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We have a 40 gal RUDD water heater installed in 1997. We are thinking of replacing it before it starts leaking. The existing plumbing is with rigid copper, with an expansion tank connected on the vertical run of the pipe.

If I buy a replacement with the same distance between hot and cold water pipes, can I reuse the existing rigid connections (I might have to cut it short on the vertical run due to height difference between the old and new (new heaters are taller by few inches), instead of using flexible pipes as recommended on many sites.

The reason to go for rigid pipes is to give extra support to the expansion tank.

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The expansion tank shouldn't be supported by the water heater to begin with. Install the flexible piping and support the expansion tank with some 2x4 bracing and a pipe strap.

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