When a hot water heater tank can no longer supply enough hot water consistently, it may be time for replacement. Ask yourself some of these questions when trying to decide if you need a new hot water heater or not:
- Age of the hot water heater tank – average life expectancy is approximately 8-10 years; shorter if your water has lots of minerals
- Tank is leaking water (no matter how small);
- Slow hot water replenishment time;
- Tank makes gurgling or funny sounds;
- Mineral deposit / buildup around connections to water pipes;
Although replacing a hot water heater tank is not too difficult, it helps to first determine answers to these questions before starting the project:
- Should I stay with with existing fuel-type (natural gas vs. electric), or convert?
- Should I increase or decrease the hot water heater tank size?
- How do I dispose the old hot water heater tank
- Permit requirement
Should I stay with with existing fuel-type (natural gas vs. electric), or convert?
I decided to stay with my natural gas fuel for several reasons:
- Natural gas is cheaper than electricity (at least for now);
- Natural gas heater replenishes hot water quicker (in my opinion);
- Reduces the amount of work (to convert to electric hot water heater tank, I would have to install a new wire that can support 220v).
Should I increase or decrease the hot water heater tank size?
Here is a handy chart for your determine if you need to increase the size of your hot water heater tank.
- 4 or less people = 30 gallon tank
- 5-7 people = 40 gallon tank
- 8-9 people = 50 gallon tank
- 10-12 people = 75 gallon tank
Check with your township’s plumbing department before deciding to downsize. Certain towns may require that you can only maintain or increase the size of your hot water heater tank.
How do I dispose the old hot water heater tank?
Regardless of who installs your tank, you are responsible for properly disposing the tank. Simple and cost effective solution? If you have a truck, you can drop it off at your local metal scrap yard and get some $$$.
Or do what I did and post a message at my local FreeCycle forum. Within a day or so, a person with a truck picked up my old tank free of charge. A win-win situation as this person made some extra cash by selling it for scrap metal value and I did not have to shell out a disposal fee (~$70)!
Many people don’t obtain permits citing various excuses (e.g. pain to complete, expensive, increases the likelihood of property tax increases), but I think it ultimately benefits you, the DIY homeowner, to have a qualified person double checking your work, especially a project that involves natural gas.
In addition to purchasing a hot water heater tank, pipes, etc., make sure to have these tools available:
- Bernzomatic MAPP torch (read my review)
- Mini and 2″ Copper Pipe cutters
- Lead-free solder
- Flux (no, not the flux-capacitor from Back to the Future movie!)
- Oatey open mesh abrasive paper (mesh kind is the best, not the cheap sandpaper ones)
- Latex gloves
- Pipe wrench
- Pair of pliers
- Hacksaw (with a blade rated to cut metal)
- Sharpie marker
I’ve had some decent experiences with SharkBite (Home Depot) and GatorBite (Lowes) connectors. These are solderless connectors that you can use in virtually any environment. Read my review to see if you can use it for your project.