The water heater has called it quits. You’ve put in calls to plumbers all over the place and are either waiting on a return call or for a technician to be available. The family is frantic, showers are needed because this is Houston and it’s hot, and panic is setting in. While our professionals at Loyalty Plumbing don’t recommend pulling a DIY for anything plumbing-related, if a situation like this arises, we want to make sure you’re prepared to handle it. We’ve put together a list of steps and tips for replacing your water heater like a pro.
Here we’ll cover the steps to follow for replacing your water heater (we will be doing these based on a gas water heater). Tools and materials you’ll need on hand are as follows: 4-in-1 screwdriver, adjustable wrench, electrical tape, pipe wrench, plumber’s tape, safety glasses, soldering torch, tape measure, tube cutter, voltage tester, wire stripper/cutter. You will also need discharge pipe, fittings, pipe thread compound, pressure relief valve, solder, venting pipe and connectors, water and gas piping. We know, it’s a lot…which is why we recommend letting a professional from Loyalty Plumbing handle this job.
1. Shut off the gas and water. There should be a shutoff valve for the gas near the water heater, and you should be sure you’re familiar with where your main water shutoff is. You’ll want to run a faucet on the lowest floor of your house to run out any remaining water.
2. Attach a hose to the drain valve and drain the water from the tank. Be aware that this water is SUPER hot. Disconnect the gas line using a pair of wrenches and remove.
3. Cut the water lines. Unscrew the vent hood and set aside, then cut the hot and cold lines with a tube cutter. If it’s solid piping, then unscrew the pieces and remove. Once that is done, slide the old water heater out and to the side.
4. Before attaching the new lines, move the new water heater into place and line up with the current connections, making sure the machine is level. Attach the relief valve and other fittings, following the manufacturer’s directions. Some of these fittings may require soldering or plumber’s tape to attach and reinforce.
5. Hook up the water lines. The cold line to the cold fitting, the hot line to the hot fitting (most units will have this marked). This part could get a little complicated, as you may have an odd configuration of pipes that may need soldering. You can also use flexible tubes to make it a little easier to reach.
6. Connect the gas lines. Check local code to see if flexible lines are permitted. Check for leaks by turning the gas on and putting a soapy water mix on the joint spots. If you see bubbles, that’s bad. Tighten those connections. If you still get bubbles, call in the pros.
7. Reconnect the vent hood. Place it tightly over the draft hood and make sure you get it solidly set in place. You may need to add length or shorten the vent pipe depending on if your new water heater is a different height than the old one. Be sure to check for back-drafting. The easiest way to do this is to close all exterior doors and windows, then turn on your bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Open a nearby hot water faucet and wait until you hear the burner for the water heater ignite. Hold up a smoking match around the edge of the vent hood you’ve just installed and watch where the smoke moves. If it goes up the vent pipe, congratulations. If not, turn the unit back off and get a professional out ASAP.
8. Turn it and watch it go! Make sure the pilot is lit, make sure the temperature is adjusted to 120 degrees F, then let the tank fill up. Test the hot water and see if you’re a winner!
While technically you can DIY this plumbing project, Loyalty Plumbing is always here to help when you need us. We hope this article has given you the confidence you need to take care of your water heater!