how long does it take to install a water heater

How Long Does It Take To Install A Water Heater?

Last Updated: February 5, 2024By

The water heater is a vital but sometimes ignored item that provides comfort and ease in modern life. Understanding the installation procedure and its time implications becomes crucial when it’s time for a replacement or an update.

In this article how long does it take to install a water heater? We dissect the nuances that determine whether it’s a simple switch or a more involved project, from the type of heater to the installer’s experience. By the end, you’ll better understand how much time is needed to guarantee steady warmth and comfort in your everyday life.

What Is A Water Heater?

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Types Of Water Heaters And Installation Complexities

Different water heater types offer distinct advantages and installation challenges, aiding homeowners in making informed decisions about the best type for their needs and potential installation complexities.

  • Storage Tank Water Heaters: These are the traditional water heaters with a large insulated tank to store and heat water. The installation involves connecting the water supply lines, gas or electrical connections, and venting for gas-powered units. Tank water heaters require space for the tank, and proper venting is crucial for safe operation.
  • Tankless Water Heaters: heaters heat water on demand without storing it in a tank. They are typically smaller in size and are mounted on walls. The installation process can be more complex due to the need for proper sizing, gas or electrical connections, and adjustments to the existing plumbing system. Venting requirements may also vary depending on the model.
  • Heat Pump Water Heaters: Heat pump water heaters use electricity to transfer heat from the surrounding air to heat the water. They are more energy-efficient but require specific installation considerations. They need adequate space and proper ventilation and should be installed in areas with sufficient ambient heat sources.
  • Solar Water Heaters: Solar water heaters utilize solar energy to heat water. They typically consist of solar collectors, storage tanks, and controls. The installation complexity depends on the type of solar system chosen, such as a passive or active system. It involves installing solar collectors on the roof or in an appropriate location, connecting them to the storage tank, and integrating controls with the existing water heating system.
  • Condensing Water Heaters: Condensing water heaters are high-efficiency units that extract heat from combustion gases. They require a different venting system to accommodate the condensation process. Installation complexities may arise from the need for specialized venting materials and adjustments to the existing venting system.

Installation Process: Step-by-Step Breakdown

Installing a water heater involves steps to ensure proper functioning, safety, and efficiency. While the specifics may vary depending on the type of water heater and local regulations, here’s a general step-by-step breakdown of the installation process:


Before beginning the installation process, preparing the area and ensuring the necessary utilities are disconnected is essential. Start by shutting off the power supply or gas to the existing water heater. Locate the circuit breaker connected to the water heater for electric water heaters and switch it off. Turn off the gas supply valve if you have a gas water heater. Next, close the main water supply valve to the house to prevent water flow during the installation. Finally, drain the old water heater by attaching a hose to the drain valve and directing it to a suitable drainage area. Open the drain valve and allow the water to empty from the tank.

Removal of the Old Water Heater

Once the old water heater is drained, you can remove it. Start by disconnecting the electrical or gas connections according to the manufacturer’s instructions and local codes. For electric water heaters, this typically involves removing the access panel and disconnecting the wiring. Disconnect the gas line using a wrench if you have a gas water heater. Remember to exercise caution when handling gas connections and, if needed, consult a professional plumber or gas technician for assistance. Disconnect the water supply lines, both hot and cold, using adjustable wrenches. Keep a bucket or towel handy to catch any water spills. Carefully remove the old water heater from its current location, requiring assistance or specialized equipment if necessary. Transport the unit safely, depending on its size and weight.

Placement of the New Water Heater

With the old water heater removed, you can now prepare for the installation of the new unit. Choose a suitable location for the new water heater, considering factors such as ventilation requirements, accessibility for maintenance, and compliance with local building codes. Ensure that the area is clear of obstructions and provides adequate space for the water heater. Typically, water heaters are installed in utility rooms, garages, or basements. You may need to adjust the surrounding area, such as clearing debris or creating a stable platform for the unit. Once the installation location is ready, set the new water heater in place, ensuring it is stable and level.

How Long Does It Take To Install A Water Heater?

how long does it take to install a water heater

The installation time of a water heater varies significantly based on factors like the type, expertise of the installer, the complexity of the installation, and any potential challenges.

Conventional Storage Water Heater

  • On average, a straightforward installation of a conventional storage water heater can take 2 to 4 hours.
  • This includes draining and disconnecting the old water heater, positioning the new unit, connecting supply lines, and ensuring proper venting (if applicable).

Tankless Water Heater

  • Installing a tankless water heater can take longer, typically around 4 to 8 hours or more.
  • This is due to the need to size the unit properly, adjust gas or electrical connections, potentially upgrade gas lines, and ensure adequate ventilation.

Heat Pump Water Heater

  • Heat pump water heater installations can take around 6 to 10 hours or more.
  • This includes positioning the unit, connecting electrical components, setting up the heat pump system, and ensuring proper ventilation.

Solar Water Heater

  • Installing a solar water heater can be one of the more time-intensive options, often taking around 8 to 16 hours or more.
  • This includes mounting solar collectors, connecting pipes and pumps, setting controls, and ensuring proper alignment for maximum solar energy absorption.

How Long Does A Water Heater Last?

The lifespan of a water heater typically ranges from 8 to 12 years, although individual results may vary. The longevity of a water heater depends on several factors, including the type of water heater, the quality of the unit, maintenance practices, and water quality. Traditional storage tank water heaters generally last around 8 to 12 years, while tankless water heaters can last 20 years or more. Factors such as the build quality of the unit, including the materials used and the manufacturer’s reputation, can significantly impact its durability.

Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank to remove sediment buildup and replacing sacrificial anode rods, can extend the lifespan of a water heater. The water quality in your area can impact the longevity of a water heater, as hard water with high mineral content can cause sediment buildup and corrosion. Monitoring performance and addressing issues promptly can maximize the heater’s lifespan. Signs of aging, decreased water temperature, leaks, or unusual noises may indicate the heater’s end of life and needs attention or replacement. The average lifespan is 8 to 12 years, but individual circumstances and factors can provide a better estimate.

DIY vs. Professional Installation

Homeowners often decide between DIY water heater installation or hiring a professional, but important considerations must be considered before deciding. Both options have their merits.

DIY Installation:

Cost Savings: DIY installation can save you money on labor costs, as you won’t have to pay for professional services.
Learning Opportunity: Installing a water heater can provide a valuable learning experience about your home’s plumbing and heating systems.
Control: You can completely control the installation process and adjust as needed.
Complexity: Water heater installations can be complex, especially for tankless, heat pump, or solar systems. Mistakes can lead to inefficiencies, safety hazards, and the need for repairs.
Lack of Expertise: You need to gain experience in plumbing and electrical work to improve certain aspects of the installation, leading to suboptimal results.
Safety Concerns: Mishandling gas lines, electrical connections, or venting systems can pose serious safety risks to you and your household.
Potential Delays: A DIY installation can take longer if you encounter unexpected challenges or need to research and troubleshoot issues.

Professional Installation:

Expertise: Professional installers are trained and experienced in water heater installations, ensuring proper setup, safety, and efficiency.
Efficiency: Professionals can complete the installation quickly and accurately, minimizing disruption to your daily routine.
Safety: Qualified installers understand safety protocols and regulations, reducing the risk of accidents or hazardous installations.
Warranty Protection: Many water heater manufacturers require professional installation to maintain warranty coverage.
Cost: Hiring a professional installer involves paying for labor, which can increase the project’s overall cost.
Less Hands-On Experience: Choosing professional installation means missing out on the hands-on experience and learning opportunity that a DIY project offers.


How Long Does It Take To Get Hot Water After Installation?

The time it takes to get hot water after installation varies, but it typically ranges from 30 minutes to a few hours as the new water heater heats the water supply.

Is A Water Heater Hard To Replace?

Replacing a water heater can be challenging due to factors like type, location, and connections, often requiring plumbing and possibly electrical work.

What Are The Signs You Need A New Water Heater?

Signs that indicate you may need a new water heater include inadequate hot water supply, rusty or discolored water, unusual noises from the tank, leaks or pooling water around the unit, and advanced age.

Do Water Heaters Need To Be Flushed Every Year?

Water heaters should be flushed annually to remove sediment buildup and maintain efficient performance, but frequency can vary based on water quality and usage.

What Not To Do When Installing A Water Heater?

When installing a water heater, avoid improper gas or electrical connections, inadequate ventilation, incorrect pipe sizing, neglecting proper anchoring, and failing to follow manufacturer instructions and local building codes.


Homeowners with basic plumbing and electrical skills can install conventional storage water heaters DIY. Still, professional installation is recommended for complex systems like tankless heat pumps or solar water heaters due to technical expertise and potential safety hazards. Improper installation can lead to performance issues, energy inefficiency, safety risks, and costly repairs. Investing in professional installation ensures a smoother transition to your new water heater system.

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Monique Valeris

Monique Valeris is a prominent house editor with a keen eye for design and a passion for creating warm and stylish interiors. With a wealth of experience and a fresh perspective, she blends contemporary trends with timeless elements to create aesthetically pleasing and functional spaces. Valeris's editorial contributions extend beyond the printed page, engaging with her audience through various platforms to share insights and tips. Her ability to effortlessly blend different design styles and her dedication to promoting inclusivity within home aesthetics set her apart as a leader in the field.

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