How Long Does It Take to Install a Water Heater?
Author: Omar Alonso | Editor: Omar Alonso
Review & Research: Jen Worst & Chris Miller
When the water heater goes, it means no hot water for the shower, dishwasher, or washing machine. It's amazing how much we take hot water for granted until it's no longer available. Now the question is how long does it take to install a water heater?
The hot water heater is the nexus of this resource in the home, and it's prone to dysfunction and breakdowns, especially when it gets to the end of its service life.
Depending on the model, a water heater lasts between 10 to 20 years. That means you'll need to start repairing it around the eight-year mark to keep it operating efficiently and effectively. When it reaches the end of its service life, you have no choice but to replace it.
Installing your new hot water heater is somewhat challenging, especially if you don't have any handy experience working on appliances. Most homeowners need to hire a plumber to handle the installation for them. But how long does it take to replace a water heater? How long must you wait before the hot water flows through the pipes again?
How Long Does It Take to Install a Water Heater?
Most residential water heaters have a 40 to 50-gallon capacity. Larger homes might have units with capacities of up to 120 gallons. Does the size of the tank affect the installation time? Typically, no. Sure, it's harder to manage a 120-gallon heater than a 40-gallon model, but the plumber usually has someone to help them if it's a bigger job so they don't need to lay the water heater on its side.
So, there's not much difference in the time it takes to install a large or small model. There are some exceptions, though. For instance, switching from an electric to a gas-powered model or a tank to a tankless model. There are multiple types of water heaters. In that case, the system's conversion might take slightly longer than the standard time to replace one with a similar operation.
As a professional, you may get it done faster with your vast experience, but a homeowner should allow anywhere from two to three hours to transport the water heater to the proper place in the house and then to perform the installation, double checking their work and taking their time with it.
Let's say you get the water heater installed in terms of the water but didn't have a chance to hook up the gas and light the pilot light. In this case, you can still use the water if the water heater is off as long as the water is hooked up. It'l be cold water, but water nonetheless. If the pilot light was lit and goes out on you but you didn't close the gas valve, you need to do that.
What Are the Challenges of Installing a Water Heater?
Installing a water heater isn't the most challenging DIY task if you have basic tools and handy knowledge for making repairs around the home. However, installing the heater can be pretty dangerous if you don't have any experience and don't know what you're doing with the task.
Installing a water heater requires experience navigating the complexities of home wiring and electrical systems. In many states, building codes stipulate you'll need a certified plumber to complete the work.
Gas water heaters are far more intricate to connect to the system than electric models and much more challenging and dangerous to work with. The water heater must be installed in a position in the home in compliance with the building code, so you can't put it anywhere you want. A qualified plumber will know where to place it for optimal operation and compliance with the building code.
Failing to comply with the code and obtain the correct permits for the work could result in you incurring huge fines for the violation. That's why you should expect your estimation of how long does it take to install a water heater to take a bit longer so you can really check your work.
How Long Does it Take Plumbers to Install a Water Heater?
So, now that we know the requirements for installing a water heater let's look at how long the job takes to complete. On average, it takes the plumber around two to three hours to connect the water heater and get it operational.
The plumber must first remove the old unit before they can replace it. They'll disconnect the old heater from the electricity/ gas and water supply. After removing the unit, the plumber connects the new one back to your home's water and power systems.
After installing the heater, they'll ensure it's operating properly, which means waiting on the water heater to fill up. They test the system and make the required adjustments. Installing gas-powered water heaters takes more time than fitting an electrical model.
You can expect a longer installation time if they have to switch your current tank model to a tankless system. In some cases, they might have to upgrade the ventilation system in the area to accommodate the new model.
How Much Does It Cost to Have a Water Heater Installed?
The installation costs of fitting a new heater vary depending on the power source used to operate the appliance. Whether it's a tank or tankless model. Tankless models are usually better choices if you're installing a new heater.
Tankless heaters might be more expensive, but they're worth the money, considering you get a 20-year average service life. That's compared to a 10 to 15-year service life for tank-based models. If you're on a budget, it's better to go with a tank-based system as they're cheaper to install.
Typically, you can expect to pay in the region of $1,300 to $2,000 for a tank-based installation. Gas-powered heaters are more expensive than electric models but cost less to operate, leading to cost savings in the long run.
A tankless water system costs in the region of $1,200 to $5,000 for the installation, with the average market pricing being $3,500. The cost of the installation varies around the country, with installation in major cities usually being more expensive than in rural areas.
Is Installing a Water Heater a DIY Job?
No. Installing a water heater is not a DIY job unless you have experience working with your home's electrical or gas system. Even if you do, you must hire a plumber to inspect the work and certify the project. Don't think you can skip this step.
If you want to sell your home, you'll need to prove the system was installed by a qualified plumber or you're violating the building code – leading to fines and a possible lost sale on your property. The best thing, if you want to look at the bright side, is the question of how long does it take to install a water heater is off your back and shifted onto a professional who can do it fast.
Installing an electrical water heater yourself is already a complicated and dangerous task. You could end up with a faulty pressure relief, temperature valve, or no valve. In this instance, you could wind up with massive amounts of water damage and even a possible explosion.
A gas heater is even more challenging to install, adding more hazards to the mix. You could end up killing yourself or causing thousands of dollars in property damage. Improper connection of a water heater to the gas line could cause gas leaks, resulting in a fire or explosion.
Your homeowner's insurance requires you to hire a plumber to complete the task, as does the warranty on the heater itself. The insurance won't pay out if there's any damage to your property during a DIY installation. It's better to avoid these risks and hire a professional to handle the installation.
When Do You Replace a Water Heater?
It's a good idea for homeowners to replace the water heater before it fails. Waiting until it fails means you'll have to organize an emergency installation, which is always more expensive than planning the job ahead of time.
Depending on the manufacturer's estimated lifespan for the heater, you should replace the water heater two years before that date. When the water heater loses efficiency after around eight years, it's time to start planning its replacement.
FAQs Regarding Installing a Water Heater
When the topic of the time required to install a water heater comes up, there’s always a handful of other questions that arise. Let’s cover those now.
How Long Do You Wait for the Water to Heat Up After Installing a New Heater?
After installing your new water heater, the unit takes 60 to 80 minutes to heat the water in tank-based models. Gas-powered tankless heaters don't require any heating time, and you have instant access to hot water. Gas-powered tank-based water heaters heat up water faster than electrical models, and you can expect to have hot water in 30 to 40 minutes after installation.
What Do Plumbers Recommend Homeowners Do After Installing a Gas Water Heater?
Check the drafts in your home after the plumber completes the installation of the new water heater. Close all doors and windows throughout the house and turn on the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Open the closest hot water faucet to the heater and leave it open until you hear the water heater ignite and start the heating process.
What Happens if You Install the Water Heater Incorrectly?
Most problems with incorrect DIY installations of gas-powered and electric water heaters involve the relief valve and release tube. Incorrect installation means these components can't relieve the pressure in the unit, and the water heater risks rupturing or exploding, possibly causing a fatal accident in the home.
Key Takeaways for Replacing a Water Heater
- Installing a new water heater in your home takes two to three hours, depending on the model.
- Gas-powered models take longer to install than electric models.
- Gas-powered tankless systems have the longest installation time.
- Don't try to install the heater yourself; it's not a DIY job.
- You'll need a qualified plumber to get the permits required for the replacement and certify the heater's fitment.
- Home insurance won't cover any accidents involved with DIY water heater installations.
- The water heater manufacturer won't honor your warranty if you complete a DIY installation on the unit.
- A DIY water heater installation poses severe safety risks to you and risk of property damage to your home.
- The local building code in many states requires hiring a plumber for the job. Failing to do so could violate the building code, and you'll receive a fine.
How Long Does it Take to Replace a Water Heater?
How long does it take to install a water heater? A person should expect to spend between two and three hours installing a water heater. This allows time to transport it and install it without rushing, and provides time to double check all the work carefully.