Running out of hot water when you’re halfway through a shower is the worst, am I right? Having a reliable water heater that provides plenty of hot water whenever you need it is key to a comfortable home. But what do you do when your trusty old water heater finally bites the dust? Replacing it might seem like a complicated project, but with the right know-how, a handyman can potentially install a new water heater in your home. Let’s dive into what’s involved so you can decide if a handyman has the skills necessary to install your new hot water system.
Understanding How Water Heaters Work
Before we get into the nitty gritty of the installation process, it helps to understand what’s going on inside these contraptions. Basically, a water heater consists of a tank that holds water, some type of heating mechanism, temperature controls, pipes to bring in cold water and take out hot water, and valves to control the flow. Gas-powered heaters use a gas burner or pilot light to heat the water. Electric models use heating elements. More advanced tankless or on-demand water heaters heat the water as it flows through, so no tank is needed.
Water heaters also need proper venting and exhaust systems to remove combustion gases or moisture. And of course you need a drain pipe on the bottom to avoid leaks and flooding. So as you can see, there are lots of components that need to be properly installed for your water heater to work safely and effectively.
Skills and Know-How Needed for Installation
Working with gas lines, electricity, and water connections takes skill and experience. Improper installation can lead to deadly gas leaks, electrical fires, or water damage if things aren’t sealed up tight. Does your handyman have certified training for handling gas and electrical systems? Can they expertly solder copper pipes and ensure watertight seals on all joints? Installation involves attaching all the needed pipes and valves, pressure relief valves, venting for exhaust, and getting the drain set up properly.
For gas water heaters, your handyman needs to know how to safely light the pilot and test for proper ignition. With electric heaters, the wiring needs to be robust enough to handle the load and connected securely. Getting the venting wrong can lead to dangerous exhaust gases entering your home. And of course, everything needs to be checked for leaks!
So you can see that safely and properly installing a water heater requires specialized skills and knowledge.
Licensing and Permits
In many areas, installing or modifying gas lines, plumbing, electrical systems requires specific licenses and permits. A professional plumber will be certified and licensed to handle all aspects of water heater installation. Requirements vary by state, but often handymen without plumbing credentials can’t legally install a water heater from start to finish.
Be sure to research the local codes where you live to see what’s permitted. Inspections may be required before the newly installed water heater can be used. It’s not worth it to have unlicensed work done only to have the inspectors make you tear it all out and start over with a licensed pro.
Picking the Right Replacement
Once you’ve settled on who will install your new system, the next choice is what type of water heater to get. Standard tank models are economical and simple to install. Tankless on-demand heaters provide a continuous stream of hot water but are pricier. Gas heaters are generally cheaper to operate than electric. Solar water heating is a green option where sunlight is abundant.
Take into account your family’s hot water needs – more bathrooms or heavy use will require a larger tank or more advanced system. Look at the energy ratings too – going with an energy efficient model can yield significant savings over time. Your plumber or handyman can help assess your needs and recommend the ideal water heater.
Step-by-Step Installation Guide
Okay, time to get into the nitty gritty! Here’s an overview of the major steps involved in installing a new water heater:
- Shut off water supply and electricity/gas to old unit
- Drain and disconnect pipes from old water heater
- Disconnect venting and exhaust pipe
- Wheel out old unit, wheel in new unit
- Install temperature and pressure relief valve and discharge pipe
- Attach water inlet and outlet pipes
- Reconnect gas supply or electrical wiring
- Ensure venting rises before elbow joint
- Seal all joints and valves with thread tape
- Check for gas or water leaks
- Turn water supply back on and fill tank
- Light pilot light or turn on electrical supply
- Adjust thermostat to desired temperature
- Check for proper exhaust venting
- Inspect work and get signed off if required
And voila – hot water flows! As you can see, installing a water heater involves both plumbing and electrical skills. Safety is also paramount when handling gas lines or flammable pilot lights.
Watch Out for These Common Problems
Even if the installation goes smoothly, issues can crop up once the system is up and running. Here are some of the most frequent water heater troubles:
- No hot water – Could just need the pilot relit or heating element replaced if electric.
- Leaking valves – May just need washers tightened or replaced.
- Loud rumbling or knocking – Sediment buildup in tank needs flushing.
- Rusty hot water – Interior tank rusting – replacement needed.
- High energy bills – Poor insulation or undersized unit.
- Strange smells – Trouble with venting exhaust gases.
Many water heater problems are fixable, but tanks more than 8-10 years old may be too far gone. Your handyman should have the skills to troubleshoot and repair common issues.
Maintenance Keeps Things Running Smoothly
With proper maintenance, your water heater can last longer. Follow these tips for keeping things in working order:
- Drain and flush the tank to control mineral deposits
- Replace corroded anodes and heating elements
- Check temperature and pressure valve
- Clear obstructions from exhaust venting
- Monitor energy usage – higher than normal can indicate issues
- Keep electrical connections dry and tight
- Replace worn out insulation around tank
Following the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines will maximize the lifespan of your water heater.
Sometimes It’s Best to Call In a Pro
Although handymen can potentially install water heaters in some cases, it’s safest to have licensed professional plumbers handle major repairs or replacements. The expertise and certifications plumbers hold allows them to safely and legally carry out the work up to current building codes. For tankless or solar water heaters, specialized expertise is a must. And if your handyman can’t legally work on gas lines or electricals in your area, it’s not worth the risks and liability to have them DIY it.
The bottom line is that while handymen may possess the skills to install your new water heater, confirming they are licensed and permitted to do so protects you from fines, injuries and improperly installed equipment. For total peace of mind, call in a pro!
Relax and Enjoy Your Upgraded Hot Water
Replacing an old failing water heater may seem intimidating, but thousands of plumbers carry out this task safely day in and day out. With the right handyman or licensed pro, you’ll soon be enjoying an upgraded system delivering reliable hot water whenever you need it. Just be sure to do your homework so the installation meets all codes and keeps your family safe. Soon you’ll be singing in that endless hot shower to your heart’s content!