How to Remove a Water Heater Properly: DIY Tips and Instructions

If you’re looking to replace your old water heater, it’s essential to know how to remove it safely and effectively. This can be a satisfying DIY project, and it can save you money on professional installation.

Whether you’re upgrading to a newer model or simply need to replace a faulty unit, this guide will provide you with all the information you need to get the job done right.

Using the right tools is important to safely remove a water heater
(photo: Pixabay)

In addition to step-by-step instructions on how to remove a water heater, you’ll also find helpful tips on how to avoid common water heater installation mistakes. We’ll also cover how to change parts such as the drain valve, relief valve, heating elements, anode rod, and more.

By following this guide, you’ll be able to remove and install your water heater like a pro and avoid costly mistakes.

How to Remove a Water Heater: Things to Consider

Required Tools and Materials


  • Adjustable wrenches
  • Pipe wrench
  • Screwdrivers
  • Tubing cutter or hacksaw
  • Propane torch or heat gun
  • Pliers
  • Tape measure
  • Wire cutters/strippers
  • Level
  • Garden hose or a bucket
  • Dolly (hand truck)
  • Multimeter


  • New water heater
  • Teflon tape
  • Copper or flexible supply lines
  • Gas flex line (if applicable)
  • Pipe fittings (if needed)
  • Pipe dope or joint compound
  • Drain pan (if needed)
  • Pipe insulation (if needed)

Instructions on Removing the Old Water Heater in 10 Steps (Plus Video)

Removing a water heater doesn’t have to be challenging or require a licensed plumber. It’s an easy DIY home project for handymen and homeowners with the right tools and some knowledge of gas, electric, and plumbing systems.

However, water heater installation, especially gas types, can be more complicated and may require additional expertise.

The time required to remove a water heater is approximately 2-4 hours, depending on your skills and the tank size, as it takes longer to drain water.

To uninstall a water heater, follow these steps:

1. Close the Gas

To begin the water heater removal process, make sure to turn off the burner and pilot on the gas valve and shut off the gas supply to the unit. To close the gas supply to the unit, turn the gas valve handle so it is perpendicular to the gas line. This will ensure that no gas is flowing to the water heater during the removal process, which is important for your safety.

2. Turn the Power Off

If you have an electric water heater, it’s essential to turn off the electricity on the circuit breaker that controls the unit. This will prevent electrical shock and ensure your safety during the removal process. After turning off the circuit breaker, use a multimeter to make sure the power is off. Simply touch one end of the multimeter to the hot wire and the other end to the ground wire. If the multimeter reads zero, the power is off, and it’s safe to proceed with the removal process.

3. Shut Off the Cold Water Supply

Next, turn off the cold water supply on the shut-off valve that is connected to the water heater. This will prevent any additional water from entering the tank during the removal process. If necessary, close the main water valve (the one that controls water delivery to the entire house) to ensure that no water is flowing through the pipes. This step will help to prevent any water damage to your home during the removal process.

4. Disconnect the Gas Line

Disconnecting the gas line from the water heater is a critical step in the removal process. Make sure that the gas supply is turned off and verified with a gas detector or smell. Once you’ve confirmed that the gas supply is off, disconnect the gas line at the gas control valve found at the bottom of the unit. Use a pipe wrench or an adjustable wrench to loosen the nuts that connect the gas line to the gas control valve. Be sure to support the gas control valve while you loosen the nuts to avoid damaging the valve. Once the nuts are loose, carefully remove the gas line from the valve and set it aside.

5. Drain the Tank

The next step is to drain the water heater. Open a nearby hot tap and leave it open to allow easier draining. Be aware of a burn hazard when water temperatures are above 120 F.

Before draining the tank, make sure that the outgoing hot water is below 100 F to avoid any risk of injury. Once the temperature is safe, connect a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the heater and put the other end outside if possible or to an adequate drain such as a sump pump pit.

Open the drain valve and wait for the water to empty from the tank. For larger tank sizes, it can take several hours to drain completely. Once the tank is empty, close the drain valve and remove the hose.

6. Remove the Flue Pipe

Once the gas line is closed and the water is drained out, the next step is to disconnect the vent pipe from the draft hood found at the top of the unit. For a conventional vented water heater, simply loosen the screws and lift the vent pipe up to disconnect it from the draft hood. For power vent models, remove the clamp that connects the vent pipe to the draft hood and carefully remove the vent pipe from the unit. Be sure to support the draft hood and vent pipe as you remove them to avoid any damage.

7. Unhook Plumbing

Once all the water is drained, the next step is to disconnect the water supply pipes from the water heater. If your gas heater is connected to the plumbing with galvanized pipes, use a pipe wrench to uninstall the unions that connect the pipes to the heater. If copper pipes are used, use a hacksaw to cut the pipes approximately 4-8 inches before the connection. Leave the stubs in place, and use them as handles to remove the old unit. Be sure to place a bucket under the pipes to catch any remaining water that may come out during the disconnection.

8. Disconnect the Discharge Pipe

Keep in mind that mineral buildup can make a water heater very heavy and difficult to remove. Be prepared for the extra weight.

Also, don’t forget to disconnect the TPR (temperature and pressure relief) valve and its discharge pipe from the side of the water tank. Use a wrench to loosen the connection and gently pull the pipe away from the valve. Be careful not to damage the valve or the pipe during the disconnection process.

9. Remove the Earthquake Anchor Straps

If your water heater has earthquake anchor straps installed, it may be necessary to remove them before attempting to lift the unit. Keep in mind that some building codes require these straps to be installed, so make sure to check local regulations before removing them.

10. Remove the Tank

Once you have disconnected the water heater from the gas, plumbing system, and electrical wires, it’s time to remove the unit. Since water heaters can be quite heavy, it’s recommended to ask someone to help you with this task. You can use a hand truck or a dolly to move the heater safely and with minimal effort.

How to Avoid Common Water Heater Installation Mistakes

  • Installation is not done per instructions. During installation, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and building codes carefully, whether you’re installing an electric or gas water heater. Adhering to these guidelines will help prevent unit failure, avoid problems, and minimize the risk of property damage.
  • The unit is not correctly sized. The unit may also not function properly if it is not correctly sized. Sizing a water heater according to your family’s needs is crucial to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. Installing an undersized water heater can result in insufficient hot water supply and cause the unit to work longer and harder to keep up with the demand, leading to increased energy bills. On the other hand, an oversized unit will cycle ON/OFF more frequently, which can shorten the unit’s lifetime and also waste energy.
  • Hard-to-reach locations. The location of your water heater is crucial for proper operation and safety. It’s important to ensure that there is sufficient space around and above the unit for easy access during maintenance and service. Gas models produce carbon monoxide, so proper ventilation to the outside atmosphere is necessary, along with enough space for air intake. It is not safe to install a gas water heater in an enclosed space, as per the manufacturer’s guidelines. Be sure to choose a location that meets all safety and operational requirements for your specific type and model of water heater.
  • The tank is half full. When an electric water heater’s tank is not filled with water, the heating element can overheat and burn out, causing damage to the unit. It’s important to always ensure that the tank is full of water before turning on the electric heating element.

When to Call a Professional

When it comes to removing a water heater safely, sometimes it’s best to leave it to the professionals. Here are some situations when you should call a licensed technician to help you with the process:

  1. Gas leaks: If you detect gas leaks or suspect a gas leak while disconnecting your gas water heater, stop immediately and call a licensed technician. Gas leaks can be dangerous and require professional expertise to handle.
  2. Electrical issues: If you have an electric water heater and encounter electrical issues, such as faulty wiring, contact a licensed electrician to ensure safety during the removal process.
  3. Corroded pipes: If your water heater is connected to corroded pipes, it can be challenging to disconnect and remove it without causing further damage. A licensed plumber can help you navigate the process and ensure proper disconnection.
  4. Structural limitations: If your water heater is located in a hard-to-reach location or there are structural limitations preventing easy removal, a professional can help you devise a safe and effective solution.
  5. Safety concerns: If you are unsure about any aspect of the removal process or lack the necessary tools and equipment, it’s best to call a professional. Trying to remove a water heater without proper knowledge and expertise can lead to accidents and injuries.

Remember, safety is paramount when removing a water heater, and if you have any doubts, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and call a licensed technician for assistance.

What’s Next?

Note that after you remove a water heater, you cannot just throw it away. Check with the building code department as you might need to obtain a permit for proper disposal.

We suggest getting familiar with the recycling program, if there is any in your city, or call your local waste management company and see where you can drop it off. Or, try to get some ideas online to repurpose it.

And remember, if you run into problems while removing your old water heater, contact the licensed technician.

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