Electric Water Heater Installation: Step-by-Step Directions to Do It Yourself

DYI Electric Water Heater Installation

Electric water heater installation isn’t as difficult as you might think, especially if you are a DIY kind of person. But before tackling the job, you should consider that you will need to do some basic plumbing as well as electrical work. If these kinds of tasks make you nervous, there are plenty of reputable company’s you can call to install your new water heater. But, if you’re up to the challenge, you can save yourself some money and do it yourself.

What to Consider Before Your Electric Water Heater Installation

Electric water heaters tend to only last 8 to 10 years before they need to be replaced. However, just because your water heater is leaking, doesn’t mean that it has reached the end of its life. Before buying a new water heater, you should Troubleshoot the leak if you haven’t already. Many times a leak can be repaired. However, if you find the source of the leak is from the tank itself, your only option will be to replace the unit.

Our Buyers Guide can help you select a new water heater, and if you decide to install the tank yourself, you will need to remove your old water heater and dispose of it properly.

Tools and Supplies Needed to Install your Water Heater

  1. Voltage detector
  2. Tubing (pipe) cutter
  3. Flexible Hoses (recommended)
  4. Pipe Dope or Plumbers Tape
  5. Wrench & Screwdriver
  6. Sandpaper cloth (optional depending on plumbing fittings)
  7. Soldering Flux with torch & solder wire
  8. Dielectric connectors (optional depending on plumbing fittings)

Installing your Electric Water Heater

Step 1

Disconnect from Electricity

  • Turn OFF the electricity to your water heater at the circuit breaker panel.
  • Check the water heater wiring with a voltage detector to make sure that the unit is off.
    • This is not covered in the video, but you should always check that the water heater is not receiving any electricity after shutting it off at the circuit breaker.

Step 2

Drain the Tank

Draining a water heater

  • Open a hot water faucet and allow it to run until the water is cold.
    • This step is not covered in the video, however, it will ensure that you will be able to safely drain the tank without being scalded.
  • Shut off the cold water supply to the water heater located at the top of the unit.
  • Connect a hose to the water heater’s drain valve. Open the valve and drain the tank outside, to a floor drain, or into buckets.
  • If you closed the hot water faucet, you should open it again, as well as the T&P valve. This will help the water drain faster by allowing air into the tank.

Step 3

Disconnect the Electrical

Disconnect the electrical

  • Disconnect the electrical wires on the top of the water heater.
    • Be sure that you turned off the circuit breaker at the breaker box first.
    • Before starting, check the wires with a voltage detector.
  • Cap the wires off and label (or take a picture) of them to avoid any future confusion.

Step 4

Disconnect the Plumbing

Disconnect the Plumbing

  • Disconnect the hot and cold water supply pipes.
    • If your water heater was plumbed with copper piping, you may need to cut the pipes.
    • If you need to cut the pipes, use a tubing (pipe) cutter and leave as much of the pipe as possible.
  • You may also choose to remove the discharge pipe from the T&P Valve.
    • Unless the pipe is damaged, you should be able to reuse it on your new water heater.

Step 5

Remove the Old Water Heater

  • Once the tank is empty, remove the old water heater.
    • Use a dolly if possible.
  • Move the new tank into place.
    • We recommend setting the new tank into a drain pan.
    • Check that your electrical supply will adequately reach the tank.
    • Double check that you can access the panels and the drain valve for maintenance.

Step 6

Prepare the Plumbing lines

Preparing the pipes for your new water heater

  • If your old water heater used copper piping and it was necessary to cut the pipes, you will need to prepare the pipes using sandpaper cloth.
    • Use the sandpaper on the ends of the pipe until they shine brightly.

Step 7

Connect the Electrical Wiring

Attaching the electrical to an electric water heater

  • Remove the junction box cover to access the electrical wires.
  • Attach the ground wire to the green ground screw.
  • Connect the wires together by twisting them with wire connectors.
    • Use the previous wire connections as a guide and connect the wires in the same way that you removed them. Follow your label tags or the picture you took from Step 3.
  • Replace the junction box cover.

Step 8

Attach the Supply Lines and Turn ON the Water

Installing the supply lines to an electric water heater

  • Connect the hot and cold water supply lines.
    • Be sure to connect the cold water pipe to the cold water inlet on the water heater.
  • If your old water heater used copper piping, you may choose to plumb it with copper piping again. However, we highly recommend using flexible hoses to make the connections. Not only is it easier, but it is recommended as a safety feature for earthquakes.
    • Your plumbing will vary depending on your original configuration and your preference.
  • Attach the flexible hoses to the nipples on the water heater.
  • Check the flexible hose connections for leaks.
    • At the nearest faucet, turn on the hot water tap and turn on the cold water supply line at your water heater.
    • This step is not covered in the video, but we recommend double-checking your plumbing before moving forward.
  • If there are no leaks, continue to fill your water heater tank with water.
  • Once the tank is full, water will begin to flow out of the hot water tap.

Step 9

Attach the Temperature & Pressure Discharge Pipe

Electric Water Heater T&P Pipe Installation

  • Install the discharge pipe to the T&P Valve.
    • The pipe needs to be extended within 6 inches of the floor.
  • Use a 3/4″ male copper fitting.
  • Paint pipe dope onto the outside of the fitting and the inside of the valve fitting.
  • Attach the fitting to the T&P valve fitting and tighten.
  • Clean the fitting and the end of the pipe.
  • Paint soldering flux on the inside of the male fitting and the outside of the pipe.
  • Attach the pipe to the fitting.
  • Use solder and a torch to connect the pipe.

Step 10

Turn on the Power and Bleed Hot Water Lines

  • After your water heater tank has filled with water, turn on the circuit breaker at the main power box.
    • CAUTION: Turning on the power before the tank is completely filled can cause the electric elements to dry fire if they are not fully submerged. This can ruin your electric heating elements.
  • If your water heater is not getting power, be sure to turn off the circuit breaker BEFORE checking your electrical connections.

Step 11

Bleed Hot Water Lines

  • To eliminate air in the tank and plumbing, allow the hot water tap to run for a few minutes until it stops “sputtering”.
  • It may take a few hours before your water heater if fully heated.
  • The recommended temperature setting is 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Wait a couple of hours and check the discharge pipe.
    • If the pipe is dripping, the pressure may be too high.

Watch the video


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