Is it Legal to Replace Your Own Water Heater?

Replace Your Own Water Heater

If you’re thinking of replacing your water heater, you probably want to make sure you don’t get in trouble with local building and/or electrical codes. Some jurisdictions require homeowners to obtain a permit for changing out a water heater, and the requirements vary by town, city or county. It’s best to contact your local utility department or a licensed plumber to discover what regulations apply in your area.

Performing unpermitted work puts you at physical, financial and legal risk. Not only does it void your homeowner’s insurance coverage, but it can also put you and others at risk for injury, property damage or even death. Licensed plumbing companies assume the liability and are insured against damages caused by their workers, so hiring a professional to perform the work is the safest option.

One of the most important reasons to hire a licensed plumber to install or replace your water heater is for their expertise. Licensed plumbers have undergone extensive training and clocked in years of experience with hot water heater replacement, including electric, gas and tankless models. They understand the differences between a gas and an electric heater, the size of your home and how it uses your water to determine the best size tank for you, the piping and venting and more.

Is it Legal to Replace Your Own Water Heater?

Licensed plumbers will run diagnostics to determine what’s causing your water heater issues and can advise you on whether repairing or replacing the unit is the best option. They can also help you save money by upgrading to a more energy-efficient model.

Many people attempt DIY installations to save money, but in the long run, it can cost you more in the form of repairs, higher electricity bills, or a new water heater. Many common mistakes include not properly draining the water heater before installing a new one, connecting the water lines to the wrong type of plumbing pipes, or failing to install a proper gas line.

If your gas water heater isn’t installed with a proper and working T&P valve, it can build up too much pressure, leading to an explosion that could injure or kill you or your family members. Another common error is using too large of a heater for the household. A 50-gallon tank will serve a typical 2.5 bathroom, 4 resident home just fine, but if you have more bathrooms or like to take long showers, you’ll need a bigger one.

Galvanic corrosion is another major issue when connecting water supply pipes to a hot water heater. If the plumbing pipes are copper but the nipples (plumbing connection points on the top) of the tank are made from galvanized steel, the metals will react to create rust and leaks. Not using insulated, dielectric connections can also result in galvanic corrosion and is a violation of most municipal code requirements.

Most jurisdictions require a drain pan and gas line that’s corrosion resistant to protect the structure of the tank and prevent water leaks. If the water heater is located where it could be bumped or tipped over, it must be secured with seismic straps, and garage-mounted units are required to be protected by bollocks, wheel stops or curbing to prevent cars from hitting them and damaging the hot water heater.

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