Can You Put A Water Heater In A Crawl Space? [Including Tankless]

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The crawl space has many uses including, storing items, running ductwork, water piping, and electrical wiring. But, is this space suitable for a water heater? We consulted with the experts who provided the information below.

Yes, you can install a water heater in your crawl space. However, you need to consider the following factors before you do so:

  • Permanent light
  • Access
  • Distance from the ground
  • Reduced frost risk

Continue reading as we decipher how you can use your crawl space to install a water heater, the factors to consider before installing one, the types of water heaters you can install, and how a tank-less water heater is a suitable alternative.

A series of pipes for the water heater, Can You Put A Water Heater In A Crawl Space [Including Tankless]

Can You Install A Water Heater In Your Crawl Space?

If your crawl space is idle, you can make good use of it by installing a water heater. But, before you go ahead, you need to ensure the following factors are adhered to:

Permanent Light

The building code N210.8(E) dictates that crawl spaces need proper lighting. And even though you can use a headlamp to find your way around these spaces, permanent lighting is required.

Furthermore, it is easier for plumbers to carry out maintenance and repair with good lighting instead of carrying light as you move about in the crawl space.

In addition, it should be connected to a ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI). This is to protect you or any other person from electrical shocks. Accidents do happen, for example, a bulb can break during repairs, and without the GFCI, the human body would be a good path for electricity.

Access

Insulation technician checking the foundation under the crawlspace

It’s crucial to have access to the water heater whenever repairs or maintenance are needed. A minimum of 24 inches clearance is required on the front and sides of the water heater according to most building codes.

Some places require up to 36 inches of clearance depending on the local building codes of your area, and therefore it is good to find out the local codes allowed in your area.

Distance From The Ground

A gas water heater is required by the building code to be raised not less than 18 inches from the ground. This is because this type of heater operates by lighting a flame, which is a potential hazard for fires and explosions.

This distance is measured from the ground to the lighting mechanism or pilot and not from the floor to the water heater. 

However, the newer gas water heater models have sealed combustion chambers, removing the need for space between the ignition mechanism and the ground. The building codes, however, have not caught up with this type of gas water heater and may still require it to be raised above the ground.

Both the electric and gas heaters can be raised off the ground by placing them on blocks or bricks.

Water heaters, on the other hand, do not have building codes governing the need to be raised above the ground. However, it may be necessary to raise them above the ground to prevent damage due to water spillage into the crawl space or flooding.

Reduced Frost Risk

The water heater and pipes need to be protected from the risk of frost. This is because frozen water expands and creates pressure inside the pipes causing them to burst. However, with proper insulation, bursting can be prevented.

How Do You Install A Gas Water Heater In A Crawl Space?

Interior of a boiler and water heater room filled with pipes and wires

Installing a gas water heater is not that difficult but if you doubt your ability, get the help of a professional.

If you already have a gas water heater and it is not functioning, you may have to replace it. To remove it can be an involved process, therefore it will be helpful to refer to the manual. Also, note the make and model as the systems in these heaters may differ slightly.

If you will be installing a gas water heater for the first time, your main concerns might be the size and cost. The size of the heater will be determined by the number of people in your home. A rough estimate would be 30 to 40 gallons for 1 or 2 people, and 50 to 60 gallons for 3 or 4 people.

There are several other factors that will be included in the cost of installing the heater other than the cost of the unit and labor. Sometimes adjustments may be needed, for example, to accommodate the size of the tank into your crawl space, or venting especially when installing a new unit.

Talking to a professional at the planning stage will give you a breakdown of all the costs and possibly compare different options and pick the one that suits your pocket.

Check out the video below for an in-depth understanding of how to install a gas water heater:

Helpful Tools for Gas Water Heater Installation

Wire brushes can be used to clean water pipe thread lines.

Check out this wire brush on Amazon.

Leak detectors test for gas leaks during installation of a water heater.

Check out this leak detector on Amazon.

Seismic straps prevent movement of the water heater during an earthquake.

Have a look at this earthquake water heater strap on Amazon.

How Do You Install An Electric Water Heater?

The electric heater is a very simple apparatus, but installing it is a little complex as both plumbing and electrical wiring are needed.

Unless you are skilled, it is best to call in a professional to do the job for you, especially because electricity is a potential hazard.

A water heater adjustment panel installed on the wall

Just like the gas water heaters come in different sizes, similarly, electric water heaters are available in different sizes. All you need to find out is the correct size that will produce enough water for all the home occupants.

Find out from different water heater professionals all the costs needed to help you plan accordingly.

Check out the video below to give you an insight on how to install an electric water heater.

Can You Install A Tank-less Water Heater In Your Crawl Space?

A water heater and gauges installed under the basement

A tank-less water heater does not need a storage tank to store hot water but heats the water on demand. Cold water enters the tank-less unit, gets heated instantly, and then emits hot water. A tank-less water heater either has a gas burner or heating coils to heat the water.

Since they are quite small, the size of a carry-on suitcase, it is possible to install two or three units to provide water to different parts of your house.

But just like the gas or electric water heater tanks, you need to observe installations, environmental, and code regulations.

A wooden crawlspace with insulation on the ground

Some have been mentioned above, but also check your local building codes and talk to a professional who will give you details on what is needed to install the tank-less water heater correctly and as per the rules and regulations.

Tank-less water heater units cost more than the gas and electric water heaters and are also more expensive to install.

What Are The Benefits Of A Tank-less Water Heater?

While these tanks come in handy, let's find out their benefits and drawbacks as shown in the table below:

Pros Cons
Saves energy and expenses in the long-run. High unit and installation costs.
Hot water is available at any time. The supply is not limited. Takes longer to deliver hot water.
Requires less space. Quite difficult to adjust to lukewarm water.
Risk of water leakage and damage is reduced significantly. Hot water is not available when there’s a power outage.
There’s nil risk of the tank exploding. May not deliver same water temperature to different outlets when all are opened simultaneously.
Less exposure to toxic metals and reduced risk of burns.  
Can last for at least 20 years.  

In Closing

A series of pipes for the water heater

The crawlspace is the most viable space to install a water heater. Whether you use a gas or electric water heater, follow the instructions to install it correctly, while carefully following the building codes for each.

A tank-less water heater does not require much space, hence more than one can be installed in the crawlspace.

Check out our previous posts on how to vent a gas water heater in the basement and how a sump pump can protect your water heaters from water:

How To Vent Gas Water Heater In Basement

Does Crawl Space Need Sump Pump?

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