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Do You Need a Permit to Install or Replace a Water Heater

Fact checked by Stephen Conklin

do you need a permit to install or replace a water heater

A resounding “Yes!” answers the inquiry that bewilders many aspiring or newbie water heater owners, “Do you need a permit to install or replace a water heater?”

Although water heater installation regulations or codes vary across states, municipalities, and cities, they exist to protect you and other homeowners. And if you replace or modify the water heater’s electrical or plumbing system, you’ll need separate permits, too.

Table of Contents

Understanding Permits and Why They Are Necessary

Permits or licenses are necessary for water heater replacement or installation. States and local jurisdictions have specific codes or statutes regulating such activities. But why?

1. Purpose of Permits for Water Heater Installation


Getting a permit to change a water heater allows us to modify our existing setups but within the established local water heater codes. This eliminates any concerns of faulty installation that may pose safety hazards for the homeowner and the neighborhood.

For example, homeowners living near Denver, CO, can secure the correct permit for installing or replacing their water heaters but cannot use the same authorization in Georgia, where regulations might differ.

Securing a permit to install or replace an electric water heater (or gas version) allows you to learn the correct way of installation or replacement. The agency might also give you instructional handouts.

Permits exist to show you understand relevant codes and promise to observe established rules and guidelines for performing the task.

2. Consequences of Not Obtaining a Permit


Several things can happen if you installed water heater without permit, besides legal implications.

  • Water heater tank explosions

Although the US Product Safety Commission reported only four explosions out of 58 water heater-related incidents in 2021, the figure remains noteworthy.

Water heater tanks explode because of an improperly-installed or absent temperature & pressure relief valve.

  • Gas leak-related explosions and fire

Water heaters running on propane or natural gas can produce leaks and cause fires if homeowners don’t accurately install the hoses, pipes, connections, and vents or if they don’t use the correct products.

Pressure could build up in these components, leading to explosions.

  • Electrical issues

Using the wrong circuit breaker size and wire gauge for electric water heaters can also produce issues. It could electrocute or shock family members, start a fire, or trip constantly.

When Do You Need a Permit to Install or Replace a Water Heater?

We know the answer to the question, “Is permit required to replace water heater units?” However, do we know when? Read on to find out the types of installation and modifications where a permit is necessary.

1. Types of Modifications that Require a Permit


The following water heater modifications require a permit.

  • Connecting water heaters to a gas supply line
  • Upgrades that call for electrical system or existing plumbing alterations
  • Installations or replacements that demand residential structural changes (i.e., work on floors or walls)
  • Outdoor water heater installation or places without residential plumbing system connections
  • Replacing water heaters that need additional professional electrical hookups, gas lines, or other modifications

2. Types of Water Heaters and their Permit Requirements


You must obtain a permit for water heater installation, regardless of the unit type. However, additional permits are necessary.

  • Electric water heaters

You need a water heater installation authorization and an electrical permit to install or replace an electric water heater.

  • Gas water heaters

Homeowners replacing or installing a new gas water heater must prepare an additional permit for gas supply line installation or modification.

Regardless of the water heater type, homeowners must also secure a plumbing permit.

3. At different states, locations

As mentioned, jurisdictions vary in water heater codes. For instance, the California government demands that its residents install seismic strapping to prevent accidents during an earthquake. Meanwhile, in Florida, an expansion tank is a must-have for every water heater system.

Whereas in Colorado, homeowners can do their own plumbings as long as they have a permit beforehand, Massachusetts laws state that only a licensed plumber can perform the job.

You can check your city or town administrator for specific requirements related to water heater permits.

4. Situations that need more than one permit


All new water heater installations require at least two permits: the water heater and the plumbing system. Other permits might be necessary for the following situations.

  • Replacing an existing water heater with a different type

You need an electrical permit if replacing a gas water heater with an electric version. Similarly, a gas line authorization is necessary for changing an electric water heater to propane.

  • Upgrading a gas or electric water heater or its components

You need an electrical or gas line permit when upgrading an electric or gas water heater because these devices often require appropriate fixture sizes (i.e., wires, circuit breakers, gas lines, water lines, expansion tanks, vents, and gas connectors).

Process of Obtaining a Permit


Water heater permit cost and process vary across states, towns, and cities, although it should only cost a few dollars. We recommend homeowners check their local water heater regulations to determine how much is a permit. On average, you’ll need $2 to $250 for all the permits necessary for installing or replacing a unit.

The process is straightforward. You visit the local utilities or building department and apply for the correct permit. Most jurisdictions will require you to submit some documents and pay the corresponding fees. Some might allow you to conduct business online.


Do you need a permit to install or replace a water heater? Yes, you do. However, state and local water heater laws vary, depending on the type of installation or replacement. Changing your water heater without modifying anything doesn’t often require a permit in some states.

Besides the legal implications, getting a permit allows you to learn first-hand the correct way of installing or replacing water heaters from local experts. It will help avoid costly consequences, including electrical fires, tank explosions, and gas leaks.

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