First timer looking to install water heater

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Old 11-28-20, 01:32 PM
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First timer looking to install water heater

I currently have a dead power vent natural gas water heater (a Bradford White with power vent) and am looking to replace it, but the $1850 price tag Iím being quoted for a contractor to replace it seems way too steep. So Iím thinking of just buying one and having it delivered, and then doing the installation myself. Iíve never installed one before, so this would be a first for me, but I wanted to ask experienced people here if it would be a reasonable thing for me to try.

Iíve read through the instruction manual for my current unit , and the first 25 pages were all about the ventilation. Since that part has already been done for my current unit, it appears that all Iíd need to do for the new one is attach the existing vent pipe to the top of the new unit. Only one page of the manual addressed the water connections, and that part appears to only involve screwing the existing hot and cold water pipes that I already have onto the new unit (after turning off the water main and draining the old unit). Finally, thereís the gas connection. Iím not exactly clear on how the gas pipe connects to the one I have, but at least I know to use the shut off valve on the gas pipe before disconnecting it from the old unit. But once itís connected to the new one, then turn on the gas, turn on the water to let the tank fill up, and then plug it in.

Is that all there is to it? Or is there more?






 

Last edited by PJmax; 11-28-20 at 01:44 PM. Reason: added pics from link
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Old 11-28-20, 01:51 PM
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I'm not a plumber but I change them all the time for friends. You need to be somewhat handy and handy with plumbing. There is some soldering that will need to be done as well as some gas line fitting work.

You have csst line feeding the water heater so that shouldn't be too difficult. The copper lines will need to be reconnected. Keep in mind that you cannot solder a fitting near the water heater. That means you need to connect the copper pipe to the threaded fitting first at the top of the tank before connecting the fitting to the tank.

Have you checked with your gas supplier for a water heater replacement ?
I have Public Service gas and they offer water heater replacement and even financing on your gas bill.
Typically their rates are very fair.

Have you checked with your town to see if they require the installation to be inspected ?
 
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Old 11-28-20, 02:48 PM
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Swapping out a water heater isn't too difficult usually. The question is do you have the tools for the job?

You will need a couple big wrenches for the water and gas lines. I normally use 16 or 18" pipe wrenches. You'll also want a hack saw or pipe cutter and a torch, solder and flux for putting together the new water lines. A hand truck and/or a helper can make removing the old heater much easier. The new one will be relatively light but old heaters can be quite heavy, doubly so if you can't drain all the water out.

As for the gas line you can save the black iron piping from your old heater and install it on the new one. You'll quickly figure out that it doesn't just unscrew so you'll need to remove the horizontal nipple from the elbow fitting right above the gas valve. Then once that part is removed you can unscrew the elbow and short nipple from the old heaters gas valve. After everything is reassembled you'll want a small brush and some children's bubble soap to paint on all the gas line connections to check for leaks.

But, post back with any specific questions or concerns you might have.
 
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Old 11-28-20, 02:48 PM
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I wasn't even aware that the fittings on the top weren't part of the tank. As for soldering, I didn't know that would have to be done. Doesn't the fitting on the pipe just screw onto the threaded part on top of the tank? I guess this wouldn't be as easy as I thought. But I'm certainly not going to pay a contractor $1,000 or so just for installation. That's what the guy I contacted wanted.

I didn't know my gas provider could do things like this. I have Xcel Energy as my gas/electric provider. I suppose I could contact them to see if they can help. Otherwise, I'm seriously considering going to an electric water heater. I know gas is much preferred, and it would certainly help that it's what I'm currently set up for, but an electric is so much cheaper to buy. I've seen them for around $400. Gas power vents are $800 and up. My Dad got an electric replaced 10 years ago for $600 for the unit and installation. But the contractor I talked to who wanted to sell me the power vent gas unit said I'd then need to hire an electrician to rewire things to be able to use an electric.

I've been without hot water since June. I feel like just giving up on it, but I also was thinking of selling my house next year and can't do that without a water heater in place.
 
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Old 11-28-20, 02:56 PM
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Pilot Dane:
I only have a set of conventional wrenches. No torch, solder, or know-how about using those things. It looks like I'm screwed. No hand truck and I'd be by myself. I was hoping Menards would deliver it to my basement, but they still haven't given me a straight answer about that yet.
Would it help if I just go with an electric?
 
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Old 11-28-20, 04:00 PM
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Although the up front cost is less expensive with an electric water heater..... the recovery is much slower and the cost to heat water with electric is much higher than with gas. If I had the choice it wouldn't be electric.
 
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Old 11-29-20, 05:28 AM
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"I only have a set of..."
That's why I mentioned some of the tools needed for replacing the water heater. It's a straightforward job but without the right tools it could be a nightmare with numerous trips to buy this or that which can dramatically affect the cost of the project.

Electric and gas are two different appliances and you should do some research before switching. Electric is cheaper up front to buy. They are theoretically more efficient but the cost of electricity is usually more expensive which often makes gas cheaper to own and operate n the long run. Also, switching to electric would require a suitably sized circuit (wiring, service disconnect near the appliance and circuit breaker in the panel).
 
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Old 11-29-20, 06:07 AM
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You could buy the necessary tools and still be way under the $1000 install charge, plus when you're done you'll have some nice tools for the next project! Plenty of YouTube videos to show you what to do, plus this forum for specific help if you run into a problem.

You should get a couple more estimates no matter what.
 
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Old 11-29-20, 02:50 PM
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I typically find the hardest part is getting the old water heater out of the basement.

While I do typically recommend soldering, there are Sharkbite kits which allow you to cut the copper pipe and slip new fittings on without soldering. Something to consider to make the project a bit easier.

My only other suggestion is to be gentle with the CSST (yellow gas pipe). It's a corrugated aluminum that doesn't take nearly as much of a beating as steel pipe can. You'll want to use one wrench to hold the bottom brass connector while you unscrew the top brass nut above it with a second wrench. You'll see the CSST pipe has a ring around it which helps with a secure connection. Then reverse the process when you reassemble.
 
 

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