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 a steady stream of warmth and comfort in your everyday life.

What Is A Water Heater?

A water heater is a household appliance designed to heat water for various purposes, primarily for domestic use. It is vital to provide hot water for bathing, cooking, cleaning, and heating. Water heaters are essential for modern homes, enhancing comfort and convenience by ensuring a steady, warm water supply.

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.

Conventional Storage Water Heaters

  • Installation Process: Installing a conventional storage water heater involves connecting it to the water supply and the gas or electricity source, if applicable. It also requires setting up the venting system for gas-powered units.
  • Complexities: While the installation process is relatively straightforward, the main challenge is handling the tank’s size and weight. Moreover, ensuring proper ventilation for gas-powered units is essential to prevent the buildup of dangerous fumes.

Tankless Water Heaters (On-Demand Water Heaters)

  • Installation Process: Tankless water heaters require careful consideration of water flow rates and gas/electrical connections. They are often mounted on walls and require proper venting.
  • Complexities: Correct sizing is crucial for tankless units to meet hot water demand. Gas-powered tankless heaters may require more extensive gas lines due to higher demand during operation. Moreover, proper venting is necessary to remove exhaust gases safely.

Heat Pump Water Heaters

  • Installation Process: Heat pump water heaters need appropriate indoor or outdoor locations with sufficient space and ventilation. Electrical connections and plumbing must be set up to transfer heat efficiently.
  • Complexities: Installing heat pump water heaters requires knowledge of heat exchange systems. They work by extracting heat from the air or ground so that installation specifics can be influenced by climate and available heat sources.

Solar Water Heaters

  • Installation Process: Solar water heaters involve installing solar collectors on rooftops or open spaces to capture sunlight. These collectors are then connected to storage tanks inside the house.
  • Complexities: Proper positioning of solar collectors is crucial for maximum sunlight exposure. Additionally, ensuring efficient heat transfer from the collectors to the water storage tanks is essential for optimal performance.

Condensing Water Heaters

  • Installation Process: Installing a condensing water heater involves setting up the unit’s exhaust vent to capture and use heat from exhaust gases.
  • Complexities: The main challenge lies in designing and installing an effective exhaust system to ensure proper condensation of gases and heat recovery.

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:

Preparation And Safety

  • Ensure the workspace is clear and well-ventilated.
  • Turn off the gas supply (if applicable) or disconnect the electricity.
  • Shut off the water supply to the old water heater.

Draining And Disconnecting The Old Water Heater

  • Attach a hose to the drain valve at the tank’s base to empty the old water heater.
  • Open a hot water faucet to allow air into the tank for efficient draining.
  • Disconnect gas or electrical connections and water supply lines.

Positioning The New Water Heater

  • Place the new water heater in a suitable location, considering factors like accessibility, ventilation, and clearance.
  • Ensure the unit is level using shims if necessary.

Connecting Water Supply Lines

  • Install a new shut-off valve on the cold water supply line if needed.
  • Connect the cold water inlet to the water heater’s inlet connection.
  • Attach the hot water outlet to the appropriate pipe.

Gas Or Electrical Connections

  • For gas water heaters, connect the gas line according to manufacturer instructions, using proper fittings and sealants.
  • For electric water heaters, connect the electrical wires according to local electrical codes and the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Venting (If Applicable)

  • If the water heater requires venting, install the exhaust pipe according to local codes and manufacturer specifications.
  • Ensure the venting system is properly sealed to prevent gas or exhaust leaks.

Temperature And Pressure Relief Valve (TPR Valve)

  • Install a new TPR valve on the water heater to ensure safe pressure and temperature regulation.
  • Connect the discharge pipe from the TPR valve to a suitable drain or outlet.

Testing For Leaks And Functionality

  • Open the cold water supply valve to fill the tank.
  • Check all connections for leaks and address any issues.
  • Turn on the gas or electricity and follow manufacturer instructions to light the pilot (for gas heaters) or power up the unit (for electric heaters).

Initial Operation And Adjustment:

  • Set the thermostat to the desired temperature.
  • Allow the water heater to reach the set temperature, and check for a consistent hot water supply.

Insulating Pipes (Optional)

  • Consider insulating the hot water pipes connected to the water heater to improve energy efficiency and reduce heat loss.

Final Checks And Safety Measures

  • Double-check all connections, valves, and fittings for leaks.
  • Ensure proper ventilation and clearances around the water heater.
  • Review the manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and safety guidelines.

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 is influenced by factors like unit type, quality, maintenance, water quality, and usage patterns, with general guidelines for different types.

Conventional Storage Water Heater

  • On average, a well-maintained conventional storage water heater can last around 8 to 12 years.
  • Regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank to remove sediment, can extend its lifespan.

Tankless Water Heater

  • Tankless water heaters tend to have a longer lifespan, averaging around 10 to 20 years.
  • Their durability is partly because they don’t store water, reducing the risk of tank corrosion.

Heat Pump Water Heater

  • Heat pump water heaters can last around 10 to 15 years.
  • Regular maintenance and proper installation in a suitable environment contribute to their longevity.

Solar Water Heater

  • A solar water heater’s lifespan is typically around 20 years or more.
  • Proper installation, maintenance, and protection from harsh weather conditions can help maximize its longevity.

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.