Do You Need a Permit to Replace a Water Heater

If you’re planning to replace your home’s water heater, you might be wondering, do you need a permit to replace a water heater? You aren’t installing a brand new heater, after all. Plus, you’re going to have it done by a professional plumber, so there isn’t any need for a permit, right?

The truth is, in most parts of the United States, a plumbing permit is mandatory if you’re planning to replace, install, or upgrade your home’s water heater or water heating system.

permit for replacing water heater

This article discusses the importance of a plumbing permit, along with how to obtain a permit of your own.

Why Do You Need a Permit to Replace a Water Heater

Plumbing permits, in their most basic sense, are created to prevent hazards caused by the heater. After all, water heaters are among the most dangerous household appliances, as many things can go wrong during installation.

Improper installation may cause:

  • Bacterial contamination within the tank or the tank’s adjoining pipes
  • Explosions due to blocked Temperature and Pressure Relief Valves (TPRs)
  • Gas leaks that could lead to fire hazards
  • Scalding water temperatures
  • Water leaks that may damage surrounding areas
  • Improper back-drafting and venting, leading to combustion fumes
  • Deadly carbon monoxide leaks
  • Electrocution due to improper wiring
  • Structural instability

Because of the dangers listed above, water heaters are classified as a safety risk. Mistakes are inevitable, regardless of how professional or experienced a plumber is. This is why having a permit is so important.

A second pair of eyes may catch potential installation problems that the plumber may have missed. Inspection is necessary to guarantee the work is completed properly and safely so you won’t face any problems in the future. Water heater hazards are something to be taken seriously, as a slight mistake may potentially be fatal.

Can You Replace a Water Heater Yourself

Yes, most US codes or ordinances allow homeowners or unlicensed individuals to install their own water heaters without the help of a professional.

If electrical modifications are required, hiring a licensed electrician is a must. This is especially true if you live in a building or apartment complex, as some building jurisdictions don’t allow anyone without a license to work with electricity.

In both cases, a permit is still required for a safety inspection.

A.O. Smith PXNS-40 Conservationist Short Electric Water Heater, 40 gal

How to Obtain a Permit

Luckily, acquiring a permit is a quick and straightforward process. In most cases, a licensed master plumber, a licensed gas fitter, or a licensed mechanical contractor fill in the application on your behalf after assessing the condition of your water heater you’d like to replace. They might also write an electrical permit if electrical modifications are required.

Alternatively, you can apply for a permit by visiting the area’s local building office or via your city’s website. The application requires you to list the name of the contractor you’re planning to hire along with the proposed work in detail.

For new installations, you might need to provide your house’s electrical plans, plumbing details, and the floor plan where the heater is to be installed.

When it comes to fees, you’ll need to pay a plumbing permit and a document imaging fee. New installations require both fees mentioned along with plan check, electrical, and building fees.

When Is It Time to Replace a Water Heater

Water heaters generally have a lifespan of eight to twelve years. As long as you regularly perform basic maintenance, you won’t need to replace your water heater any time soon.

Regardless, all good things must come to an end. Below are some signs that indicate that you need to replace your water heater!

Water Heater’s Age

If your water heater is over twelve years, it might be time to replace it with a new one, even if the heater is working adequately well.

If you’re not ready to pair with your old water heater, we recommend hiring a plumber for a second opinion. Once they perform basic inspections, they’ll be able to tell if your water heater needs replacing.

You can find your water heater’s age by checking its serial number, which is usually listed on the manufacturer’s sticker. Serial numbers usually look like this:

  • B024890834
  • D048047509
  • G208502853

The letter at the start of each code indicates the month of the year in alphabetical order. For instance, B, D, and G is the second, fourth, and seventh month respectively: February, April, July.

The second and third constituents of a serial number indicate the last two digits of the century’s year: 2002, 2004, 2020. Therefore, the serial number dates are 02/2002, 04/2004, and 07/2020.

Loss of Heat

Perhaps one of the biggest indicators that you need a new heater is the heater’s loss of heat.

If your water heating is no longer heating water as it used to, it might be due to a misadjusted thermostat, a faulty or worn electric heating element, or increased use of hot water in your home.

The first two instances don’t always require a new heater, as these elements can sometimes be replaced. However, keep in mind that replacements might cost more than an entirely new water heater in the long run.

You might need a new water heater if your hot water requirements have increased and your old heater can’t quite fulfill them.

EWH-02 Electric Water Heater Tune-Up Kit, Universal thermostats for TOD and APCOM type. Suit for Most Water Heater

Rusty-Looking Water

Like most products made primarily of steel, water heaters are susceptible to rust and corrosion. Corrosion only appears when the heater is extremely old, so if your water has a reddish discoloration and tastes metallic, it’s time to replace your water heater.

The problem is, it’s often hard to tell whether the rust is coming from the water heater itself or from the faucets of your sink or bathtub.

Therefore, it’s worth checking the state of your home’s faucet first before replacing the water heater so you won’t unknowingly discard a perfectly functioning unit.

Loud Noises

Water heaters are usually silent, so if you suddenly hear weird noises coming from the heater, it might be a cause of concern.

As a water heater ages, you’re likely to hear it humming, popping, cracking, or sizzling. In most cases, there’s an easy fix for these noises. For instance, if your heater is popping or cracking, there might be sediment or mineral build-up inside the tank. Draining and descaling the tank typically rectifies this problem.

If the water heater continues to make noise even after basic troubleshooting, it might be time to replace the heater.

HQUA 5000E Electronic Water Descaler, Alternative Water Softener, Salt Free, Limescale and Rust Removal and Prevention


If you want to replace, update, or install a water heater at home, a plumbing permit is required. In most states, it’s mandatory. Plumbing permits guarantee that the water heater is properly installed and won’t pose a safety risk in the future.

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