Can Homeowners Replace Their Own Hot Water Heaters?

Austin Palmer


Over the years, I’ve seen my fair share of water heater installations and repairs. Whether you’re faced with a failing heater or planning a proactive replacement, you might be wondering if this is a project you can handle yourself or if it’s better to call in the pros. Today, I’m here to share my expertise to help you understand whether Homeowners should replace their own water heaters or if they should call a professional.


Understanding Hot Water Heaters


There are several types of water heaters but the most common are either Tanked or Tankless

1. Storage Tank Water Heater

These are the most traditional type of water heaters, consisting of a large tank that stores and heats water continuously. They can run on electricity, natural gas, propane, or other fuel sources. The tank keeps the water at a preset temperature, ensuring hot water is available when needed. The main drawbacks include the potential for heat loss while the water sits in the tank and the physical space required for installation.

2. Tankless Water Heater (On-Demand)

Tankless water heaters, as the name suggests, do not store hot water. Instead, they heat water directly as it flows through the device on demand. This method can be more energy-efficient as it eliminates the standby energy losses associated with storage tanks. They are ideal for homes that consume less than 41 gallons of hot water daily, offering a continuous supply of hot water and taking up less space.

Knowing what you have can help determine the complexity of the installation. It’s also crucial to identify any issues that might demand a replacement—like leaks, inconsistent heating, or excessive noise, which could signal it’s time for a new one.


Legal and Safety Considerations


When it comes to replacing your hot water heater, it’s not just about physical installation—there are legal and safety considerations to keep in mind. Depending on where you live, you might need a permit to install a new heater, especially if you’re switching types or fuel sources. Safety is another major concern. Incorrect installation can lead to serious risks, such as gas leaks or electrical hazards. Always check local codes and regulations to ensure compliance.

For our local folks, here are some links to local code ordinances:

Skills and Tools Required


Think about the skills and tools needed for the job. Are you comfortable with basic plumbing? What about working with electrical systems or gas lines? You’ll need a range of tools, from pipe wrenches and screwdrivers to possibly even a soldering kit. Plus, understanding technical guidelines and manufacturer instructions is a must.


Pros and Cons of DIY Installation



– Cost Savings: Doing it yourself can save you the cost of labor, which can be significant.

– Flexibility: You set the schedule and work at your own pace.



-Potential for Mistakes: One small error in installation can lead to bigger problems (and costs).

-Warranty and Insurance Issues: DIY installations might void warranties or not be covered by your homeowner’s insurance.

-Safety Risks: The risks of improper handling of gas or electrical connections can be severe.


Step-by-Step Guide for DIY Replacement


If you’re feeling confident and decide to go ahead with a DIY installation, here’s a brief overview:

  1. Preparation: Make sure you have the right type of water heater that fits your home’s needs.
  2. Removal: Safely disconnect and remove your old unit.
  3. Installation: Set the new unit in place, making all necessary connections (this might include gas, water, and electrical connections).
  4. Testing: Very important—test your installation to make sure everything is working safely and efficiently.


When to Call Vaquero Plumbing

There are times when it’s best to rely on the experts, and Vaquero Plumbing is here to help. If you’re unsure about the installation process, if the job seems overly complex, or if your local codes require professional installation for compliance, it’s wise to call in the professionals. Installing a hot water heater involves critical steps that, if done incorrectly, can lead to not only inefficient operation but also serious safety risks.




Replacing a hot water heater can be a rewarding DIY project, but it comes with significant risks and challenges. Assess your skills honestly, understand the safety implications, and make sure you’re fully compliant with local regulations. Whether you choose to do it yourself or hire a professional like those of us at Vaquero Plumbing, the most important thing is ensuring a safe and effective installation.