Have you ever walked into someone’s garage and noticed their water heater was raised high off the ground? It might look strange, but it’s actually a safety precaution. Plus, if you decide to install a new tank water heater at your home (which we don’t generally recommend), you should be aware of codes for ground clearance.
Height requirement for water heater installed in a garage
According to the Uniform Plumbing Code, a natural gas tank water heater should be installed at least 18 inches from the ground. It’s also important to note that this measurement doesn’t necessarily start at the bottom of the unit. Instead, the requirement is 18 inches of clearance between the pilot light or lighting mechanism. The easiest way to do this is by purchasing a water heater stand, which should be strong enough to hold the tank when it’s filled with water.
Why does the water heater need to be 18 inches off the ground? It’s not to avoid impact by a garage or other items, as some people may think. The clearance is to prevent fires or explosions if a flammable liquid (such as gasoline or motor oil) spills on the garage floor. If you install an electric water heater or a gas water heater with a sealed combustion chamber, this requirement may not apply to you. The Uniform Plumbing Code is the national standard, but it’s also important to follow all state and local codes.
What about indoor water heaters?
Gas tank water heaters installed indoors do not need to be 18 inches off the ground, at least according to national codes. Again, be sure to follow all applicable codes, including state and local, and the manufacturer’s installation instructions. When installing an indoor water heater, it’s still a good idea to raise it off the floor if the area floods (especially in a basement). You should also place a drip tray under the unit to catch any water that leaks out of the tank, including from the pressure release valve.
Have a plumber install your water heater
The 18-inch ground clearance is just one of many important codes and best practices for water heater installation. These requirements can be complicated and difficult to understand for many homeowners. Incorrect installation can lead to the water heater malfunctioning or causing a hazard such as a fire. That’s why it’s better to leave water heater installation to qualified professionals.