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Can I leave a gas water heater in place when remodeling a garage into a family room or bedroom?
Sunday, July 8, 2018
There are two issues to deal with if you want to leave the water heater where it is when remodeling a garage into living space for your home:
- Supplying air for combustion - Once the room becomes an indoor space, the calculation to allow it to use indoor air is complicated. The air infiltration (leakage of air into the home from the outside) must equal 0.40 ACH (Air Changes per Hour), plus there must 50 cubic feet of air volume in the room for each 1,000 BTU rating of the water heater. A typical 40-gallon water heater rated at 38,000 BTU would need 1900 cubic feet of air, equivalent to a 15 foot by 16 foot room with an 8 foot ceiling.
The better solution is to put it in a closet that separates it from the living area and has an outdoor air source, typically a high and low duct coming down from the attic.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning - Any obstruction in the water heat flue can allow combustion gas byproducts, including carbon monoxide, to backup into the room. This is especially dangerous if the water heater is in a bedroom (called a “sleeping room” in the building code). So a gas water heater cannot be installed in a bedroom, bathroom, or a closet opening onto a bedroom or bathroom (with the exception of a direct-vent water heater), unless it is inside a dedicated enclosure, with a solid, weatherstripped, and self-closing door, with a sweep at the bottom and all combustion air supplied from the exterior.
Two ways to get around all these requirements are to replace your gas water heater with an electric one at the same location, or install a tankless gas water heater at an outside wall near the original water heater location. The electric water heater will likely be the more cost-effective solution of the two.
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