Can I install a new gas dryer by myself?
July 29, 2015 6:28 PM   Subscribe

Twelve years ago, when I bought this house, I had a gas line run from the kitchen to my new stacked one-piece washer and gas dryer. The plumber who installed the gas line hooked up my dryer. Now the washer has died and I have ordered a new laundry set - a front loading washer and separate gas dryer that will stack. They are due to be delivered next week. Yay!

The delivery people from Lowe's will not detach the old dryer from the gas line or attach the new dryer to it. Lowe's recommends that I hire a plumber, but I think that's overkill. Besides, I don't want to pay a plumber to stand around and wait for the delivery. I also don't want to pay a plumber to make two separate trips - one to uninstall and another to install.

I have good mechanical skills and I'm pretty handy around the house. As a single woman homeowner, I have to be. I can easily install a light fixture or electrical outlet, for example, and when I was younger I repaired Selectric typewriters and built and repaired computers. I have these pliers and these pliers and other tools. I have regular teflon tape and I can buy the special gas tape if necessary. I know how to check for leaks with soapy water and I have a good sense of smell just in case.

My question: How hard/dangerous, is this, really? Is this something I can do myself?
posted by caryatid to Home & Garden (18 answers total)
Yes, you can do it yourself. You shouldn't.

The "ounce of prevention" strategy is very stark when it comes to fiery explosions.
posted by megatherium at 6:31 PM on July 29, 2015 [4 favorites]

Best answer: I'm gonna go the other way: sure. Educate yourself, use soapy water to verify that you've made the connections secure, it's not a big deal.

(I've moved my dryer, replaced my hot water heater, temporarily removed my stove for a remodel...)
posted by straw at 6:48 PM on July 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I would try it if it were me under the circumstances you describe. Two of my children are volunteer firefighters. I know if you install it and call the local firehouse and explain the situation and ask if they could come by and check it, they will. Also, here in NY, I had Con Ed come out and redo a connection to my stove at no charge.

If you smell gas or run into any trouble, do not hesitate to call 911 from outside the house.
posted by AugustWest at 6:58 PM on July 29, 2015

Best answer: I* connected our gas stove and then the gas company sent someone out to check it free of charge. I had installed it properly and 3 years later we're still alive. I watched a few YouTube videos and learned how to do it no problem, just make sure you know where your gas cut off is and follow the safety procedures laid out in the videos (use soapy water to test for bubbles, no sparks etc.).

*Also a female homeowner
posted by julie_of_the_jungle at 7:31 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I have installed water heaters, gas stoves and gas dryers.

gas dryer install:

1. Shut off gas at shutoff valve nearest dryer. (Off= handle perpendicular to gas line). Pull out dryer so gas line fitting is accessible.
2. The gas line will be a corrugated metal hose or copper tubing. Remove fitting at dryer. There may be a slight gas smell from residual gas in the tubing. If you hear a sustained hissing or a strong gas smell, try to shut off or call 911 from outside.
3. Partially install new dryer. Attach gas line fitting to new dryer. Make a solution of dish washing liquid and water. Turn on gas at gas valve (Handle parallel to gas line). Again, hissing or gas smell, shut off gas or call 911. If all seems OK, Apply liberal amounts of soap solution to all connections and watch for bubbles, no bubbles= OK. Push in dryer to final position.
4. IMPORTANT! If anything seems wrong, call 911 or the gas company or a plumber.

I don't want to scare you. This is perfectly do-able, but you may want to weigh the cost of a couple of plumber visits against the possibility of your house exploding or of asphyxiation.

You might call your gas company to see if they have a hookup service.
posted by H21 at 7:38 PM on July 29, 2015 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Ditto to H21, you can certainly do this.

I disconnected my dryer's gas connection to pull it out and clean the vents, and replace a thermal sensor that had overheated. I closed the valve, then unscrewed the flexible connection, waited 10 minutes or so to see if the gas smell disappeared (it did), did my business, screwed it back on, plied it with soapy water, and ran a load that evening (watching it suspiciously). Been fine for two years since.

Be sure to avoid getting any grit or dust in the hose end, and if you see anything suspicious, stop.
posted by nickggully at 8:14 PM on July 29, 2015

Best answer: I wouldn't hesitate, this is an easy task. Your gas company will almost certainly be glad to send someone out free of charge to do a safety inspection, so do that if you're nervous, but it's a single connection of a hose to an existing outlet, designed to be consumer-replaceable. Attaching the vent hose to the exhaust with the big hose clamp while you're squeezed in behind the dryer, now, that can be a pain, but it's nothing you can't get through with a screwdriver and some cursing.
posted by contraption at 9:04 PM on July 29, 2015

Make sure that Lowes do the stacking for you - that's not easy by yourself. (Stating the obvious ..) you'll need to detach the old dryer yourself before the delivery so they can remove it. Turn off the gas tap by the dryer first, and after you've disconnected the dryer check that no gas is escaping from the pipe by using bubbles: I just add water to a bottle of dish soap and shake it well, as the dish soap bottle makes a good applicator.
posted by anadem at 9:15 PM on July 29, 2015

Firefighter here, but also dyed-in-the-wool anti-establishment do-it-yourselfer.

There is nothing occult about managing flammable gas under pressure, and with the proper precautions anybody can do it. So far as making the actual connection, yes that's quite easy.

However, because natural gas is invisible, dangerous, and subject to behaviors that are not obvious, it's wise to proceed with caution. Natural gas is lighter than air, while propane—are you sure which you have?—is heavier. Gas can be released during your project, and it will distribute itself according to its physical properties and the immediate environment including air currents you wouldn't normally notice.

A difficulty lies in the fact that your olfactory sense, which is the only one providing you information about it, will not make a leak's magnitude and distribution fully clear to you. You could have more gas near the floor, or downstairs, than up by your nose.

Another difficulty is that like all fuels, its ability to combust relies upon a certain range of concentration with oxygen. A cloud of gas will have a region of ignitable fuel/air mix surrounding a pocket of fuel that is too rich to ignite, surrounded on the other side by normal air with some gas in it that is too lean to ignite. Gas smells only because a chemical is deliberately added so you can detect its presence, but the smell does not tell you about its mixture. You could smell nothing, but a combustible region of gas could be in some other location. Because the gas can go anywhere the air can, it's hard to know if there is an ignitable mixture surrounding, say, a distant light switch, which produces a tiny spark on operation. There will be an explosion whose consequence you cannot reliably predict.

Yet another consideration is the displacement of oxygen by a cloud of released gas. You can be incapacitated and thus unable to respond to an already dangerous situation.

In theory you can mitigate all of this by turning off the upstream gas valve, assuming you correctly identify it and there are no unknown factors such as nonstandard gas plumbing. But risk analysis is about gravity as well as probability. Professional natural gas technicians are trained in preventing and managing gas releases. Unless you have a really compelling reason not to have them involved, I would recommend it.

To borrow a truism from aviation, the superior pilot uses her superior judgment to stay the hell out of situations requiring her superior skill.
posted by maniabug at 9:16 PM on July 29, 2015 [7 favorites]

> I have regular teflon tape and I can buy the special gas tape if necessary.

You won't be using teflon tape when you are connecting the flare fittings and the corrugated lines that connect your appliance to your gas supply. The male end of the flare fitting is metal-to-metal with the female fitting, and the sealing happens there. The nut that holds them against each other does not need teflon tape.

When you get your new dryer, replace the corrugated tubing that runs from the wall fitting to the appliance. You'll need a longer one anyway, if the gas dryer is going on top of the washer.

Test with soapy water, like everyone says. Gas line pressure is very low, about 1/2 psi, so leaks are not as easy to find as with high pressure. Very slow leaks will look like a white material coming out of the joint, rather than big fish-eye bubbles. Use two wrenches when tightening: one on the nut, and one on the flare fitting.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:11 AM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Buy a couple of adjustable crescent wrenches. You'll use them over and over again.
posted by the Real Dan at 12:16 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Single female homeowner here. My risk tolerance stops after "basic electrical writing" and before "anything having to do with propane or gas." Sure, I'm 99.9999999% likely to do it right.

But in the .00001% event I don't, FIERY GASBALL OF DEATH could be my consequence.
posted by slateyness at 5:20 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The installation itself is pretty safe and easy. It's usually pretty easy to turn the gas off upstream of the connection and you can turn off the main gas valve if all else fails (though you'll have to re-light pilot lights for any other gas appliances that have one). As long as you follow all the directions you'll be fine. The key is using soapy water in a spray bottle to test all of your connections once you turn the gas back on. Even if there is a leak, it takes a while before it turns explosive but you're just the right amount of confident and cautious that you won't find a leak (though we all know that you'll check anyways).

Go for it.

While you're at the hardware store getting the other supplies/tools you might need, pick up a set of braided steel water lines for the washer, they're pretty cheap and MUCH higher quality than the rubber hoses that come with it.
posted by VTX at 6:51 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Check your dryer exhaust tube while you're in the removal/installation process. I don't know about 12 years ago, but when we had our first dryer installed about 18 years ago, they used a plastic exhaust tube. 8 years ago - lint fire, plastic exhaust tube melts, whole laundry room on fire in minutes, had to gut and redo whole house. Theoretically a normal metal tube (which is now required) would have slowed down the burning a bit. So check on that.
posted by artychoke at 7:38 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

A difficulty lies in the fact that your olfactory sense, which is the only one providing you information about it, will not make a leak's magnitude and distribution fully clear to you.

This is complicated by the fact that your nose gets less sensitive to the stuff they add to the lines to make it smell with time. In other words, a leak that you might smell right away, smells considerably less worse 15 or 30 minutes later. This can make leak finding harder. It takes a couple hours away to reset your nose.

(Spent a summer developing analytical methods for these and related compounds, mercaptans, furans and thiols).
posted by bonehead at 8:18 AM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I used to work with my father's gasfitting business when I was in university.

True, it's not particularly challenging work, but I wonder what your home insurance provider would say. If you're getting advice here on AskMe about what wrenches (although any plumber or fitter would laugh heartily at the idea of using "adjustable crescent wrenches") to use, and why you shouldn't use teflon tape (no mention so far in this thread of what Canadian gasfitters called "pipe dope") and "how to spot a leak" and it seems obvious to me that you should get a professional to do it for you.

It seems like a pretty easy task, but you seem inexperienced, and the consequences of inexperience (combined with "thriftiness" and no small amount of hubris) in this case could be catastrophic.

You can probably save money by disconnecting the old drier yourself and calling the gasfitter when you have a drier ready to install.
posted by Nevin at 11:23 AM on July 30, 2015

Best answer: I'm going to do it myself.

posted by caryatid at 4:54 PM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Update: Holy crap, I can't believe how easy that was.
posted by caryatid at 1:16 PM on August 3, 2015 [4 favorites]

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