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Installing a New Water Heater

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Before you’re left with a pool of water and subsequent flooding, consider replacing your hot water heater, especially if your current model is more than a decade old. While this is a fairly common household plumbing project, replacing your heater has several potential dangers to be aware of. If you’re looking for information in order to replace your old water heater, here are the necessary steps to follow to ensure a proper hot water heater installation.

Out with the Old

In order to install your new water heater, you must remove the old heater. Begin by turning your energy source (gas or electricity) off and drain your heater tank. Then, open your hot water faucet to allow air into your system. This will help the water in your system drain much more quickly. If you have a gas heater, you need to separate your vent pipe from the draft hood, which should easily lift off after removing the sheet metal screw holding it in place. Once you are certain your pilot light is out, disconnect your gas line at the heater and cap it off.

Next, you will need to remove your heater from the water pipes. If you’re lucky, you’ll find that your pipes are connected by a removable, threaded fitting, in which case all you will need is a pipe wrench to remove your pipes. However, if you aren’t one of the fortunate ones to have these threaded fittings to work with, you will need to use a hacksaw in order to remove your pipes. Once you’ve removed your pipes and have allowed them to drain completely, you’re ready to remove and properly dispose of your old water heater.

In with the New

Now that you’ve removed your old water heater, you’re ready to being installing your new heater. Using a dolly, guide your new water heater to its new location. Position the heater so as to keep your piping easily within reach. It is of utmost importance to do this if you are installing a gas water heater, as you will also need to line your heater up with your gas vent pipe.

For gas heaters, you will need to install a new draft hood. Most hoods have small legs which insert into holes on the top of your heater. A gas hot water heater demands proper ventilation that is no smaller than the draft hood collar. You should also consider replacing your vent pipe elbows as well, as they have likely corroded over time. Once you have made sure your vent is as perfectly vertical as possible, the vent should slope upward approximately one-quarter inch per foot. In this situation, the lowest place along the vent should be where the pipe goes from vertical to horizontal.

After connecting your vent pipe with sheet metal screws, you’re ready to make your cold and hot water connections. Use flex connectors if possible, as these are easy to bend and will come in handy when you’re ready to reach the connection. However, depending on the type of pipe fitted in your home, you will need to handle your water line accordingly. Though, regardless of the material and size of the pipe, your heater should be fitted with a cold water gate valve, which should be placed vertically in your water pipe to prevent sediment from building up within the pipe.

Now, when you are working with threaded pipes, you should have removable, threaded fittings on both the hot and cold lines, replacing all old fittings. You will also need to install new nipples for the top of your heater, the length of which will depend on how far the fittings are located from your water lines.

If you have plastic piping, you will need to use transition fittings between your plastic pipes and the metal heater threads. Some recommend using foot-long threaded steel nipples between your heater and the transition fittings so as to disperse heat over a greater distance. However, be careful when purchasing your piping. PVC, PE and ABS plastic piping will not take hot water, and will leave you with yet another job to complete when these plastics deteriorate.

Relief System

Installing a temperature and pressure relief valve and line is an integral step to properly installing your water heater. This relief system will automatically release excess pressure and heat within your system. Once all of your plumbing is installed, you will be able to close the water heater’s drain valve and open the cold water inlet valve, allowing you to fill the tank, should you not be installing a tankless water heater. Open the hot water faucet releasing the air trapped within the top of the tank. Then, close the faucet, and check for leaks.

Connecting the Power Supply

In order to complete your installation, you will need to connect your energy supply to your new heater. For a gas connection, install a shut-off valve on the gas line if you didn’t have one previously installed. Use a new fitting to complete the gas line installation with a threaded pipe. However, if you used flex connectors, make sure to install a male flare adapter into the inlet opening of your heater’s gas valve.

Connect your gas flex connector collar to your flare adapter, tightening it with an adjustable wrench. When this is complete, verify that you set your thermostat to the off-position, and you’re ready to turn the gas back on.

The process is slightly different for an electric connection. In this case, the wires which bring electricity to your heater must be the right size and provide the right about of amperage and voltage your heater was intended to run on. If you are not familiar with wiring jobs, you should hire a professional. This isn’t the easiest skill to acquire, and if you don’t have a background as an electrician, you will find that the job is quite elaborate, and you could put yourself and your family at risk should something go awry. Though, once the electrical work is complete, turn on the heater circuit and make certain to inspect the electric meter. If it is spinning, it is indicating that the heater is functioning properly and that you successfully installed your new water heater. Now go relax and let everyone know they’ll have hot water for days on end.

Rachael Jones is a blogger for DIYMother.

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