”Is putting a water heater in attic areas a good or bad idea?” The short answer is no, it’s not a good idea to install a water heater in the attic if you can help it.
However, in some cases, you might not have a choice. Read on to learn the best approach, and also to avoid what can go terribly wrong.
What's In This Guide?
Installing a water heater in the attic might be considered a “normal” or completely bizarre idea depending on where you live. After all, geography, connections, and house layout determine some of these decisions.
Water heaters are known to reside in a variety of places; garages, basements, closets, and even outside!
So whether you’re buying a home and noticed the water heater is in the attic, or if you’ve owned the place for some time and are simply curious, we’re going to discuss the idea of water heaters in attics so you can sleep better at night.
The only two reasons for a water heater to be installed in an attic are to save money on the energy bill (in the warmer months) and for faster water distribution to each plumbing fixture. A trailing third reason might be completely limited space, but this is debatable.
The water heater costs money when it is heating our water. The element inside the water heater heats the water inside the tank according to the temperature we set the thermostat. When the water reaches the desired temperature, the tank will power down. The goal is to keep the water inside the tank as hot as possible without gas or electricity to conserve energy costs.
It can get extremely hot inside an attic during the Summer months. The ambient temperature helps the heat stay inside the tank after the water heater is off. So this is one rationalization for using the attic.
As far as faster water distribution to the plumbing fixtures, we might notice the water turning hotter a few seconds quicker than if we had it at ground level. However, these pros are quickly outweighed by some obvious cons.
We should first consider the downside of installing a water heater in our attic if we have a choice. We’ve mentioned that a hot water heater in an attic can help keep our water hot without using valuable electricity or gas and that we can receive hot water a few seconds sooner.
While these are decent reasons, there are too many risks in having a water heater in an attic. With so many chances for something to go wrong, it doesn’t seem worth the little money we save to put an electric or gas water heater in an attic.
Too Late? Here’s a great video to show how we can move our water heater down from the attic.
The Risks of Having a Watter Heater in the Attic
Saving money is important to us as homeowners. If having a water heater in the attic will save a few bucks, why not? Summertime might give us a bit of saving, but when wintertime comes, we might need to buy a small heater to keep our water heater from freezing! Water heater insulation blankets can help with this problem, but is it really worth it? We think not.
Freezing weather can completely override the money we didn’t have to spend on power during the summer months.
Also, our water heater will eventually fail and need to be replaced. The attic will make it harder for the plumber to access, remove, and replace the water heater due to weight.
What’s more, a damaged water heater also tends to leak from either the top or the bottom. One of the main risks of having a water heater in the attic is water damage to our ceiling and potentially flooding above our heads. Water leaks can create black mold in drywall quickly if it goes undetected for even a short time.
Most water heaters have drain pans to catch extra water. However, another bad reason for the water heater being located in the attic is that an overflowing drain pan will go unnoticed. This means our water heater can be dripping for a long time before we might realize water damage on our ceiling. It’s even worse when the leak travels down the plumbing pipes and drips in multiple locations through our attic and into the ceiling.
The actual hot water heater leak is the least of our worries when this happens. Black mold can require an expensive inspection and even force us out of our homes until the problem is taken care of to avoid health problems.
Another risk of having a water heater in the attic is the weight of the water heater tank. Can you imagine if it came loose and fell through the drywall ceiling? While unlikely, a wet floor leads to rot, which can give way down the road.
A filled water heater weighs enough to crush an adult, especially if that water heater comes crashing through our ceiling. No bueno!
If we list all the pros and cons, we see why it’s a bad idea to have a water heater in an attic.
Pros of Putting a Water Heater in the Attic:
Installing a water heater in attic spaces could save you money by utilizing the ambient heat in the attic. (During warm months.)
By installing a water heater in attic areas, we can receive the hot water at each plumbing fixture faster as the hot water comes from directly overhead.
Cons of Water Heater in the Attic:
Plumbing leaks and faulty water heaters will be a bigger problem. The water can damage the insulation, drywall, and wood above our heads when installed in the attic.
Our electrical wires and junction boxes are installed in the attic as well. Leaks from a water heater in the attic can be dangerous.
In the wintertime, we might have to install a small space heater to keep the water inside the tank from freezing. Adding extra insulation around our water heater can also help our water heater from freezing, but again, not worth it.
The insulation and debris in our attics are flammable. A running water heater can get very hot. We must use caution to avoid fires if we have a water heater in our attic.
Did you know: A water heater in an attic can freeze solid in the wintertime if not properly insulated? In extreme cases, it can require a small space heater to keep our water from freezing.
Attic Water Heater Problems to Watch Out For
Strange noises are the biggest attic water heater problems to watch out for. If all the dangerous risks of having a water heater in the attic weren’t enough, scary sounds coming from overhead might make us think differently.
When we notice popping or whistling sounds coming from the water heater, it’s usually a sign that something is wrong. Another major water heater problem to watch out for is moisture building up in our attic. This moisture can create black mold without proper ventilation or an attic vent, as discussed.
A water heater keeps our tap water at a high temperature. This heat can be dangerous in the attic. Insulation and flammable material located too close need to be kept away from a water heater in an attic.
Can You Install a Tankless Water Heater In Attic?
Tankless water heaters have been a game changer for homeowners. Tankless water heaters can still leak and have some of the same issues as standard water heater tanks. While it poses less of a risk, any of these issues happening in our attic can be disastrous.
It’s always a good idea to install any type of water heater in a garage, basement, laundry room, or utility closet. It is okay to install a tankless water heater in an attic, as long as there is enough ambient air.
Important tip: A tankless water heater requires venting for the heat. We need to keep any insulation or flammable debris away from a tankless water heater.
FAQs for Water Heaters in the Attic
Is it safe to put a water heater in the attic?
You can safely put a water heater in the attic, however, many things can go wrong. A faulty water heater and plumbing leak can be a serious problem in our attic. This is not recommended.
Why would a water heater be in the attic?
Our attic can get extremely hot in the summer. This heat can help keep our power bill down when we install a water heater in the Attic. A water heater in the attic will also allow the water to reach our plumbing fixtures faster.
How do you keep your water heater from freezing in the attic?
Wrapping our water heater with extra insulation can help it from freezing in the attic. We may have to add an electric space heater if we live in a freezing environment to help keep our water heater from freezing in the winter.
Is it possible to move a water heater from the attic to the garage?
It is possible to move a water heater from the attic to the garage. This process can require a lot of labor and materials. It may not be worth moving our water heater due to the cost but likely is for safety reasons.
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About Plumbing Navigator
We write about "all things plumbing," helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.
About Plumbing Navigator
We write about “all things plumbing,” helping you navigate common questions, repairs, and the best plumbing products on the market.