I am one of tye impatient neanderthal when it comes reading an installation manual for anything. But when it comes to mucking around with natural gas pipes and such, I make an exception to read everything TWICE. So, please. Read the installation manual that came with your new hot water heater tank.
Also, my basement is a standard height of 7’8″ which means it would be better to attach the pressure relief valve to the hot water heater tank BEFORE positioning it into place.
Step 5.1 – Position the new hot water heater tank
The new hot water heater tank weighs approximately 70 lbs (dry) so try to get someone to help you move it into position. Or if you are working alone (like me) buy one of those convertible hand trucks (read my review of convertible hand trucks).
- Thread in the PVC outlet on the drip pan/tray and place it where the tank will go.
- Position some short 2×4 scrap wood next to tray,then lift the tank on top of the scrap wood.
- Slide the tank into the drip pan (this step is necessary to prevent damaging the “lip” if you are working alone).
- Align the hot water heater tank’s cold/hot water inlet pipes and exhaust vent to existing cold/hot water pipes.
Please note that I ended up not attaching a drain pipe (for the drip pan – see picture on the right) because I did not have the materials and time necessary to drain it into a sealed sump-pump pit. I will post an update to this project in the future.
Step 5.2 – Soldering
Basic premise of soldering is to join two metal pieces together in a way to prevent leaks. If you have never done soldering, I suggest that you practice on some scrap copper pipes and joints. Soldering is not that hard; you just need some hands-on experience!
TIP: Preparation is the key in soldering! Please borrow or purchase a copy of Remodel Plumbing (For Pros by Pros) book.
- Solder a pair of female adapters to short, 3/4 inch copper pipes; I usually solder small pieces like these on my garage concrete floor; let it cool.
- Align both top and bottom hot water pipes together
- Assemble cold water shutoff valve and pipe extension to the thread on the tank.
- Rather than using a short non-stop, union piece, I decided to use a copper repair pipe for additional strength. Slide the 7/8 inch OD (outer diameter) copper repair pipe (Sioux chef, UPC 739236400826) on either side of the hot water pipe.
- After confirming the fit, dis-assemble.
- Apply a small amount of MAPP heat (read review here) around copper pipes to eliminate moisture.
- If water continues to drip out after step #8, insert a small clump of Wonder bread slice (without the edges) into the pipe hold back the water while soldering (bread will dissolve once the water is turned on).
- Prep the pipes by sanding, cleaning, then applying flux on all joints.
- Wrap few rounds of white teflon tape (made specifically for water) on the inlet pipes (on the tank) then thread in two female adapters.
- Re-assemble pipes together, including shut off valves.
- Always solder from bottom parts to upper parts.
- Using MAPP torch, heat the pipe first, then move back and forth between the pipe and joint; the only way to know if the pipe is hot enough is to contact the lead-free solder on the hot pipe suface; if it liquifies, pipe is hot enough. 3/4 inch pipe takes approximately 3/4 inch of solder.
- When soldering a brass fitting such as shutoff valves, make sure to leave the valve in open position. Also, remove the plastic handle before soldering to avoid melting it.
- Make sure to go around the pipe and apply solder evenly.
- Wipe away any excess solder using dry rags (DO NOT USE damp or wet rags!)
- After completion, let pipes cool for about 15 minutes before turning on the water for pressure/leak testing.
TIP: DO NOT OVERHEAT the pipe (the pipe will turn black); Overheating the pipe will weaken the structure, forcing you to cut it off and start over.
TIP: Notice the angle on the cold water supply pipe; although it’s bit more work, I believe this angled pipe is better at maintaining the water pressure.
Step 5.3 – Re-assemble the natural gas line
- Using a wire brush, clean all gas pipe threads.
- As a dry run, work backwards from the branch shutoff valve back to the hot water heater gas control by hand screwing in pipes, without using teflon / pipe dope.
- Remember as you tighten pipes, the length will shorten by about 0.5 inch per pipe so factor this into consideration.
- Remember to install a new gas union as last step.
- Once all pipes have been identified and test fitted, break them down again
- Working one pipe at a time, loop gas Teflon (yellow) tape couple of times. (direction of this loop should always be COUNTER-CLOCKWISE; imagine threadding in a screw by turning it clockwise. You don’t want the gas Teflon tape to bunch up so the loop needs to be in the COUNTER-CLOCKWISE direction)
- Apply a generous amount of pipe dope on top of the Teflon tape (my preference).
- Hand thread in the pipe first.
- Take a pipe wrench to hold the piece that you are screwing into (base) and use a large pliers to tighten the piece you just threaded in.
- When all pieces have been installed, turn on the gas.
- Prepare leak test solution by adding a tablespoon of dish soap to 1/3 cup of warm water. Using a small toothbrush, stir until bubbles are formed at the top.
- Gently “scoop” some bubbles using toothbrush and apply to one joint at a time; if any of bubble get larger and/or pop, you have a leak and need to breakdown the connections and try again.
- Leak test one section at a time, then make sure to dry off the bubbles so that the steel pipe thread won’t rust.
TIP: Take a close look at the pipe wrench and/or pliers. Note the direction of the “teeth”. For maximum grip, you need to position the teeth to go against turn you are making
Step 5.4 – Re-assemble vent + ground wire
Reverse the removal steps to re-assemble vents, using the stick diagram and labels.
Re-attach the ground wire.
Congratulations! You have successfully installed your new hot water heater tank!