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Thread: Hot water heater and code questions

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  1. #1

    Default Hot water heater and code questions

    My hot water heater went out yesterday, and I thought when I replace the water heater I would attempt to get closer to code. The water heater is in the basement. I purchased a Bradford-White 50 gal. electric water heater from a plumbing supply house (my house is all electric). I know that the water heater needs to be in a pan and the pan needs to be connected to a drain. That part I have managed to complete using sch. 40 PVC to a 3/4" copper drain pipe. The drain is also used by the A/C unit. Is sharing the drain legal? Does code require hot water heaters to be raised 18" off the floor? The water heater is located under stairs and can not be raised. Do I need to move the heater so it can be raised?

    With the old hot water heater the relief valve was not connected to a drain. In fact, it was not connected to anything, no piping to at least direct the water down. The only drain anywhere close is the 3/4" copper drain. Any suggestions. The basement is finished.

    The supply line has 2 taps for 1/4" copper lines (one was for a humidifier that is no longer used, I never figured out what the other one was for, it was disconnected when I bought the house). Also, in the supply line is a check valve. Does code require a check valve on the supply side? My water source is a well. The presure tank supplies 2 3/4" copper lines into the house. I have always assumed one was cold water supply and one was directly to the water heater, but I have no way to easily verify that, they enter the slab. The hot water side also has a check valve. Is a check valve required on this side? I plan to cut these items out just to clean up the plumbing. I just need to know if I need to replace the check valves.

    Is it OK to connect a brass nipple to a female copper fitting? Is there any preference for pipe dope over teflon tape? Or vice-versa. Is it a good idea to use the flexible copper (or at least it looks like copper) from the brass nipple to the water heater connections?

    My area uses the International Plumbing Code, not sure which year has been adopted, the web site says 2000, but I know the Electrical code has the wrong year on the web site.

    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    New England


    It's my understanding that extra check valves with a well system aren't a good idea. Now, it's not a bad idea to have a vacuum breaker on a WH (and may be required some places). The requirement to raise a WH, I think, only applies to gas-fired ones and the newest ones no longer require it functinally, but code may not have been adjusted yet. Brass can be connected to copper without any problems. In some places, the flexible copper supply lines are required (earthquake country), so with a quality line would be fine (not all are created equal). The T&P valve must be piped down within (I think) 6" of the floor. Some situations require it to go to a drain, don't know about yours.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2007


    With this many questions do you think that a professional installation might be in order?

    "A good man always knows his limitations"
    ~Harry Callahan~
    ~Magnum Force~

  4. #4


    Thanks for the responses.

    Redwood, I would have no problem with a professional installation if I could find a quality plumber. About a year ago I did some remodeling and I had to use a professional plumber because the work had to be inspected. With advice from this forum I went about the process of selecting a plumber. Of the four plumbers that visited the site, only one proposed doing the work as advised on this forum. This plumber was not the low bidder, I checked their references, checked with the BBB (no complaints), and signed a written contract detailing the work to be done. The workmanship was very poor. No testing of the work perfomed, several sweat joints leaked and it took three trips to get the work completed per the contract even though the plumber doing the work had a copy of the contract, and then it failed inspection (a missing cut-off valve). There is no question in my mind that I could have performed the work better but I am not a licensed plumber, don't know code, and can not pull a permit.

    I have completed the project, we have hot water and no leaks. While it may not be exactly to code, it's much closer now. The water heater is in a pan, the pan is connected to a drain, and the relief valve is piped to within 6" of the floor.

  5. #5
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2005


    The pan should have 1" PVC to the drain.

    The T&P should be piped to the drain if it is close terminating with a 3" gap between the drain opening and where the pipe ends. All in 3/4" pipe.

    If it is not close here we install a 1" T on its back in the pan drain line near the heater and go up to a bushed 3" X 1.5" coupling and terminate the T&P 3" above that.

    Brass to copper is OK.

    Electric heaters don't need to be 18" off the floor.

    Flexible connectors will work but I like soldered connections better.

    You can't be closer to code you either meet or do not meet code but I knew what you meant.

  6. #6
    Master Plumber nhmaster's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jul 2008
    S. Maine


    It's amazing how hard it is to find a qualified plumber


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