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How to Install a Power-Vented Water Heater

Reduce high electric bills by replacing an electric water heater with a natural gas or propane heater, then reduce installation costs by installing a power-vented model that can be easily vented out a sidewall.

By the DIY experts of The Family Handyman Magazine

Installing a power vent

Natural gas or propane hot water heaters are generally less expensive to operate than electric heaters, but installing a standard vent in a house without an existing chimney is expensive. 

It’s easier to run the vent if you install a “power-vented” type of natural gas (or propane) water heater. This type of venting system is different from what you see on most gas water heaters. Most have a “natural-draft” type of vent, where the hot waste gases rise through an open draft diverter and into metal pipes,
which eventually lead to the outdoors. Running one of these vents is complicated and may be expensive. It’s best left to a professional.

In contrast, a power-vented type relies on a fan to blow the exhaust gases out. Since this method doesn’t rely on the natural buoyancy of hot air, the vent pipes don’t have to go upward. They can go out horizontally, which usually makes them much easier to install. Further, the fan dilutes the exhaust with cooler air so you can run the vents with easy-to-assemble PVC pipe. Power venting is an especially good solution for more energy efficient, tightly built homes, where a good natural draft is difficult to establish.

However, you should be aware of several drawbacks:

  1. You may notice the sound of the fan. Ideally the water heater will be in a room away from the main living area so it doesn’t become bothersome.
  2. You have to provide a standard electrical receptacle near the unit to supply power for the fan.
  3. You have to make sure you have adequate “make-up” air to replace the air being blown out.
  4. And finally, power-vented water heaters cost at least 50 percent more than a natural-draft water heater. You can find power-vented water heaters wherever water heaters are sold; almost every major water heater manufacturer makes them.

If you decide to install one yourself, read the instructions carefully and make sure to follow all venting procedures. And call your local building department and ask if you need a plumbing permit to do the work.

Tips
  • Power-vented water heaters cost more than natural-draft heaters, but if you don’t have an existing chimney, installation will be less.
  • You should be familiar with plumbing, gas piping and wiring, and may need to have the project inspected.
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Required Tools for this Project

Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.

    • Miter saw
    • Caulk gun
    • 4-in-1 screwdriver
    • Adjustable wrench
    • Corded drill
    • Needle-nose pliers
    • Level
    • Hole saw kit
    • Pipe wrench
    • Non-contact voltage tester
    • Tube cutter
    • Wire stripper/cutter

You'll need wiring and plumbing tools to install a power-vented water heater, as well as a hammer drill and masonry tools if you’re running the vent through a masonry wall.

Required Materials for this Project

Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here's a list.

    • Power-vented water heater
    • PVC pipe and fittings
    • Electrical box
    • Electrical wire
    • Receptacle
    • Caulk

Comments from DIY Community Members

Share what's on your mind and see what other DIYers are thinking about.

1 - 4 of 4 comments
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August 28, 2:41 AM [GMT -5]

There are some basic steps that may help you to install Power-Vented Water Heater:-

1) Turn off the power to the water heater and yeah also see Warnings for additional details.

2) Select an appropriate location in your home for your gas pressure switch to be mounted, and attach it using the screws supplied and the screwdriver. Make sure each hole has screwed well so that the part will stay securely in place.

3) Measure the distance from the fitting area that is intended to be connected to the gas valve and also the burner manifold pressure tap point.

4) Measure the distance from the gas pressure switch that you have installed in Step 2 to the burner area. Stop measuring before you get to the area where the pilot light flames are.

5) Record both of the figures, then cut two lengths of the 1/4-inch aluminum tubing or wire. Make sure the ends have smoothly cut surfaces and, are not bent or otherwise damaged. Also, do not cut them exactly to measurement values, but leave enough so that the tubing can be bent properly, at careful pace.

6) Remove the pressure tap that has been fitted, from the burner manifold area.

7) Carefully bend the first piece of tubing or wire that you cut to match the measurement in Step 3 until it can be fitted properly between the two points mentioned in Step 3.

8) Put together your both fitting and attach it to the tubing and separate the joint that you just made by doing that.

9) Thread the pressure tap fitting to the burner manifold by hand, and tighten it by your hand. Do not use a tool and do not over tighten it.

10) Now insert one end of the tube to the compression fitting. Use one wrench to hold it while using another wrench to properly tighten the compression fitting.

11) Bend the second piece of tubing so it will reach the area you measured it in Step 3. Connect it to the “warning” fitting to the gas pressure switch.

12) Now install the other components. You have to just follow the installation instructions that came with the kit.

October 29, 8:34 AM [GMT -5]

Mine is More of a question- I just replaced a power vent water heater with another, and my new one wont stay lit. The error code says vent blockage or improper venting. Question- since the old one vented with no problem, why wont this one? Would it help if I eliminate 8' of vent? That can be done.... Thanks!

October 29, 8:34 AM [GMT -5]

Mine is More of a question- I just replaced a power vent water heater with another, and my new one wont stay lit. The error code says vent blockage or improper venting. Question- since the old one vented with no problem, why wont this one? Would it help if I eliminate 8' of vent? That can be done.... Thanks!

March 15, 6:36 PM [GMT -5]

I'm a little confused by the Tip that was attached to this article: "Power-vented water heaters cost more than natural-draft heaters, but if you don’t have an existing chimney, installation will be less."
If I have an existing chimney why would the installation be more?

BTW my own situation may modify your suggestions. We had a high efficiency furnace installed 4 years ago (Wonderful savings & better, more stable temps too!). That system uses outside air as intake & exhausts the 'tepid' air outside, similar to what a Power Vented Water Heater would do. In fact, after consulting with my furnace installer, I may install a pwr. vented H2O htr. using almost the same PVC intake while power venting through the existing chimney as happens now. Not sure if there are condensation issues with such an exhaust??

Which recent issue had pages about hot water heaters? I can't find my copy.
Thanks
OldProf

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