher than it should be. Set it to below 80-PSI. 
  14. If your faucet continues to run after you’re done with installation, take the aerator off of the faucet and allow the water to run so it clears out any loose sediment. Rinse out the aerator and place it back on. 

Installing a water heater shouldn’t have to be a huge hassle and involve several professionals. As long as you have some basic home improvement know-how and are aware of who to contact to check your work and for advice, you’re sure to have your new water heater up and running in almost no time. 

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