Water Heater Installation – DIY Or Hire an HVAC Contractor
You’re a ballet dancer who recently married a beautiful girl in your troupe. Your new father-in-law, a street-wise homicide detective, is visiting for the very first time. You suspect he secretly harbors reservations about his “Little Miss Splendid” marrying a guy who performs battements tendus and battements frappés all day.
Moreover, just hours before your in-laws’ scheduled arrival, your hot water heater unexpectedly goes kaput. When your young wife solicitously alerts Daddy, gunning the final stretch of a grueling 12-hour trip, the prospect of having to install a new hot water heater before he can even take a shower sets off a minor explosion. “Why can’t that tights-and-slipper-wearing husband of yours do it?” you hear him demand over the speakerphone. “What is he? Some kind of [expletive deleted] woos?”
After the cell goes dead, your lovely wife’s teeth are chattering, her knees shaking uncontrollably. Undaunted, you coolly announce that, as a matter of fact, you will replace the hot water heater yourself. After all, who needs an unhinged homicide detective running around the house, on the verge of a nervous breakdown, simply because he can’t take a hot shower?
What Is It?
A hot water heater is the thirty to fifty gallon tank tactfully closeted in your kitchen, bathroom, or some other well-concealed space.
Over time, water heaters wear out. Newer models have extremely sensitive sensors to detect gas fumes, which can also occasionally be permanently damaged by Black Flag sprays and foggers you’ve employed battling invading armies of roaches. In either case, the heater needs to be replaced pronto. That is, if cleanliness and hygiene rank high on your priority list.
When you replace your hot water heater, you have two options. The first is to take matters in your own manly hands and do it yourself. The second option of hiring an HVAC contractor is often more prudent for individuals unfamiliar with terms like wrench, flute (not the instrument), or thermoplastic.
Who Needs It?
Everybody. Hot water heaters heat up the water supplied by your friendly utilities company, allowing you to do things like luxuriate in hot, candle-lit bathtubs, wash beautiful bone china, and keep yourself in a steady supply of clean underwear.
HVAC is an abbreviation for Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning. HVAC Contractors largely specialize in the installation and maintenance of furnaces, boilers, and central air conditioners – but they do hot water heaters. HVAC contractors will also provide consultation to consumers, about brands and models of equipment to buy. This service is a wee bit strange, since it’s a little like searching for a new car, starting with your cranky auto mechanic.
There are good reasons to hire an HVAC contractor. For instance, in the unlikely event you open your hot water tank’s storage closet, and don’t see a shut-off valve on the gas line, an HVAV contractor will have a blowtorch handy to add one. Or, say, you discover a messy maze of wiring, because you’ve got an old electric heater. An HVAC contractor will clean it up, ensuring all the wiring is correct, while providing the heater with proper voltage and amperage. Or, finally, you find your hot water heater closet’s an impenetrable jungle of soldered copper, unions, flex connectors, and thermoplastic – all improvised by your adorable “handyman” over the years – call a HVAC contractor.
Just make certain the contractor possesses a clean credit and legal history, has been in business over three years, and meets all the state’s licensing requirements.
If all the major plumbing in your home was done cleanly and conscientiously, disconnecting your old water heater and replacing it with a new one is a cakewalk, even if you don’t religiously watch “This Old House.” The only items you’ll need are a spray bottle with soapy water, an adjustable wrench, a screwdriver, and a garden hose.
First, turn off electric power to your gas or electric water heater. If you have a gas water heater, turn off the gas shutoff valve in the supply line, too, before disconnecting it. If your gas water heater has a fan unit, unplug it. If your water heater’s electric, unplug it. If there’s a cable connection, switch off the power first, then disconnect the cable.
Next, shut off the water supply to the water heater. Release the pressure-relief valve. Then, with your garden hose attached to the tank, run it out the window into your dead flower bed, draining the thirty or fifty gallons inside. After that, disconnect the tank’s water connections.
Enlist the two teenage skateboarders you see, practicing their kickflips in your neighbor’s driveway, to cart this useless hunk of metal off to Home Depot for recycling. While they’re picking up the new one, tell them to slap some flexible pipe connections on your credit card, too, in case your new water heater’s dimensions aren’t the same as the old one’s.
Once the new tank’s been dutifully lugged home, connect the new collar to the flue. One sobering and cautionary note: proper venting is critical to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. So place the draft deflector collar above the water heater’s flue baffle, then attach it to the flue pipe venting outdoors. A careful reading of the manufacturer’s instructions, as much as you might resist, will beautifully illuminate tasks like this one.
Now, turn on the water valves. Your new hot water tank is filling up. Check your water connections for leaks. Also, check the gas fittings with the spray bottle full of soapy to see if there are any gas leaks. If a connection’s loose, and needs tightening, you’ll see tiny little bubbles. When you’re absolutely certain the connections are leak-proof, light the pilot, or turn on the power supply. Ac supply near me