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Thread: Conventional Water Heater minumum space needed?

  1. #1

    Default Conventional Water Heater minumum space needed?

    What is the minimum space needed for a conventional water heater.

    I have a small closet that is 2'6" x2'4" (interior Dimensions), is this big enough or does the water heater need more space for safety, etc....?

    electric, 50 gallon water heater.



  2. #2
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    Nov 2005
    Central Florida


    I have a Whirlpool (sorry, guys) 50 gallon electric WH that's 24" in diameter. Installation instructions don't require any specific clearances. However, in a remarkable display of candor, they say "...the tank will leak after an extended period of time..." and recommend a drain pan be installed unless a leak won't bother anything. They require a drain pan 2" wider than the heater, so for this WH you'd need a closet at least 28" square, with a door at least 24" wide.

    Other WHs may be tall & skinny rather than short and squatty, so I'd look around. Also, nobody is going to get excited about installing the thing in a cramped space.

  3. #3
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Feb 2005
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of the brave....
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    Talking do whatever

    it does not really matter with an electric water heater.....

    its noce to put it in a pan and drain it into the crawl space.....

    but as long as you make it easy to change out the elements

    and service the unit someday , their is not too much concern

    about the electrics,

    though in an ideal world a 1 inch clearance all around the unit would be


  4. #4
    Plumber Winslow's Avatar
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    Dec 2005


    the main thing is make sure it will fit through the door after everthing is installed. Sometimes people install a 24" heater in a 25"closet during the rough, then have to remove the door trim to replace the heater

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Aug 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona

    Default pan

    24" heater plus 2" for the pan is only 26" not 28". As long as the heater fits through the door, or the opening can be made to accept the heater, that is all that is required.

  6. #6


    Thank you for all the replies and info.

    So from what i've read, i can do with a simple drain pan for the water heater in case it starts leaking?

    My floor will be a slab foundaton, no crawl space, so I had considered recessing the slab in the small closet (3 1/2") where the WH will go and installing a drain on the floor but if a pan works good enough it may be alot cheaper to go the pan route.

    Stupid question but, what usually goes bad first with water heaters? small leaks or water spraying everywhere from the supply lines?

    Since the WH will be in a closet in the middle of my house I figured to install the floor drain and recess the foundation 3 1/2" since I imagine the thing spraying water all over the place when it breaks down and I didn't think the drain pan would be enough to contain the water.

    Really the only worry/concern that I have about putting the drain on the floor is that the foundation guys won't place the small recess in the foundation for the WH closet in the right place....

    Again thanks for all the replies!



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