If you are planning to install a hybrid water heater yourself and looking for an easy-to-use guide with DIY tips you have come to the right place. This DIY installation guide is for beginners and handymen with some plumbing and electrical knowledge.
The DIY installation comes with many benefits, including savings, the ability to work at your own pace, and using tools that are available to most homeowners.
Note: Before you start replacing an old water heater and installing a new hybrid one, make sure to turn off the electricity and water supply. If you have a gas model, turn off the gas supply too. Safety first.
Also, check with your city/township building department if you need a permit.
The best location for hybrids is near the center of the water heating system or close to the most demanding application.
Hybrid water heaters are electric devices designed for indoor use only and should not be installed in cold and unprotected areas and in smaller rooms with insufficient space and air supply. They are designed to draw heat from either surrounding indoor or outdoor air.
Hybrids can be installed in garages, basements, laundry rooms, and attics but must be protected from lower temperatures, potential water leaks, and property damage. Your new water heater needs to be placed in an unoccupied space to operate efficiently, meet the minimum volume requirement and have air temperatures between 40 and 90 F, which is ideal.
Hybrids are recommended mostly for areas with mild climates and where the surrounding temperature is over 34 F but does not exceed 145 F. Still, check your unit’s specs.
In cooler climates, hybrids should be installed in basements near the furnace or boiler to take advantage of the surrounding warm air. Another great benefit of installing a heat pump in the basement is the ability to remove the moisture and reduce humidity since the unit acts as a dehumidifier.
Only heated garages can provide enough heat for efficient operation in colder regions. But be careful there since the water heater uses electricity to remove the heat from the air so that it might cost you more.
In warmer climates, a garage is often warmer than any other room, so placing a water heater there would make sense.
If the unit cannot supply you with sufficient heat, installing a backup heating source would solve the problem.
Installing a hybrid unit close to the bedrooms and living spaces is also not recommended due to the noise it makes.
An average hybrid water heater with the capacity of 50 gallons, such as the Rheem ProTerra, comes with a size of 62” x 22” and weighs approximately 180 lbs. They are very similar to electric water heaters but with an addition of the heat pump on the top, making them taller than a typical tall electric unit.
Most manufacturers recommend approximately 100 sq. feet or a ten by ten room, with a height that can accommodate a tall unit. That means crawl space, attics, and rooms with a low ceiling are not suitable for this installation.
For the installation requirements, check the manufacturer’s instructions.
Here are some important things to consider:
Due to similarity with the electric water heater, hybrids can usually be plumbed at the same spot and might require slight adjustments to plumbing and electrical connections.
Most hybrids, such as AO Smith Voltex, require a 240 VAC single phase and 25-amp power supply.
To operate effectively and without ducts, hybrid units require at least 700-750 cubic feet of surrounding air space and with no additional ventilation required. If the unit is installed in a smaller room, a proper connection to the adjacent room must be provided. Installing louvered doors, for example, would allow your heater to pull the air from the nearby room.
If the hybrid is ducted, it can be installed in any room size as long ducted to the outdoors or has adequate space. Also, to ensure ideal performance and efficiency, hybrids require at least 6 inches of clearance at the top, back, and sides and 12 inches at the front of the unit.
Note that some hybrid water heaters won't turn on the fan if the minimum incoming water temperature is not met, including the minimum and maximum air temperatures. In the case of a problem with the unit, an error message will be displayed.
It is not hard to remove an existing water heater, but due to its weight, it requires a hand truck and another pair of helping hands.
Here is a step-by-step guide on how to disconnect an old unit:
If you don’t know what to do with your old water heater, check out these ideas.
Tip: Some hybrid water heaters have side water connections, so if it is different from your old unit, you need to make necessary changes according to the local codes.
If this is a new installation with a closed water system, you need to install a thermal expansion tank to prevent excessive pressure buildup.
Temperature and pressure relief valves – T&P with the discharge pipe is required by the code, and they are used to prevent excessive pressure buildup inside the tank.
In order to prevent scalding burns, install a mixing valve that ensures safe water temperatures anytime.
Install a drain pan under the water heater to collect any drippings and protect the property from damages due to condensation or leaks. A drain valve should be two inches wider than the heater and piped to the drain. If required by the code, secure the unit with the seismic strapping.
If water heating pipes are exposed to low temperatures, insulate the pipes using foam sleeves or any other approved type.
Important: Never run your water heater if the tank is not full of water; otherwise, you’ll risk heating elements dry fire. Once the tank is filled with water, check for leaks, and open the nearby hot water faucet to let the air escape.
Hybrid water heaters are expensive, so as the installation. Expect to pay at least 25% more than for the standard electric type. While installation costs depend on many factors, including the location, labor cost, material, brand, or model, hybrid installation can cost you between $300 and $1500 on average.
If installing a hybrid water heater is too complicated for you or you don’t feel confident working on the electrical device, don’t worry; you can always call for professional assistance.