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Can A Homeowner Install A Water Heater? Find Out How

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Tim Rhodes

This article answers a very important question – can a homeowner install a water heater?

It is certainly interesting to consider how amenities and comforts which were considered luxuries for our parents are considered by ourselves to be bare necessities.

For example, thinking about our ancestors sends a chill down my spine, both literally and figuratively.

When I think about how they braved the winters without ‘water heating’.

The ‘trusty’ water heater is a friend of the modern man, who benefits from it in so many ways;

Baths are a thing of comfort, houses are cozy in the dead cold, cooking isn’t much of a challenge, and washing and cleaning aren’t much of an ordeal.

Just because Waddy Maughan and Edwin Ruud sitting in Europe decided to make so many lives easy by inventing and then refining the concepts of the water heater of today, but the question remains, can a homeowner install a water heater?


The DIY Trend

We now live in an era of trends, where practices are initiated, gain traction, are looked at and adopted by the masses, gain popularity.

Slowly but surely transform into trends before being looked at as norms.

One of the said norms that are becoming hugely popular of late is the bandwagon of “Do it Yourself” or DIY as it is referred to commonly.

Although traces of the “DIY” history are traceable to as early as the 6th century, where archeologists discovered detailed assembly instruction in the Greek language.

In ruins in part of southern Italy, modern practices, or the IKEA culture “DIY” trend only gained momentum in the 20th century.

The “DIY” storm took over completely with the revolutionization of communication and especially with the access of the internet and the resulting social media platforms.

Before anyone could fathom it, “DIY” this and “DIY” that was the common terminology from home improvement to fixing big and small things around the house.

Social media does nothing if empower the man of today by making him feel like a superhuman.

Who can learn anything, can assemble the complicated parts of a machine and fix the most complex errors just by glancing at the screen of the computer, the tablet or the phone.

So, how does this empowerment of being able to undertake the most Herculean of tasks function?

When it comes to translating it to installing a water heater by one’s own hands in the home:

This will be our journey today as we navigate both sides of the argument of whether the water heater should be self-installed or is to be left to the more capable hands of the craftsperson.

Going The Traditional Route

The easiest and certainly the most convenient way of getting a water heater up and working in your home is to just pick the phone and call the ‘water heater guy’.

He will take care of the whole process for you, but at what cost?

The cost of the heater is a separate issue and the cost of the installation is another matter.

The cost of the heater and its installation both tends to be lower with the popular water tank heater and keeps getting higher as the type of the heater gets complicated.

For example: for the most commonly used conventional storage-tank water, the prices are the lowest, the prices for the Tankless water heater increase.

The costs for the hybrid water heater are higher still, which is somewhere close to the condensing water heater.

The solar power heater is the most expensive both in terms of its own cost and the cost of its installation.

The installation, without calculating the cost of the water heater, of the water heater alone would set you back from at least 150-600 dollars if it is a traditional water tank heater to as high as 4000 dollars if you believe in going green and opt for a solar-powered water heater.

Many people just save themselves the hassle and engage a professional to install their heaters for the sake of their convenience.

The decision to hire a professional has more uses as the heater requires regular maintenance and upkeep, for which a certified professional is required.

Most of the inspectors ask for a permit, which is only possible when the water heater was originally installed by a professional, which makes all the more sense when people decide to get the installation done professionally (link at the end).

Even with the increasing trend of trying to undertake installations of domestic machinery by themselves, for the larger part when it comes to water heaters, most people trust professionals more than they trust their mettle.

Is There Much To It Anyway?

On the surface of it, one would assume that the procedure of water heater installation is incredibly difficult and complicated, although there is no ‘one method fits all’ approach that will work for all the heaters.

In the US, it is permissible to install the water heater on your own, and there are no problems with the legal variety that stop you from practicing your workman skills.

However, it will be of use to anybody who wishes to install the water heater to study the updated US Federal water heater regulations (2015).

Which are understandably important in the wake of new water heaters (I have included a link at the end of the article).

This is especially important because, in the new heaters, there is a change of dimensions in the upcoming and newer models, and if the updated regulations are not considered.

It can cause a lot of inconvenience to you in the future.

With the advent of the propensity of self-work, most of the companies propagate that their systems are easy enough to be understood and hence their installation is also not too complicated for an average Joe.

Admittedly, the whole argument depends on the fact of how good you are with tasks like that.

If you are a handy person, you will overcome any difficulties that arise during the installation.

But if you aren’t very good at such tasks, the simplest job can prove too much for you.

Having said that, some prior knowledge is a must and going all-in without having done some research could be potentially problematic.

Increasingly, the newer systems are being manufactured to make them user friendly and easier to maintain as possible.

This is encouraging news to the people who believe in doing things on their own.

The whole procedure can be as easy as selecting the right place for installation, connecting the water input and output pipes with valves, and making sure that they are sealed securely.

Properly connecting the electric wires or the gas connection where it is a gas water heater, although it is more tricky in the case of a gas water heater due to the potential gas leakage risk.

One major factor that has to be considered is that if you intend for your heater to be later inspected for maintenance issues.

Most of the inspectors will ask for the permit for when the heater was installed, and that is not possible if the heater was installed by you and not by a certified professional.

Alongside this concern is another matter which is that most seasoned and intelligent home buyers know and ask for the permit too before buying a property

If you are selling your property to such buyers, lack of the permit will most likely damage you in the bargain as they might lose interest in the property altogether or it might drive the price of the property down.

This also becomes an issue when your house is directly connected to other houses, in which case any negligence could be detrimental for the neighbors too and it is not only you have has to pay for it.

However, if you don’t intend to move and are putting down roots permanently, that should not be an issue.

Just be ready to change the heater yourself, and undertake the maintenance yourself too, once you have done it yourself the first time.

But we know that when you can do it once, you can do it again; however.

There are the pros and cons of the decision to deviate from the path of getting professional help.

Pros Of Self-Installation

The first step to the motivation of installing the heater themselves is the question that is it worth paying that much money to someone to get the job done.

Is it just plain old common sense to muster some courage and determination and doing it yourself?

In the quest of deciding if one should perform the process on one’s own, there is a need to look at the pros, which are as follows: 

  • The biggest advantage is naturally saving the costs of the installation and keeping the money
  • Associated with saving money, once you learn to install the heater yourself, you can even make money by installing it for other people for a fee because after all, every house needs a water heater
  • Furthermore, when you have an additional craft, there is a very viable option of falling back on the alternative career if your career doesn’t work out, and the option is also valid for a work option after retirement
  • In the course of installing the heater, educating yourself is a necessity, so learning to do so is a step towards self-improvement
  • When you do the installation yourself, you are working your body and your mind, thereby making both of them healthier and sharper respectively
  • “DIY” attitude is the way to independence and total self-reliance; when you can do something yourself, you don’t have to depend on anyone, you don’t have to wait for anyone, and you don’t have to change your schedule for anyone
  • Installing your water heater yourself will set you on a path of overall self-reliance, and sets you apart from the crowd as if you can install a water heater, why not other things
  • Installing your water heater successfully gives you a sense of accomplishment and gives you a boost in self-confidence, as the feeling of pride in one’s achievement is an unmatched joy
  • Finally, let’s face it, ‘Doing it yourself’ is cool, and people who make the effort to install machines like that get respect

With so many good points, one is bound to think that DIY is the way to go, and some people might even regret not rolling up their sleeves and getting it done themselves in the past.

Don’t be so hasty as there are two sides to a coin and the right thing to do is to look at both sides before making up your mind.

Cons Of Self-Installation

Before making the call to self-installing the water heater, given the so many pros, there is another side of the picture, which needs to be carefully considered.

There are certain cons of installing your water heater in addition to the pros, which are as under: 

  • To install the water heater, there is a very real risk of physical harm, especially with certain kinds of water heaters, and no amount of money-saving is worth such a danger to yourself or your loved ones
  • Given that you are not a trained professional, the efficacy of the work can be potentially questionable and the heater may not work properly
  • To save money by installing the heater yourself, the heater itself can be damaged in the absence of proper training, and that will defeat the purpose, as not only you will have to buy a new heater, but you will end up paying for the cost of installation anyway
  • There is a reason for people getting trained and certified for a particular craft in terms of quality control and peace of mind, which is more than likely compromised when you compromise on the quality of work and do it yourself, sometimes with inadequate tools which cause further problems down the line
  • Inadequate installation of a water heater can have even worse consequences like leakage and risk of impairment of the structural integrity of the very building in which the heater is being installed
  • If your building is connected to other buildings, the abovementioned leakage of water, gas, or oil can damage the neighbors and that could bring legal problems to your doorstep as well
  • Leakage can cause other problems like damp, foul smell, hygiene problems, and even bacteria infestation, which is not worth saving any amount of money for
  • When you install the water heater yourself, there is another issue of responsibility of functionality in the future, which can’t be ensured or insured when the task hasn’t been completed by a trained and certified craftsman
  • As mentioned before, once you install the heater yourself, the possibility of having it replaced by a trained and certified professional goes out the window as they will most definitely ask for a permit for the earlier installation and therefore, if you did it once, be prepared to do it each time after that

In addition to that, there are many horror stories where an incorrectly installed water heater created massive problems for the households;

People thought they’d save some money and ended up getting famous for their mistake resulting from poor planning or execution.

The purpose of so many cons and the mention of the horror stories is not to discourage the people who are motivated to empower themselves.

Quite the contrary, the purpose is to make an informed decision and not go into something without knowing everything there is to know.

Once someone decides to do the installation after reading and knowing everything there is to know.

The work they do will be meticulous and of a much higher quality than the work done without the said information, so discouraging anyone is not the motive of this article.

Installing The Water Heater Yourself

If despite all the caution and the cons, you decide to act the daredevil and do the installation yourself, make sure that: 

  1. You are fully aware of all the regulations before you begin
  2. You have chosen the kind of project which you can handle successfully
  3. The space for the heater is secure and adequate and is well away and out of the way of unnecessary intrusions by kids, pets, or visitors
  4. You keep an eye on the heater after you install it yourself
  5. If you see any leakage, make sure that it is sealed and taken care of
  6. If you see any rust-colored water, that is a sign of an upcoming leak, and so you need to get ahead of the problem
  7. If you hear any strange rumbling or banging noises, turn the heater off and make sure all is fixed before you turn it on again
  8. In a heater with copper joints, make sure that the soldering job is completely secure
  9. A safely installed heater shouldn’t cause damp or any nasty smells, and if that occurs, take measures at once to remedy the situation
  10. You need to be extra careful if you live in a multi-family building or housing complex, as you are responsible for the safety and well-being of not just yourself and your family but the safety of many other people and their families (in which case, do the right thing and hire a certified professional)
  11. Above everything else, when in doubt, stop immediately and ask for help because it is better to take the precaution at the right time rather than getting embroiled with damage control later

In addition to that, the responsibility also rests on the shoulders of the consumer to think about the environment when they are deciding to install the water heater.

According to a report, the sales of water heaters in the US is estimated to rise at the rate of 4.2% by the year 2025 (Link included at the end).

The studies are very significant because, in addition to the statistics which have been compiled very carefully, the article also gives ways to help the environment by making smart decisions by making good selections.

This would mean a lot of increased potential damage to the environment depending on the choice of the heater, which makes the awareness of the consumer all the more important before they buy a water heater.

Final Thoughts

In the end, with all said and done, the decision rests with the individual homeowner who will be making the important decision.

It boils down to one question after taking a look at the many pros and cons, which is not ‘can a homeowner install a water heater by themselves?’

Of course, in the presence of a huge amount of information online, and a large number of DIY videos springing up everywhere.

The access to the requisite information is now very easy, and consequently, it is indeed possible to do the installation yourself.

The answer to the question can a homeowner install a water heater is – yes, a homeowner can install a water heater.

The right question to ask here is, ‘Should you install a water heater yourself?’, and that is a very valid concern which prompts to consider all the confounding factors carefully.


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