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Replacing a hot water heater yourself
Old 08-24-2017, 09:11 PM   #1
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Replacing a hot water heater yourself

Has anyone done it before? Mine is dying and old. When my husband was alive, he replaced it but now that he is gone I'm a little leery to try it myself.
However, doing it yourself saves a lot of money and looking at youtube and online, it doesn't look too difficult. I would probably have to hire someone to help me man handle it into place, but the draining, wiring and plumbing work don't look all that difficult.

Wanting to save several hundred dollars, I'm thinking of tackling it myself. Anyone else done it before, and if so, how did it go?
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Old 08-24-2017, 09:25 PM   #2
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Is it gas or electric? Big plumbing companies overcharge for this type of job. Many times there are upgrades required to meet code. I would find a handyman or use a referral service, especially since you need to hire some muscle anyway. A new one I heard about works like Uber is called tackl.

Have you considered how to dispose of the old unit?
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Old 08-24-2017, 09:36 PM   #3
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Yes, this is not particularly difficult, especially with an electric unit. YouTube and shark-bite fittings are your friends! Jazz4cash is right though that there may be new codes to follow (installation of an expansion tank, for example). He is also right that a handyman can likely do this fairly inexpensively. Alas, if you are really adventurous (and well prepared), give it a try. If it is a 20gallon tank, you can probably wrestle with it yourself, but if it is larger or needs to go into an awkward spot, you'll likely need help

(PS: Yes, I have done close to a dozen of the, gas and electric)
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Old 08-24-2017, 09:39 PM   #4
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If your local code allows flexible lines, it is fairly easy.
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Old 08-25-2017, 01:00 AM   #5
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I have replaced many water heaters. Typically at least 2 per year, but I have replaced most water heaters in each building I have bought, before moving tenants in. Other than the weight, it's easy.

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If your local code allows flexible lines, it is fairly easy.
Generally, no one gets a permit, nor an inspection, when they replace a water heater themselves. A flexible braided stainless steel line will have issues. A corrugated stainless steel, or copper, is the way to go.

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Have you considered how to dispose of the old unit?
A scrapper will take it away for free, generally. Look on Craig's. Maybe a small fee will apply if they travel much of a distance.
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Old 08-25-2017, 05:45 AM   #6
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I've done both gas and electric. Neither was difficult but I prefer electric. If you are going to hire someone/handyman to manhandle it anyway, you might just want to let them finish the job. IMO they are not hard to change out but both electric and gas can be dangerous to work with. Also I've never done one of these before without running into "surprises" along the way. Fittings don't match, leaks, wrong tools, cross threading, bad parts, etc. Are you ready and capable to deal with those things?

While it's probably true the many plumbing companies overcharge for this type of work, many times Lowes or Home Depot have local qualified contractor referrals that are available to install products bought at the store and will work for less.
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Old 08-25-2017, 06:09 AM   #7
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Have done several including the last one, gas, and in the attic. Had to be brought down the folding stairs. Imposed upon neighbor to help with the schlepping. I would never do that again at my age (66) but would not hesitate if it was in the garage.
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Old 08-25-2017, 07:02 AM   #8
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I did my own water heater recently. A 50 gallon tank. Electric. It was awkward getting it into the rental truck, and then into my house. But doable. You need some normal strength. I used "shark bite" hoses. Also needed to cut the old copper tubes myself, with a pipe cutter tool. It's not a big deal if you are handy. But maybe Craigslist or some other site would have some guy willing to do the labor for you, and even pick it up at the store, for half of what a phone book plumbing company would charge. All the phone book places here wanted $400 or so to install it (labor only!). Quite a ripoff. I didn't check Craigslist, but probably would be someone willing to do it all for $200 labor. I squeezed the old heater into my car, took it down to the local recycling place to get rid of it for free.
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Old 08-25-2017, 07:11 AM   #9
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... and remember: whatever else you do, make sure you turn on the water ((and fill the tank) BEFORE you turn on the electricity! Or you run the risk of frying your brand new heater.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:05 AM   #10
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...... I squeezed the old heater into my car, took it down to the local recycling place to get rid of it for free.
I placed mine at the end of my driveway. Within an hour or two, the scrappers saw it and took it away. The scrappers are like sharks around here. One time I didn't even get done walking back to the garage before they were there.

If I wanted to spend the time and effort, my recycling place actually pays me if I drop it off.

YMMV.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:25 AM   #11
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Originally Posted by jazz4cash View Post
Is it gas or electric? Big plumbing companies overcharge for this type of job. Many times there are upgrades required to meet code. I would find a handyman or use a referral service, especially since you need to hire some muscle anyway. A new one I heard about works like Uber is called tackl.

Have you considered how to dispose of the old unit?
It's electric.

I haven't heard of tackl, thanks for the tip!

As for disposal, I haven't given any thought to that. If the local dump will take it, I can haul it there, otherwise I guess pay someone to get rid of it for me.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:25 AM   #12
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Easy for me to spend your money, but I vote for you to not do it yourself. Water heaters are heavy, for one thing. If yours is in a basement, it would be brutal to lug the old one up the stairs - not just the weight, but maneuvering the damned thing up narrow stairs, etc. Then, of course, you have to move the new one into place.
As others alluded to, codes have changed and you want to be sure your new one is properly installed.
I just see too many downsides. The only upside is, of course, the money saved. But that saved money brings its own cost in other ways. Quite a few years ago I stopped going on the roof of my house, significant tree trimming.....and replacing a water heater myself. Danger or risk of injury makes it money well spent, in my opinion.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:30 AM   #13
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Also I've never done one of these before without running into "surprises" along the way. Fittings don't match, leaks, wrong tools, cross threading, bad parts, etc. Are you ready and capable to deal with those things?
I'm really not sure. I don't like to rely on others for things, so I've done many things around the house the last couple of years that I never thought I would be able to do. I'm always up for a challenge.
Quote:
While it's probably true the many plumbing companies overcharge for this type of work, many times Lowes or Home Depot have local qualified contractor referrals that are available to install products bought at the store and will work for less.
I got quotes from Lowes, Home Depot and a couple of plumbing places, and they were all close to the same.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:32 AM   #14
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Easy for me to spend your money, but I vote for you to not do it yourself.
Agreed.

I replaced ours a few years ago and even though it didn't involve a basement or attic, it was a major effort. Next time I will pay someone to do it - and yes, I know it will be expensive.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:34 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by John Galt III View Post
All the phone book places here wanted $400 or so to install it (labor only!). Quite a ripoff. I didn't check Craigslist, but probably would be someone willing to do it all for $200 labor. I squeezed the old heater into my car, took it down to the local recycling place to get rid of it for free.
All the places I called were quoting close to $1000 for the tank and installation. The tanks were inexpensive, like $400, so I think the amount for the labor IS a ripoff.
I have a truck so I can get rid of the hot water heater easy enough, as long as the handyman can help me get it in.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:35 AM   #16
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I placed mine at the end of my driveway. Within an hour or two, the scrappers saw it and took it away. The scrappers are like sharks around here. One time I didn't even get done walking back to the garage before they were there.

If I wanted to spend the time and effort, my recycling place actually pays me if I drop it off.

YMMV.
Unfortunately I live in the sticks on a dirt road, not a lot of scrappers going by I don't think. All it would do is sit there and accumulate dust from the road
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:37 AM   #17
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I replaced mine with a Tankless. Never looked back. I did it myself and it was very easy.
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Old 08-25-2017, 08:40 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by mystang52 View Post
Easy for me to spend your money, but I vote for you to not do it yourself. Water heaters are heavy, for one thing. If yours is in a basement, it would be brutal to lug the old one up the stairs - not just the weight, but maneuvering the damned thing up narrow stairs, etc. Then, of course, you have to move the new one into place.
As others alluded to, codes have changed and you want to be sure your new one is properly installed.
I just see too many downsides. The only upside is, of course, the money saved. But that saved money brings its own cost in other ways. Quite a few years ago I stopped going on the roof of my house, significant tree trimming.....and replacing a water heater myself. Danger or risk of injury makes it money well spent, in my opinion.
All things to consider.....
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Old 08-25-2017, 10:09 AM   #19
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I have done 3 gas 40 gallon heaters myself. Not to difficult, hardest is getting them from the store to the house. One I had delivered. You can "walk" them across the floor, don't have to lift. In the garage I have it on an 18 inch table (code) to avoid fume ignition. I lay the whole thing on it's side (in the box), slit the box and lift just the base onto the table. Then grab the front and just lift and walk it in straight.

But I'm getting too old for this stuff and don't need to save dough anymore so the rest are going to be installed by the pros -
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Old 08-25-2017, 10:28 AM   #20
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If you are in Earthquake country remember to strap the WH to your wall. Code changed a few years ago and we had our last one (at the big house) strapped by a pro. We were having an expansion tank repaired last year and asked about strapping. Not required here at the little house. 168 miles apart
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