Hot Water Heater Installation: Everything You Need to Know

Lucky homeowners can go a decade, even 15 years, before having to replace their hot water heater. When you need to install a new unit, there are important things you should know. Here’s a thorough overview of hot water heater installation:

Brief History of Hot Water Heaters

Fireplaces and stoves were used since ancient times to heat water, which was then transported to bathtubs by hand. Communal bath houses were built around hot springs. Boilers weren’t built until the steam age, when they were first used in locomotives and large ships. Benjamin Waddy Maughan patented a water heating device in 1868, but Edwin Ruud added some safety features to the design, forming his own company in 1897. This is usually considered the first home water heater.

Throughout the Industrial Revolution and Great Depression, water heater companies thrived. The pace slowed as factories were repurposed during World War II to make boilers for naval vessels. After the war, business picked up again, as did the competition. Electric water heaters were in use by 1948. While the first patented commercial solar water heater appeared in 1891, renewable technology had a resurgence in the 1980s and gained momentum in the 1990s, when tankless water heaters and hybrid units came on the market.

Signs You Need to Replace a Hot Water Heater

Common signs of a failing water heater that most likely needs to be replaced include:

  • Sudden decreases in water temperature, lack of hot water, or constant fluctuations.
  • Loud noises from the tank, which range from rumbling to violent banging and knocking.
  • Your energy bills are unusually high, and not due to utility cost increases.
  • The hot water from your faucets appears a rusty red or yellow color.
  • Leaks start to occur and increase in severity around the hot water heater tank.

How a Hot Water Heater is Installed

Gas and electric water heaters are installed in much the same way. First, the gas and water need to be shut off, and water drained from the tank. The vent pipe is then removed from the vent hood and the hot and cold water lines are cut using a tube cutter.

When installing the new hot water heater, the temperature and pressure relief valve is inserted into the tank. The copper discharge pipe is then attached and copper adapters soldered on. The assemblies screw into the hot water outlet and cold-water inlet ports. Local codes may require plastic lined nipples; these can protect against hard water or galvanic corrosion.

Next, the water lines are soldered into place. Copper slip couplings connect the old tubing to the new water heater’s tubing (45-degree elbows can be used to connect offset lines). The vent is then reconnected by fitting it over the draft hood and anchored with metal screws. The gas line is then connected.

The next step is to fill the tank by closing the drain valve, turning on the main shutoff valve/opening the water heater’s cold water valve, turning on a nearby hot water faucet, and checking for water leaks at all joints and fittings. At this point, the water heater should be checked for backdrafting and gas leaks. If all is well, light the pilot light according to the manufacturer’s instructions and set the temperature to 120°.

For Electric Hot Water Heaters:

Turn off the power to the unit at the main breaker panel and drain the tank. Disconnect the electrical wires from the screw terminals and wire the new heater according to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Mount a metal electrical box to the wall or nearby ceiling if the old wires don’t reach the new unit and run the wires to it. A shutoff switch should be installed within sight. For the best, and safest, results, have an electrical contractor handle installation.

Cost of Installing a Hot Water Heater

The cost of installation varies by state, type of hot water heater, and brand. An externally mounted tankless unit is the most expensive to install, followed by an internally mounted one. Electric water heaters are generally less costly to install than natural gas or propane ones. The larger the tank, the more you will spend.

Other expenses to consider include discarding your old hot water heater and installing a drain pan, exhaust vent, expansion tank, or earthquake strapping. Mounting the unit on a stand, shelf, or platform can add to the cost as well. You’ll also have to buy pipe fittings, valves, and connectors. There’s also the cost of a permit and, of course, labor (professional installation can take up to three hours).

Contact Black Hills Inc. Home Services

Our plumbing and electrical experts provide high-quality hot water heater installation services in Olympia, WA, and surrounding areas. We can install high-efficiency tank-style and tankless water heaters. When you need a new water heater installed, our professional, courteous technicians will examine your home and make recommendations and explain the options. A 100% money-back guarantee backs all our work. Call 888-619-0086 to request an appointment.