Should I Call a Professional to Install My Water Heater?


Numerous homeowners prefer to handle as many home maintenance tasks as possible to save money. A number of these tasks can be completed simply and more affordably by a homeowner with simple tools and rudimentary knowledge. Installing a water heater is one of those chores that is right on the borderline with many homeowners. Should you call a professional to install your water heater or do it yourself? 

Before you make a decision, you should evaluate the risks and necessary skills you will need. Replacing a hot water heater is not often a simple job, and any mistakes in the installation could cause serious damage or injury, and even more costs for repairs. While some home maintenance jobs easily fall into the DIY category, if you have any doubts about your ability to install a water heater, you probably should leave it to a professional. 

This is especially true if replacing your water heater will require installing new wiring, piping, gas lines or ductwork. These specialty tasks are more complicated than they may appear, and often require the services of a licensed professional. You wouldn’t choose to perform heart surgery on yourself; so why attempt a specialty job that comes with high risks for injury or damage? 

Here are 5 good reasons that you should contract a professional installation of your hot water heater. 

The Risks of Fire, Explosion or Electrical Shock 

Hot water heaters all have an electrical and water connection, and some add a gas connection. Water and electricity are two elements that definitely do not mix. Improper wiring or plumbing can result in shocks, leaks, property damage and injury. If you are upgrading to a larger water heater, it may require replacing the wiring with a higher gauge and even installing a new, larger capacity breaker in your electrical box. 

Gas water heaters come with their own set of risks, including leaks, improper venting and possible explosions. Many jurisdictions require gas lines to be moved or installed by a professional, licensed plumber or gas technician anyway. So, contracting the entire installation to a professional just makes sense. Plus, it is a much safer option to protect your family and property from harm. 

The Risk of Carbon Monoxide Poisoning 

One of the most serious DIY mistakes when installing a gas hot water heater is improper ventilation. Gas-burning water heaters require adequate ventilation for the exhaust gases to be safely channeled outdoors. Without this ventilation, carbon monoxide can enter your home, build up and cause serious poisoning, injury and even death. 

Carbon monoxide is an odorless gas that cannot be detected by human senses. Just a small oversight or mistake in a DIY gas water heater installation could prove deadly. Even with a professional installation, you should have carbon monoxide testers near the water heater and any other gas appliances, and test them often to ensure they are working properly. 

Lack of Knowledge 

Replacing a hot water heater often involves more knowledge than is possessed by the average DIY homeowner. Even watching an online video or having an extensive conversation with the sales person at your local big box hardware store cannot convey some valuable knowledge and skills that are required. The best intentions are no suitable replacement for skilled, experienced product and installation knowledge. 

Even choosing the correct size and type of water heater for your home is best not left to chance. Too small a heater will use too much energy and wear out sooner. Too large a water heater will also use too much energy, keeping too much water hot that will not be used in a timely manner. Some special types of water heater also require specialty wiring, plumbing and even structural support or secure banding. 

Guarding Your Home’s Value 

When the time comes to sell your home, an improper DIY water heater installation will likely be flagged on the pre-sale home inspection. One common mistake made by DIY installers is forgetting to include a temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P Valve) with a new water heater. This can result in excessive pressure or temperatures building up and a possible explosion. This omission will surely be flagged by a home inspector. 

An incorrect water heater installation lowers your home’s resale value, plus incurs an extra cost to make repairs or even replace the installation. You could end up paying more in the long run than if you would have chosen a professional installation at the beginning. Moreover, a single DIY mistake like this can cause the home inspector to pay particular attention to other areas of the home, looking for other code or safety violations. 

Other work or repairs that do not meet current building codes can be flagged and cost you even more money for repairs. Prospective buyers can be put off when out-of-code, DIY repairs are flagged, and wonder what else is wrong with the home. Unless you are an experienced builder or contractor, doing DIY repairs like a water heater replacement could seriously cost you in the future. 

Your Family’s Safety 

While completing DIY repairs to your home can leave with you with a feeling of pride in a job well-done, what are the risks of an improper installation? Expensive damage to your property is a real risk – but so are serious injuries or fatalities to your family. Is saving some money now worth the risks to your loved ones? What price do you place on their safety?

Contracting the proper licensed professionals (plumbers, electricians, gas technicians) to replace or install a new hot water heater is always the best choice. They are equipped with the proper tools, skills, insurance protection, product knowledge, installation experience and knowledge of local codes and regulations to ensure the job is done safely and efficiently. 

Call a number of local companies for cost estimates and explore online rating services to check out the reputations of local contractors before choosing the right one for you. Investing in a reputable professional to install your water heater is a wise and safe choice that will pay rich dividends far into the future. 

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