How to Add an Electric Water Heater

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

Tools Required
  • Neon voltage tester
  • Pipe wrench
  • Garden hose
  • Hacksaw or
    tubing cutter
  • Carpenter's level
  • Propane torch
Materials Required
  • Electric water heater
  • Metal shim
  • Threaded male
    pipe fittings
  • Flexible copper tubing
  • Hot water heater
    installation kit
  • Emery paper
  • Solder and flux

Before You Begin

Follow the instructions below to complete the installation. Don't want to get involved doing this job yourself? Click Home Advisor and find plumbers in your area.

  • Step 1 : Disconnect the power supply and drain the unit

    Disconnect and drain the old electric water heater

    Before beginning any work on or around the old water tank, shut off power to the circuit and test to make sure it is off. At the main fuse panel, locate the water heater circuit and either move the circuit breaker to the OFF position or remove the fuse. Drain the old tank before you try to move it. Find the valve on the cold water supply lines that enter into the top of the water heater. Turn it clockwise to shut off the supply of water to the tank. Open the hot water spigots at all the faucets. Next, locate the hose bib near the base of the water tank and empty the water from the tank. Attach a garden hose to the tank and empty the water directly outdoors or into a floor drain; if that's not possible empty the water into a bucket and pour the water down the sink. Use caution if the water in the tank is still hot!

  • Step 2 : Check for voltage

    Check for voltage

    Open the electrical panel on the water heater, and remove the wire nuts from the connections, taking care not to touch the bare wire. Use a neon voltage tester to check for voltage. Touch one lead to the power wire (typically red or black) and the other to the white wire. Also test between the black or red wire and the green or bare copper (ground) wire if present. If the test light does not go on, it is safe to disconnect the wires. Loosen any clamps that secure the hose wire to the water heater and remove the wire. If the light does come on, return to the fuse panel and disconnect the proper circuit.

  • Step 3 : Remove the old tank

    Remove the old water tank

    Many water heaters are installed with universal joints located in the water supply and hot water discharge lines. These universal joints are designed to be taken apart so the pipes can be separated. If your heater is installed with universal joints, loosen the nut with a pipe wrench. If the joint is very tight, heating the nut with a propane torch will usually loosen it. Loosen these joints with a pipe wrench to free the tank from the existing piping.

    Cut the summply lines of old water tank

    If your water heater does not have universal joints in the supply and delivery pipes then use either a tubing cutter or a hack saw to cut the supply lines that enter into the top of the water heater. Make the cuts at least 2-inches below the water shut-off valves. Make the cuts as square as possible. Remove and dispose the old water heater.

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