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Thread: Water heater leaking-How hard to install new?

  1. #1
    jsouthco is offline Handyman
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    Water heater leaking-How hard to install new?

    My water heater is leaking from the tank ( i believe) and I assume I need to change it out. How difficult is this to do? The tank has copper water lines coming in / out and 1 steel gas connection.

    I cant afford the tank and the $350 install charge as well... Any help is surely appreciated!

  2. #2
    HayZee518's Avatar
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    its not difficult at all. if you have unions connecting the supply and output lines. the gas has a shut off at the appliance and further along back of the appliance. this valve you'll need to shut off. do the water heater lines have valves coming out the the heater?

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    jsouthco is offline Handyman
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    The cold water side has a total of 3 valves. The hot water does not have a valve where it exits the W.H.

    Both lines (h & c) have unions about 8" above the W.H.

    I am assuming I will have to shut off water and gas (let burner go out)drain the tank, unscrew and remove gas connection, heat a section of the copper on both in /out lines,pull a sweated connection apart , then remove the unit, reset new unit and then sweat in a new piece to make the connection, and reattach the gas line.

    Am I over simplifying this??? I need to do this hopefully tomorrow and sure appreciate your help!

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    HayZee518's Avatar
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    ok, turn off the gas stop cock BEFORE the water heater - let the pilot go out. Turn OFF the supply valve to the HWH [cold] Put a drain hose on the drain bibb on the tank and direct the water to a sump or out of the house. OPEN the HOT side if you have a diverter valve in the kitchen or bathroom. If there is one in the bathtub turn this to hot water on too! Drain the tank. crack open the union in the gas line. there'll be a faint odor of the gas odorant. transfer the piping to the new tank. keep the drip leg of the gas line. crack open the cold water supply union. when the tank is empty crack the hot water union. remove the two stubs - using triple density teflon tape or "rectorseal" install the stubs on the new tank. muscle the tank into position, reconnect the unions and the gas union. open the gas valve and check for leaks with a soapy water mixture at all joints. if none found, close valves throughout the house and leave one open at the high point. open the cold water and let the tank fill. check for leaks again, tighten unions where necessary. when water comes out the open hot water tap, close the tap and briefly open the others in the house. if they run slow you may need to clean out the aerators. if no leaks open the gas valve and relight the pilot.

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    jsouthco is offline Handyman
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    Thanks for the thorough response.. One question though, I do not have unions above the water lines, it is all hard plumbed. Do I just hacksaw through the pipe and then sweat in a threaded connection and use flexible pipe to connect the HWH to the existing pipe? Here is a couple pics, in case I am not explaining well enough...
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    Last edited by jsouthco; 11-25-2007 at 08:53 PM.

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    Assuming that you will be replacing the water heater with a like kind and size, even though it may be a different brand name the change out should be very straightforward and not beyond the scope of a DIY’er with average skills.

    You will need the following tools & supplies:

    Medium sized pipe wrench (14”, 16” or 18”)
    Channel Lock Pliers
    Tubing cutter
    Soldering torch
    95/5 lead free solder
    Soldering Flux & flux brush
    Emery Cloth
    ID pipe fitting brush (sized to match the diameter of your copper lines)
    Pipe Dope (listed as approved for gas & potable water applications)
    2ea Dielectric nipples (dielectric nipples come pre-packed with some water heaters)
    Clean rag
    Garden hose

    1. Locate the gas shutoff valve then run hot water until the burner starts. With the burner firing turn the gas valve off. (This will allow the burner to consume the residual gas in the line from the shutoff valve to the burner.)
    2. Connect the garden hose to the tank drain valve and run the hose to a floor drain or outdoors, then open the drain valve. After you have a flow of water through the hose turn the water heater cold-water inlet valve off and open a hot water faucet to vent air into the tank while it drains.
    3. If your water heater has an iron pipe gas line all the way to the burner control there will be a union on the line between the control and the gas valve. Disconnect the union then remove the gas line from the control. (Save the gas line for your new water heater).
    If you have a flexible gas connector disconnect the connector from the control. (You may need to disconnect it from the pipe end first).
    4. When the tank has finished draining disconnect the unions on the hot & cold water lines and remove the copper riser from the tank to the union. (If no unions are present cut the pipe with a tubing cutter-DO NOT USE A HACKSAW)
    5.Disconnect the flue pipe from the draft hood.
    6. Cut the T&P discharge line about 1’ below the T&P valve. Unscrew and remove the pipe from the T&P valve and retain it for the new valve.
    7.When the tank is drained move the tank aside and set the new water heater in place.
    NOTE: If the water heater is on a wood floor or a floor that can be damaged by water you are required to install a drip pan under the water heater.
    If the water heater is installed in a garage the code requires that the water heater must be elevated a minimum of 18” above the floor.
    8.Apply pipe dope to the male threads on one end of the dielectric nipples and screw them into the water heater ports. (Use a pipe wrench and tighten them thoroughly)
    9.If the old water heater had unions on the hot and cold lines remove the water lines from the old tank, measure the length from the union the top of the dielectric nipple and solder a female thread adapter on the lower end of the copper pipe. When the fitting has cooled apply pipe dope to the male threads on the dielectric nipple, then screw the female thread adapter on the nipple and tighten. Reconnect the union and tighten. (Code requires a union within 12” from the top of the tank).
    10. Install the draft hood in accordance with the manufacturers instructions.
    11. Inspect the flue pipe. If it shows signs of rust, especially in the seams of the elbows replace the pipe.
    NOTE: all horizontal runs of the flue pipe must be run with a ¼” per foot pitch upwards towards the chimney or stack and all joints must be screwed together with a minimum of 3 screws.
    12. Install the T&P drain line on the new T&P valve and reconnect the pipe where you cut it with a sweat coupling or a compression coupling.
    13.Apply pipe dope to all exposed male threads on the gas line and reinstall the gas line.
    14.Turn the gas on and test all joints with a soapy water solution (Children’s bubble soap found in all toy departments makes an excellent test solution).
    15. Make sure the new tank drain valve is closed; then open the cold water supply valve and begin filling the tank. Keep a hot water faucet open to vent the air out as the tank fills. Continue filling until you get a full flow of water at the faucet. Visually check all joints for leaks. You will then need to go to each hot water faucet in the house and bleed off any excess air that may be trapped in the lines.
    16.Set the burner thermostat to 125degF and light the pilot in accordance with manufacturers instructions.
    18. The tank should be full of hot water in about 1 hour.

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    HayZee518's Avatar
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    ok, use a tubing cutter and cut in about the middle between the tank and the T of the right hand pipe and about the same height in the other pipe. buy two brass unions and adjust your cuts to accomodate the unions and sweat these in the line. it'll be much easier to re-install the tank later.
    the adapters in the tank just unscrew.

  8. #8
    jsouthco is offline Handyman
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    I measured up my tank and found the tank width to be 18.5" (1987 A.O. smith model) and actual tank is 51.5" with a 3.25" base underneath for a total height to the top of the tank at 54 3/4"(58" at the vent)

    I went looking for the same to make it easy to reinstall and all I can find is 18" wide x 60" tall at the vent. I am comfortable with the fact that it is taller, but with the diameter bigger am i going to run into an issue with either the gas or water lines not lining up and needing to be altered to fit?

    Second question- I noticed on the shipping boxes it said to not lay flat.. Are these like a fridge to where you cant lay it down in a pick up bed to bring it home?

    I know ..Dumb questions.. Would rather ask them now than find out just how dumb I am on my own later!

    Thanks for the help guys!

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    If your local code permits, the easy solution would be to use a flexible gas line connector.

    For the water lines you could use a flexible connector bent in a complete 360 deg circle to make the offset. This would have another minor advantage because the loop would serve as a heat trap to prevent heat from radiating up the lines and thereby save energy.

  10. #10
    jsouthco is offline Handyman
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    Thanks for the response! So if I hear you correctly i could line the gas up firstusing the existing, and then use flexible tubing to hook up the water... Sounds easy enough.. So i would have to sweat on a male fitting on the copper coming down and then i can just thread the other end of the flex pipe to the WH, right?

    And what about transporting the unit, can I lay it down in the bed of my truck to get it home?
    Last edited by jsouthco; 11-26-2007 at 07:36 PM.

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