Water heaters come in many shapes and sizes. The most common types of water heaters are both gas and electric and stand upright. While tankless water heaters have gained a rise in popularity, their cost is still too high for most homeowners. I even called a plumbing company in Tucson and was quoted $2000 just for the installation of a tankless water heater.
Most homes in Arizona have either a forty or fifty gallon upright water heater located in the garage. Generally speaking, a couple living in a small condo could make do with a 30-40 gallon water heater. A family with three to five people should go with a 50 gallon water heater to ensure they have hot water when everyone is taking a bath or shower in the evenings. Larger residential homes with five plus bedrooms and multiple dishwashers sometimes use commercial 75 gallon water heaters.
When I first began taking my courses to become a certified home inspector in Arizona, I was told that water heaters were elevated so cars wouldn’t hit them. This got me to thinking, “What is the purpose of the protective post, or bollard, mounted in the concrete in your garage in front of the water heater?” I see a few trucks on the roads that are lifted but I had a hard time believing that contractors were building pedestals and elevating water heaters to prevent my Toyota Camry from crushing it. As I continued to read, my beliefs were confirmed that the bollards are built in front of a hot water heater to prevent cars and trucks from hitting them in the garage. So, why are hot water heaters elevated?
Well, many homeowners store flammable liquids in garages, all of which could end up on the floor of a garage. Luckily, they won’t ignite the flame of a gas hot water heater that has been elevated eighteen inches off the ground. This made perfect sense to me. Many years ago, I broke a plastic line inside the hood of my VW bug and all the gas in my car came out onto the garage floor. If the pilot light on the hot water heater had ignited the gas, I would have been burnt toast.
As I continued researching, I learned that most 30-50 gallon gas water heaters manufactured and sold in America since 2003 are FVIR (Flammable Vapor Ignition Resistant). By 2005, all water heaters sold in the US are FVIR. Basically, technology has been added to hot water heaters to ensure the pilot light won’t ignite even if the hot water heater is placed on the ground. Why then would a water heater need to be elevated in a garage if there is no chance that the pilot light could be ignited?
Simple: most local codes haven’t changed even though the technology in the water heater itself has evolved. So is it a bad idea to have a water heater elevated? Absolutely not. Is it required to elevate your water heater in your local municipality if it’s in the garage around flammable materials? Maybe. I think it is safe to say that builders just elevate water heaters to ensure compliance with local codes.
Water heaters are essential in any home. Even though they are a rather simple piece of equipment and have been around for decades, they have a lot of working parts that need to occasionally be inspected to ensure proper working condition.