Most Efficient Way to Connect a Water Heater

By "Apollo" Flow Controls June 14, 2017

If plumbers and property owners agree on one thing, it's that they want plumbing work done quickly. Water heater replacement is a great example. With water heaters typically lasting 8 to 12 years, this is a job that comes up quite often. Being without hot water is inconvenient to say the least, and of course the plumber wants to get on to the next job as quickly as possible.

The answer is to use push-fit plumbing components.

Push-fit Basics

Inside a push-fit valve, adapter or hose you'll find four components: an 'O'-ring, grab ring, guide ring, and a demounting ring. The joint is made by simply pushing copper, PEX or CPVC pipe into the fitting. The 'O'-ring seals the gap between the pipes outer diameter and the fitting, while the grab ring holds the pipe tightly in place. The guide ring ensures that the 'O'-ring isn’t damaged when inserting the pipe, while the demounting ring makes for an easy removal of the fitting.

(Good pipe end preparation is essential to ensure a leak-free joint. After making a square cut, ensure all burs are filed off before assembling the pipe to the fitting.)

Advantages of Push-fit Fittings

In the past, plumbers created brazed or soldered joints between copper pipe and the fitting. It's a skilled job that takes practice to master, and when a pipe runs close to a wall it's difficult to get heat all the way around the joint. It’s also a technique that can't be used with modern PEX piping.

Push-fit fittings are installed without heat, which means:

No messy joint preparation

No risk of damaging furniture or fittings

No need for hot work permits

Easy to use in confined spaces

Much faster than soldering or brazing

Increased confidence in joint integrity

Water Heaters and Water Expansion

A second challenge for the plumber installing a new water heater is the need for an expansion tank. (The first challenge is minimizing the water-off duration.) With growing numbers of communities requiring these tanks, this part of the heater replacement job is growing.

An expansion tank is a small secondary tank on the inlet side of the water heater. Its purpose is to allow the expansion that takes place as cold water is heated. If the increased volume has nowhere to go, pressure in the tank increases, creating a risk of a leak or even explosion.

An alternative to adding a tank, (sometimes property owners object or there's insufficient space,) is a thermal expansion relief valve. Available in push-fit variants, these act as a safety device, relieving the pressure if it becomes dangerously high.

Quick, Clean and Cold

Water heater replacement is a job everyone wants done as quickly as possible. Push-fit plumbing fittings help by eliminating messy prep and the need for heat. Plus, with modern PEX piping, solder just isn't an option.