Budgeting 101: Easy Project – Fix It Yourself Water Heater 2020

drill DIY tools toolbox water heater wiring

(The year 2020 was ripe for a water heater replacement project and you need to have one of these items on standby – a proper toolbox set with the basic items like screwdrivers, hammer, pliers, etc, extendable ladder, water leakage tools, spare bulbs & cables and of course a drill. Image source: Pexels).

One of the promises that I made to my wife beginning this year was to finally replace the old, broken water heater in our master bathroom. Actually it is an old promise dating many years ago as the old water heater needed to be replaced years ago but every time I wanted to replace it, I would have forgotten about it or some overseas assignment would come and I would get busy with that. That will be the case until the next year comes and my wife would be reminding me again.

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However this time, I was determined to get this done this year before my wife decides to be a plumber and get it replaced herself. Of course, as many things that need replacement at home, I wanted to do it myself instead of paying hundreds of hard-earned cash to a contractor to do the same thing.

How hard it will be to replace a water heater at home, right?

I was not sure how to replace a water heater but for every problem, there is always a solution and there is Google. So I started with that with identifying which model to zoom to when buying the new water heater. The pros and cons and the pricing and the features. The old heater that I wanted to replace, I bought it when we first shifted to the new house back in 2006. The old water heater had thus lasted 14 years and whilst it still works, the shower head had broken and the water flow was slow.

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(There are pros and cons for both types of power drills but my consideration was more on the deterioration of the battery since I won’t be using it too often. Image source: Black And Decker)

The other problem that I will have when it comes to replacing the water heater was the lack of a proper drill. The drill that we used for the first water heater belongs to my younger brother and he took it along when he got married and shifted. I could easily use his drill for replacing the water heater but then again, considering that I will be using a drill for other DIY projects that I had planned in future, I might as well buy a drill for my own use. After all, a drill these days is really cheap online giving the huge influx of cheap drills from China these days.

That took some research as there several choices when it comes to drills – one would be cordless drills which most would recommend for the ease of use and mobility. The other would be the corded hammer drill which would be more of an old school – I don’t have to worry about recharging the batteries when using which will be occasional.

I checked online for a good offer and found that was near to my house – it was a big hardware shop that had some promotions on drills. It was another China brand, unfortunately (the branded ones like Bosch was just too expensive for my budget) but it was well made and they included a good number of drill bits that would be the correct ones for installing a water heater. I already had other tools for the installation such as screwdrivers, tapes for the pipes and also wiring at hand in my storeroom (I usually stocked them in my 2 toolboxes just in case of an emergency).

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(There is a big difference between a bath, a shower and a rain shower – I would usually close my eyes standing under a rain shower and imagine that I am standing under a waterfall during the monsoon season. Truly a zen moment if you ask me. Image source: Pexels)

Tools at hand, it was time to get the main item – brand new water heater. I had 2 main requirements for the new water heater – one is a built-in water pump so that we could get a power shower done and two is a rain shower head. The first requirement was from my wife who had often complained that the current water speed is too slow. The second requirement is actually from me who enjoyed a good rainwater shower whenever I managed to get one overseas.

After spending a good research time on the many brands out there including cheap ones from China, I then shortlisted my choice between Sharp and Panasonic. At the electronic shop, I noticed that the one from Panasonic seemed to be from the older model and the one that I was looking for was out of stock. The one from Sharp was available and the shop had the exact model that I wanted in stock – the one that had a rain shower.

It was a Saturday when I had purchased the new water heater but it was late for me to start the actual installation. So I defer to the next day where I plan to start as early as possible in the morning or so that was the “plan”. The next day, I woke up late and I had some errands to do in the morning so my plan to do the installation in the morning was basically screwed. By the time I finally got started, it was pretty warm on the outside and the heat was just penetrating the walls of the bathroom. It was not a good combination – sweaty hands with live wirings.

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(A snapshot of everything before the dismantling and unplugging of the wires is a must so that there is a reference to go back to double-check in case things goes terribly wrong)

So first thing first, switch off the power for the extension for the water heater and turn off the water supply. Once done, the dismantling of the old water heater started and one thing I triple checked is the wire connections of the existing water heater before I unscrew the connections. I took photos of it from every angle and even scribbled down some notes just in case I need to refer back. Then I dismantle the rest of the fittings and once done, I cleaned up the wall for the new drilling as the screw holes for the new water heater does not match the old ones so new drilling was required.

To be frank, drilling was not easy despite having a brand new drill and drill bits – it took me a very long time just to drill one hole for the screw – I had to drill through the bathroom tile first, then the internal brick and concrete and that too, I had to take a break to allow the drill bit to cool down before continuing to drill. Once one done, I still had 2 to go with the remaining 1, I reuse the old one.
The drilling part of the whole water heater installation was the hardest and it took me hours to complete. Once that is done, the rest was easy until I reach the point of rewiring.

Although I had enough wires for the new connections, I had my doubts about whether I had the right wires for a water heater. I did not want to take a risk of possible short-circuiting and causing shocks later. So I stopped my installation and went to the electrical hardware shop and spoke to the owner on what I was working on. He advised me not to use standard cables for the water heater cabling but instead use a double insulated one which is usually used for air-conditioner wiring. He helped me to pick the right wires and the expected length for it.

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(As a rule of thumb, the blue connects to blue, green connects to green and black connects to black or brown. But in this case, there was a problem and it took me some time to figure the right connections before I connected the wires for good)

Now with the right wires, I went back and continued with the installation – all the wires I double-checked and ensure I picked the points for the live and earth even though the colour scheme between the main wiring and the wiring for the water heater was different and was rather confusing. The connectors to hold the shower heads however rather flimsy and I do expect this to break one day if the shower heads were shaken too often during the normal use.

By the time I finished the installation, it was already night and I was rather impressed by my DIY effort although I am pretty sure that a paid contractor would have done the job within 1-2 hours. And to finish off the end of a hard day’s work was the rain shower – I basically let it soak me for minutes, it seems to be washing away my tiredness of installing the water heater almost the whole day.

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