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Question DetailsAsked on 12/10/2013

what is the effect of code changes on hot water heters

I am told by supplier that I must pay an additional $250 due to code changes.

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1 Answer


Typical code changes which I have seen for water heaters being changed out today, which were installed 8+ years ago, include (which apply depends on jurisdiction code adoption or amendments). I have indicated a VERY rough ballpark cost for each (materials and labor total), as an ADDITIONAL cost during a water heater install - NOT as a standalone modification. The range includes from easy to somewhat cramped access, which covers almost all cases if done while old water heater is out and before new one is put in, but not extremely convoluted piping or really hidden away piping.

1) all brass or bronze gas shutoff valve rather than steel or aluminum or plastic - $30-50

2) change to stainless steel PVC coated gas flex tube from shutoff valve to heater - $25-50

3) GFCI breaker replacing regular in breaker box for electric heaters - $150-250

4) catch pan under heater - $15-40

5) elimination of all but first 90 degree bend in overtemp/overpressure valve, and increase in valve and discharge pipe size for larger water heaters - $25-40

6) earthquake restraining straps required on heater - $50-100

7) earthquake shutoff required on main gas meter/valve or in main line (only some counties in California as far as I know, but being considered in Nevada and Washington state) - $250-450 though some ripoff artists charge $1000 range

8) backflow preventer on supply line to any water heater/boiler, or in some areas on ANY supply line without a backflow preventer - $60-100

9) expansion tank for all heaters which have any sort of pressure regulator or backflow preventer or certain types of meters anywhere between heater and supply source - this latter is very common to encounter on replacement installs - $75-150

10) increased thickness of support shelf or bench - commonly required for heaters over 40 or 50 gallons - $75-150

11) non-combustible support surface or covering (metal or concrete backer board) required underneath - $25-75

12) pressure regulator required on incoming supply line in areas with wide pressure variations, and in some fire zones where pressure is significantly increased during wildfires - some water districts in southern California and some other areas - $100-150

13) changes in duct clearances and double-wall duct requirements, mandating changes in ducting - $25-500

14) requirement that ceiling and wall pipe and duct penetrations be fire sealed and/or metal flashed - $10-150

15) requirements requiring direct combustion air source $50-250

That is all that comes to mind right off - hopefully you can match these up to what your plumber told you and see if it looks reasonable. For replacements now requiring backflow preventers and expansion tanks and pressure regulators, the $250 additional charge range is not at all uncommon.

I probably missed a few which some of the other contributors may add in additional responses. Obviously, few jurisdictions require all these, and generally water heaters are changed out often enough that you probably have some of them already, if required in your area. The real hit comes when boilers that are 50 years or even more old are changed out and the owner gets hit with $500-1000 of these code upgrades at one time.


IF by supplier, you mean someone selling you a water heater said this increase applied to the water heater purchase, then the only thing I can think other than SCAM is if you live in one of the cities where they now charge a large "permit" fee on all water heaters, sthe permits being reported to the city weekly, then the city comes out to inspect the installation, and to issues fines if the installation was not done by a licensed plumber - some of the union-controlled cities are doing this now, I read in an article. Nifty way to raise a bunch of cash and keep the union plumbers in business.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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