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How To Replace a Water Heater

The typical water heater lasts for about ten years, although five years more or fewer isn't unusual. Stay in one place long enough and your are bound to have to replace one. Many people automatically call in a plumber for this job, and for some that is the best choice. However, a moderately skilled do-it-yourselfer should be able to complete this project.

Installation costs with a plumber can run anywhere from $300 to $1,300 plus the cost of the appliance. Furthermore, when you hire a plumber, you may not be getting the best deal possible for the water heater itself. You could end up paying full retail price on a model that could be purchased for $300-$600 less at a home improvement center. However, to be fair, there are plenty of great plumbers out there who will charge a fair price. It is always a smart move to research plumbers before you need one.

Considerations Before You Start

Before you replace your old water heater, there are a few things to consider. First off, should you replace it with the same size you have now? If you routinely run out of hot water, then choosing a larger model might be called for. If your family size has reduced, then you may be wasting money heating more water than you need and you could make do with a smaller model.

The location of your water heater may be inconvenient and this could be a good opportunity to relocate it. Also, you may want to switch the fuel source from gas to electric or vice versa, this would also be a logical time to make that type of change. Changing fuel types and relocating a water heater increase the complexity of the project and make it better suited for a professional installer.

Finally, have you considered switching to a tankless water heater, also known as a "demand water heater"? Switching to tankless can result in energy savings through avoidance of periodic reheating of the stored water 24 hours a day. Also, a tankless water heater provides continuous hot water allowing you to take hot showers for as long as you like. Click here to read more about tankless water heaters in our plumbing section. Switching to a tankless water heater also is a more complex project and should be done by a professional, preferably one with a lot of experience installing tankless water heaters.

Selecting a Replacement Water Heater

When you purchase a replacement water heater, double check to make certain you have selected one that is the size and fuel type you intend to use. It is frustrating to get home and discover you have selected the wrong replacement, and possibly impossible to return it for a refund. Also, if there are any space limitations for the installation, make certain the replacement will fit before you purchase it.

Another consideration is to purchase all the plumbing parts you will need, fittings, hoses, solder, pipe dope etc. It is recommended to buy everything you might need, including some assorted pipes and fittings to allow for unanticipated situations.

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