How To Remove An Old Electric Hot Water Heater

Hot water heaters wear out over time as rust builds up in the tank. Eventually, the rust can eat through the bottom of the tank so it can no longer hold water to heat. The only option you have is to replace the hot water heater. Here is how you can remove an old electric hot water heater to make room for the new one replacing it (even if you are not going to install the new hot water heater yourself, you'll be able to save money on the project if you remove the old one instead of having a plumber from a place like Garabedian Plumbing & Heating Inc do it for you).

You Will Need:

  • Pipe Wrench
  • Adjustable Wrenches
  • Channel Locks
  • Screwdrivers (Flat and Phillips-Head)
  • Circuit tester

Turn Off the Electric

Make sure the electric is turned off before you remove the old electric hot water heater and that it is kept off until you or the plumber is finished installing the new hot water heater. You should check the wires going to the water heater with a circuit tester to make sure the power has been disconnected.

Remove Old Heater

Disconnect the electrical wires at the top of the tank. Take off the panel covering the wires. The wires are often held together by wire nuts. Untwist the wire nuts by turning them counter-clockwise until they loosen and you can easily pull them off of the wires. Separate the wires by pushing the wires on the water heater back under the cover.

To avoid getting burned, you should make sure all the hot water is drained from the tank. You can do this by turning on a hot water faucet and letting it run until the water gets cold. After the hot water is removed, turn off the cold water supply to the heater. You should then connect a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, run the hose to a floor drain, and open the drain valve to let all the water empty out of the tank.

Unscrew the discharge pipe from the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve on the side of the tanks (the discharge pipe is made of copper and is roughly two feet long). This pipe can be used again on your new hot water heater (the old T&P relief valve shouldn't be reused).

Disconnect the hot and cold water lines connected to the top of the hot water tank.

Remove the tank from its location and take it to a scrap recycling center (you should be able to get a few dollars for it that you can apply to the cost of the new hot water tank). You are now ready to begin installing the new tank.