Ask Aztec: Do I Need a Permit For My DIY Plumbing Project?

Welcome to another edition of Ask Aztec, where we answer your most pressing plumbing questions! We’re addressing misconceptions about tankless water heaters in this installment, discussing permitting requirements, and explaining what an expansion tank does (and doesn’t do).

Do I Need a Permit to Install a Water Heater?

I’ll admit it. I’m a cheapskate. I found a used water heater in excellent condition, and I’d like to install it myself. Do I need a permit?

  • Pinching Pennies in Port Charlotte

Dear Pinching,

Yes, you most likely need a permit to install your new/used water heater. While permitting requirements vary across jurisdictions, permits for water heaters are fairly standard. And for good reason: Your installation needs to meet the current code as a matter of health and safety. Overlooking something critical, such as a temperature and pressure relief valve, could result in an explosion. Your water heater also needs to vent properly, or it could fill your home with dangerous levels of carbon monoxide. Installing a water heater is a complicated project, one best left to the professionals.

While your desire to save money is understandable, a DIY-install isn’t worth the risk. Plus, a faulty operation could end up costing you more in the long run.

We also have serious concerns about installing a used water heater, but that’s a topic for another day.

Does My Water Heater Need an Expansion Tank?

We’re always running out of hot water in our house. Would an expansion tank help? I’m a mother of three teenagers and haven’t had a hot shower in ages.

  • Cold in Cape Coral

Dear Cold,

Sorry to hear that you’ve been shivering through your showers, but an expansion tank isn’t the solution. An expansion tank doesn’t add to your water heater’s capacity; it serves a different purpose entirely.

An expansion tank alleviates pressure that builds up within your water heater as a result of thermal expansion. When water becomes hot, its volume increases. That pressure has to go somewhere, hence the expansion tank. Without it, the water pressure in your home can rise to a dangerous level. That’s why the plumbing code requires an expansion tank in certain applications.

To solve your problem, you’ll need a larger capacity water heater. For a household of five or more people, we recommend a 56-gallon water heater. Alternatively, you could upgrade to a tankless water heater, which supplies endless hot water. Plus, it’s considerably more efficient than the tank-style appliance.

At the very least, consider establishing a shower schedule; some shower in the evenings, others in the morning. That way, no one is left in the cold.

Does a Tankless Water Heater Supply Instant Hot Water?

I have to wait upwards of three minutes before my shower is warm enough for me to get in. Will a tankless water heater speed things up?

  • Impatient in Englewood

Dear Impatient,

Tankless water heaters are sometimes called “instantaneous” water heaters, which can be a little misleading. It doesn’t mean that hot water will come out of the tap right away. Instead, the appliance heats the water on demand. It will still take a moment for the water to warm up and travel to the faucet and showerhead.

While a tankless water heater won’t get you in the shower any faster, it will supply endless hot water and slash your energy bill.

To solve your problem, you’ll need a hot water recirculating pump. It keeps warm water in constant circulation through your water supply pipe so that it’s there when you need it.

Got a Question for Our Fort Myers Plumbers?

Our plumbing experts serving Southwest Florida are always happy to lend their advice, whether here in our blog or on the phone. Got a question? Don’t hesitate to reach out to Aztec Plumbing & Drains by 239-212-0299.

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