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Code Changes Water Heater Yavapai County Development Services 

I am aware that Yavapai County is considering changes in the building code, and one change will require a permit and inspections for water heater installations. Why is Yavapai County attempting to tie the hands of the do-it-yourself homeowners and adding another layer of government. “A water heater installation is a water heater installation.”

The current code policy for Yavapai County does not require a permit for replacement of a water heater with “like for like” and replacement and installation leaves the knowledge and know-how up to the integrity of the person or company doing the work. If a water heater installation converts the unit from gas to electric or electric to gas a permit is required.

Yes, the do-it-yourself guy or the handyman that you hire can certainly purchase a water heater and install it themselves for less money than hiring a licensed plumber, that is familiar with building codes and permit requirements. Permits are required for water heater installations in several of our jurisdictions currently because there are several safety related issues that the inspectors check for. In talking with Yavapai County they have seen a 40% failure rate in water heater installations from the licensed contractor down to the homeowner that pulls a permit and installs it themselves. Some of the more serious issues encountered during inspections are:

• Lack of adequate upper and lower combustion air for gas water heaters in the water heater compartment

• Gas water heaters installed in unapproved locations such as closets and bedrooms

• Temperature and pressure relief valve discharge piping not run to an approved location

• Temperature and pressure relief piping not properly sized

• No required pan under water heater to prevent interior damage to finishes

• Water heater pan drain does no terminate in an approved location

• No expansion tank installed on the cold water intake size of the water piping

• Disconnect for water heater not installed at the water heater location or is located in an inaccessible location

• Water heater installed in a compartment with other equipment that does not allow for removal of the water heater without dismantling the other equipment

• Water heater installed in the original compartment and floor supporting the water heater is not structurally sound

• Inappropriate and unsafe venting

Inspections are not bad things and inspectors are not bad people. Our permitting jurisdictions want you to be safe and that is the reason why permits for water heaters are addressed in the International Residential Code. Work done without permits can result in legal, financial consequences and even more so if the work was not done by a licensed contractor. Water heaters are under the purview of the plumbing and gas codes requiring permits and inspections to ensure a safe installation.

Again, and reasonably logical thinking from many homeowners who are on limited budgets and low-income a water heater installed by a licensed plumber can certainly cost more than the homeowner who wants to install it themselves or hire the neighbor or community handyman. The do-it-yourself guy/homeowner can and should pull the permit and legally do it himself, then the liability down the road if the home is sold is covered; a permit was pulled and inspections made. The handyman cannot pull a permit because he is not licensed.

In a ten day window there were 18 calls to Unisource from homeowners that called with gas leak smells and/or appliance issues. When Unisource goes on a call, they are required to inspect and look at all of the homes gas appliances. Of these 18 calls 12 resulted in a “red tag” of the water heater due to one or more of the above listed conditions being present – a safety reason for shut-down. With all 18 of these calls work was done without a permit and/or by the do-it-yourselfer or a handyman.

The objectives of building codes are to establish and implement an enforcement program to protect the public’s life, health, and welfare in the built environment. This protection shall be provided through our jurisdictions implementation of their Building Codes and the application of the performance based standards contained within it.

The Building and even our Fire Safety codes are in place to promote and insure that all new development is constructed in accordance with the highest standards of safety and that all existing structures are maintained in a safe condition. These goals are achieved by issuing permits and conducting field inspections of all work for compliance within these codes. It is not just “big brother or more government.”

Another goal of our jurisdictions is to provide timely inspections of construction activities for builders and consumers so the built environment meets established standards and so the construction progress is not unnecessarily hampered.

So let’s learn to love building codes, love our building departments and our inspectors. The common goal and thread is to keep everyone safe.

Phone: (928) 778-0040


810 E. Sheldon Street, Prescott, AZ 86301

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