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Install an electric hot water heater

  • Difficulty: hammer hammer hammer
    Close Difficulty
    Beginner Do-It-Yourselfer - Easy
    Intermediate Do-It-Yourselfer - Moderate
    Experienced Do-It-Yourselfer - Difficult
    Professional - Expert
  • Completion Time : 1 Day

Some household projects are time-consuming. Installing a new electric hot water heater takes a day with a bit of plumbing and electrical skills. Our guide provides a step-by-step installation plan for fitting a new heater within the home. Keep in mind that there are many newer technologies for hot water heaters, so the new model may not fit into the same location as the existing unit as they tend to be larger in size. Plan the installation first on paper before embarking on its completion. Reading the manufacturer’s literature and following all local building codes are parts of the process.

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Tools and materials required

TOOLS

  • Propane or Mapp gas torch
  • Pipe cutter
  • Paste soldering flux
  • Several pads of steel wool
  • Wire brush
  • Wrench
  • Tape measure
  • Flathead screw driver
  • Needlenose pliers
  • Hammer
  • Soft rag

MATERIALS

  • Hot water heater storage tank, electric-fueled
  • Concrete masonry units (concrete blocks) or drip pan accessory
  • Copper pipe, 3/4" dia.; length is determined by plumbing design
  • Pipe fittings per plumbing connection design


Union fittings
Sweat fittings
Male adapter
T connectors

 

  • Shutoff valve


Ball or gate valve

 

  • Tempering valve
  • Lead-free solder; 95/5 tin-antimony or equivalent
  • Silicone plumbing tape
  • 10/2 electrical wire cable with ground
  • Conduit connectors
  • Wire nuts
  • Electrical tape

 

Before Assembly

Follow the recommendations for the hot water tank’s location.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • In a hot water tank storage system, unheated water enters one side of the tank. It is then heated by a couple of electric resistance elements and remains heated within the tank until demand when the hot water is delivered to each point of use.

  • The manufacturers’ instructions and all local building codes need to be read and followed before installation.

  • If removing an older unit, disconnect the electrical power close to the heater itself after the circuits are disconnected. Drain the heater completely. Send it out to be recycled if possible.

  • Installing a hot water heater will likely require the help of another person if attempting as a DIY project.

  • Turn off the electrical power from the circuit breaker box before beginning the installation.

  • Plan the system’s installation on paper first. In particular the plumbing and electrical parts of the system to plan ahead for purchasing parts.

  • Always use a pipe cutter, not a saw to cut the pipes.

  • If the hot water heater is turned on without a full tank of water, the heating element could burn out prematurely.

  • If the home has a closed system, read the manufacturer’s recommendations for modifications to the tank’s installation.

  • If the tank is a part of a solar hot water heating system, read the manufacturer’s recommendations for modifications to the tank’s installation.

     

TANK’S LOCATION TIPS

  • Locate the hot water tank close to the electrical panel.

  • More importantly, locate the tank close to points of use where hot water is typically used.

  • The tank’s location must also be indoors and sheltered from frost.

  • If placed in an unconditioned space, the pipes will need to be insulated. Likewise, the tank will need an extra insulation blanket.

  • Check the manufacturer for recommended clearances for all sides of the heater.

  • The drain and controls must be easily accessible.

  • Finally, locate the tank near a floor drain.

     

SOLDERING TIPS

  • The mating surfaces of the pipes and fittings must be clean and covered with flux.

  • Pipe cuts must be square.

  • The fittings cannot be bent or distorted.

  • Put on heavy soldering gloves for safety.

  • Wear eye protection.

  • Do not ever turn on a torch when there may be flammable gas or liquids nearby.

  • Do the soldering away from the hot water tank at all times as parts on the tank are not suitable for soldering.

     

TEMPERATURE AND PRESSURE RELIEF VALVE

  • The temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve) is a safety device that allows water to escape if the pressure inside the tank reaches a dangerous level.

  • Make sure the T&P valve is rated for the specific model of hot water tank purchased.

     

ELECTRICAL NEEDS

  • Check local building codes.

  • Apply for necessary permits.

  • Hire a professional if needed and if required by local building codes.

  • Verify the unit’s electrical needs with the manufacturer’s specifications.

  • A separate 220-volt circuit will be needed.

  • Typically a 30-amp circuit breaker is used.

  • The circuits and circuit breakers are probably already available and were used for the older model.

  • If the old model’s cable is intact and is long enough, it can be reused.

  • If the new model is located farther away from the electrical box as was the old model, then a junction box and new wiring will need to be extended.

Steps

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Helpful Information

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Installing an electrical hot water heater is fairly simple.
Install an electric hot water heater