What is the best location for a water heater in a house?
Thursday, February 13, 2020
The warning label shown above from the side of a water heater tells you the most important thing you need to know about where to install a water heater: “this water heater, as all water heaters, will eventually leak.” So the best place to locate your water heater is where it will do the least damage when it eventually leaks, such as the garage.
There are also building code requirements to comply with when placing a water heater:
•• If installed in a location where leakage will do damage, a catch and drain to the exterior must be installed under the water heater. According to the International Residential Code (IRC) and Florida Building Code (FBC) at section P2801.5, a drain pan is required for a water heater in any of these areas of a home:
- Any level above the ground floor,
- Or in attics or ceiling areas,
- Or within the habitable space.
The pan must be a corrosion-resistant metal of minimum 24-gauge or other rated material, with sides at least 1-1/2” deep. A drain pan is not required for a water heater in a garage.
A drain pipe should be connected to the side of the pan, made of material rated for water supply pipe, which means that PVC is not acceptable. The pipe has to be at least the same diameter as the cold water supply pipe to the water heater, and it must terminate outside within 6” to 24” of the ground or into an indirect waste receptor.
The pan is required to have a drain to the exterior, but an exception is allowed at FBC-P2801.6.1: “where a pan drain was not previously installed, a pan drain shall not be required for a replacement water heater installation."
•• A 24” wide by 30” deep space is required in front of a gas water heater for service (IRC M1305.1.2), and 30” wide by 36” deep space necessary in front of an electric water heater [NEC 110.26(A)].
•• A gas water heater cannot be installed in a storage closet (IRC M2005.2) and, of course, a dedicated gas water heater closet cannot later be used for storage.
•• Water heaters cannot be installed in a bedroom or bathroom unless in a sealed enclosure (closet) that has combustion provided from outside the living area. Direct-vent water heaters are exempt from the enclosure requirement because they are a sealed system specifically designed to use outdoor air for combustion.
•• Gas water heaters installed in an attic or underfloor crawl space are permitted to have access through a closet in a sleeping room (bedroom) or bathroom as long as ventilation of those spaces is in accordance with the building code.
•• A gas water heater cannot be located in the garage unless it is Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant (FVIR) or elevated 18-inches off the floor, to protect against igniting any gasoline fumes that might collect near the floor of the garage (FBC P2801.6). All new water heaters have been FVIR rated since 2002.
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