Installing A Water Heater Yourself: Is It Worth It?

Ever had to live like a prisoner in your own house? Yes, me too a week ago when my water heater died without warning, and I had to have cold showers until I figured out how to get it running again. Being the economist I am, I planned on saving money by fixing the gas water heater myself.

Problem assessment and troubleshooting

When troubleshooting, you should begin with cheap and easy repairs to avoid buying a heater while all the old heater needed was a 10-dollar repair. In my case, the most economical and straightforward repair was taking apart the burner assembly, cleaning it and trying to relight the pilot. However, my efforts bore no fruits, so I decided to research further.

Since the pilot light did not stay lit after releasing the pilot button, I concluded the problem must have been either the thermostat or thermocouple. I went ahead to replace the thermocouple at the cost of $10, but to my disappointment, it did not work.

My remaining option was fixing the thermostat, so I drained water from the tank only to discover that it had a 7-year buildup of sediment, which I figured to be what caused thermostat failure. Further, the water I drained from the tank had a rustic color, an indication of internal deterioration of my water heater.

At this point, my research indicates that periodic maintenance comprising of draining and flushing my water heater once per year would have assisted in extending the life of my water heater. Well, now I know better!

Moving on with my predicament, I weighed the option of replacing the old thermostat at the cost of $153 and an additional $29 shipping cost. However, that would mean I would have to deal with a rusted tank which would eventually leak all over my garage. I, therefore, settled on replacing the entire unit after reading countless water heater reviews online to decide on a model and carry out the recommended maintenance henceforth.

Image credit: WaterHeaterHub.com

Lessons learned from my install

Before this water heater failure, I had no experience whatsoever in water heater installation or repair, but YouTube is quite an excellent teacher on this subject. Of course, installing an entirely new set up would have been more complicated, unlike my problem which I resolved with the existing one.

However, I was still confident I could install one on my own, having some mechanical knowledge gained from working on my cars and helping my dad with the numerous household projects he has undertaken over the years. Fortunately, after my attempts, I was able to save around $500-800 on the cost of installation, which would have been impossible had I involved a technician.

At this point, I should mention that since mine is a gas water heater, chances of blowing yourself up are high, if have no clue how to repair or install a heater. If you doubt your abilities, you might as well as forget about saving those installation costs and call an expert technician to protect your home from accidentally going up in flames. That is as far my disclaimer goes.

Apart from cost saving, I enlightened myself on almost everything related to water heaters, including troubleshooting, repairing, removing and installing. Unfortunately, my education came at a cost since I had to endure cold showers for a week as I figured my way around my water heater.

With all my sense of achievement, you might think that it is an easy job, but I hate to break it to you that it is not. It is one tasking job that will make you have deep respect for the likes of Mario and Luigi. Water heaters are massive and dealing with them every day is not a job I would enjoy doing for a living.

I did the math and momentarily thought of joining the plumbing industry but to be realistic, I can’t. Not because I undermine their work, but I cannot withstand the fatigue, so I now understand why plumbers charge us exorbitant fees.

Final thoughts

All in all, when your water heater is no longer serving its purpose, it is time to have someone look into it. You can do it yourself, or you can engage a professional, but the bottom-line is you need hot water back soonest possible. What you need to ask yourself is if it is worth installing it on your own, considering the experience gained and costs incurred, or should you have a pro do it for you. I will let you be the judge.