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Guide on How to Install a Water Heater Expansion Tank

July 4, 2023
A detailed illustration showing a water heater expansion tank with a specialized tool for installation.

When it comes to enhancing the performance and lifespan of your water heater, installing a water heater expansion tank is one of the most effective measures. The water heater expansion tank works by providing an overflow space for the extra water volume created when heating water. This process can alleviate the pressure on your plumbing systems and water heater, ensuring a seamless hot water supply in your home. This article guides you through the installation process step-by-step, ensuring you understand each crucial detail.

Expansion Tank Installation Guide

To begin with, the equipment needed for this task includes a pipe wrench, a water heater expansion tank, loops of pipe sealing tape, a copper adapter onto the union, and potentially a copper flex line, depending on the size and type of your current plumbing setup. These tools will aid you in creating both push fit connections and threaded or sweat soldered pipes as needed.

Determine the Right Location

The ideal place to install an expansion tank is on the cold water supply line near the water heater. Ensure it’s easily accessible, as it will need periodic maintenance checks. The positioning of the tank depends on the size and orientation of your heater. It could either be installed vertically or horizontally, but always remember that it should be supported properly to prevent stress on the cold water pipe.

Prepare for Installation

Before commencing the installation process, turn off the water supply and the power to the heater. If you have an electric heater, this can be done at the circuit breaker. For gas heaters, turn off the gas supply. Open a hot water faucet in the house to relieve excessive pressure in the plumbing system.

Attach the Expansion Tank

Next, determine whether your cold water supply line is threaded or sweat soldered. For threaded pipes, wrap the pipe threads with a couple of loops of pipe sealing tape before screwing the copper adapter onto the union. If your cold water supply pipe is soldered, you will need to sweat solder a threaded copper adapter onto the pipe using a torch and lead-free solder.

With your pipe wrench, attach the expansion tank to the copper adapter, making sure it is secure but not overtightened. If using a flex line, connect one end to the expansion tank and the other to the cold water supply line.

Finalize the Installation

After successfully installing the water heater expansion tank, turn the water supply back on and check for leaks. If there are no leaks, you can restore the power supply to the heater.

Check the System

Once the system is fully operational, check your hot water pipe and any limiting valve or backflow preventer to make sure everything is working correctly. It might take a few minutes for the water heater to refill and reheat the water. You can then test the system by opening a hot water faucet in your house.

Maintenance of your water heater

As you install your expansion tank, this is also the perfect time to carry out a comprehensive maintenance check on your water heater. Regular maintenance is crucial to ensure the longevity and efficient performance of your system. The two key components you should focus on are the anode rod and sediment buildup in the tank.

Anode Rod

The anode rod is a sacrificial element designed to attract corrosive substances in the water, thereby protecting the tank from rusting. Over time, the anode rod depletes and needs replacement. It’s a good practice to inspect and, if necessary, replace the anode rod during the expansion tank installation process.

Installing a Corro-Protec powered anode rod is now a no-brainer. In addition of preventing corrosion and water heater leaks, the Corro-Protec anode solve and prevent rotten egg smell in hot water, sediment buildup inside the tank and air in hot water line.

Sediment Buildup

Additionally, sediment buildup at the bottom of your tank can affect the heater’s efficiency and even cause it to fail prematurely. To prevent this, consider draining your tank to remove any sediment. Turn off your heater and connect a garden hose to the drain valve, then allow the water to flow out until it runs clear. Once this is done, your tank will be free of sediment, and your heater will be able to operate more efficiently.

Remember, a well-maintained water heater doesn’t just perform better; it also lasts longer. Regular maintenance is a small investment that can save you significant expenses in the long run, so don’t overlook these vital tasks.

Final Word

In conclusion, knowing how to install a water heater expansion tank is an invaluable skill that not only saves on costs but also enhances the efficiency of your water heating system. However, the task can be complex, and professional help might be needed for some aspects, especially when dealing with gas heaters or if soldering is required. Always remember to prioritize safety and adhere to all applicable codes and standards when doing any plumbing work in your home.

Remember, an expansion tank is not a luxury but an essential part of a well-functioning water heater system, especially if you have a limiting valve or backflow preventer installed. The benefits of this addition include increased energy efficiency, prolonged equipment life, and prevention of potential damages to your water heating system.

By following this guide, you should now have a good understanding of how to install an expansion tank. However, if you feel the task is too complex, don’t hesitate to call a professional plumber to help with the installation. They will ensure everything is done correctly, and your water heater is functioning at its best.

DISCLAIMER: The information provided is for general DIY guidance on water heater maintenance and does not replace professional advice or service. Risks include electric shocks, burns, and property damage. Prioritize safety, follow manufacturer’s guidelines, and consult with professionals if unsure. Comply with local laws and obtain necessary permits. Use this information at your own risk; the provider assumes no liability for any injuries or damages. If in doubt, hire a professional.


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