Is It Safe to Put Things Around a Water Heater? [Fully Answered]

Most of us don’t give our water heater much thought. They are just a workhorse that continues to pump out hot water day after day. At times, however, we may have a question, such as if it’s ok to put things around the water heater.

It is safe to put most items around a water heater or in a water heater closet if you are not getting them too close to the water heater itself. Never lean anything up against the tank or any of the pipes. Don’t put anything on top of the water heater.

A number of things need to be considered when you are trying to store things in a water heater closet. It involves the size of the closet, as well as any regulations that may be involved.

You need to think about the local code and what may and may not be permitted in your area. You should also consider any rules associated with storing things in a water heater closet if you live in an apartment community.

Generally speaking, you can safely put anything around a water heater as long as it isn’t combustible or dangerous on its own. Allow some space around the heater. Putting shelves above the heater for storage or storing a broom in the corner is not going to be a problem.

One issue that does need to be considered is the type of pipe that is used by the water heater. If it is copper, it is relatively sturdy but PVC can get brittle when it is older. If you lean something up against a PVC pipe and it breaks, it could lead to a considerable amount of water damage.

If you are talking about a gas water heater, you should never store anything combustible in the area. That is especially true if it is a confined space. A gas water heater should be in their own closet that is kept clean with proper housekeeping.

You can also check the documentation that came with the water heater. It will often let you know how much space is necessary around the tank for safety purposes.

Can a Washer Be Next to A Water Heater?

Many people feel that it would be convenient to have a water heater next to the washer. It would be a short distance for the hot water to travel to one of the appliances that use hot water most frequently.

Generally speaking, there is no problem with having an electric water heater and a washing machine in close proximity to each other. Be sure to allow for some space around the water heater and never have them directly in contact with each other. If you are using a gas water heater, make sure that you have adequate ventilation.

It would also be a good idea to have the water heater in its own cabinet or closet. If you have it too close to the washing machine and it is in the open, the temptation will be to store items on top or up against the water heater. Doing so could be hazardous.

Be cautious that the water heater is not blocked by the washer. A visual inspection of the water heater on a periodic basis helps to ensure that it is not leaking and potentially failing.

If you are using a gas water heater next to the washer, make sure that the washing machine will not come in contact with the gas line. The vibration of the washing machine could cause problems.

One option to consider is using a stackable washer and dryer rather than a full-sized washer and dryer side-by-side. It will help to reduce the footprint of the appliances and provide additional room in an area that may be too tight to start with.

Is It Bad to Sleep Next to A Water Heater?

At times, we may feel the need to compromise when it comes to our sleeping arrangements. If there is a water heater in the room, is this a bad thing?

There is no problem sleeping in close proximity to an electric water heater. If the water heater is well insulated, both noise and heat will be kept to a minimum. A gas water heater may put off dangerous fumes, including carbon monoxide. Do not sleep in close proximity to a gas water heater.

For the most part, it is better to have a water heater in its own space. This could include a small closet or perhaps even a cupboard that was designed for that purpose.

If you are sleeping close to an electric water heater, there will be a temptation to use it as a catchall. Items should not be placed on a water heater or leaned against a water heater. There should be space around it for ventilation and to prevent the possibility of a pipe being damaged.

It is also a good idea to have both a smoke detector and a carbon monoxide detector in any room where you are sleeping or if you have a gas water heater in place. Gas water heaters are one of the more deadly appliances when it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning and they should be vented properly.

Some areas in the United States and throughout the world also regulate where a water heater can be placed. An electric water heater will generally be permitted in a bedroom because there is not a risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. More stringent regulations may be in place for gas water heaters.

Can a Water Heater Go Under the Stairs?

The area under the stairs is sometimes used for storage and it is often considered to be wasted space. Can that space be used for a water heater?

There is no problem with using an electric water heater under the stairs. It typically provides a perfect space for the heater and enough space that you can even store something safely with it. Make sure that you are using a water heater that is the right size for the space. Some areas under the stairs can be small.

One important thing to consider when installing a water heater under the stairs is having it drain properly. A water heater should always drain to an appropriate area, regardless of whether it is leaking from the tank or if it is just the valve.

Typically, you would put an electric water heater in a pan that drains to a suitable area. If a leak should happen, you should also have an alarm in place to alert you to the problem.

An electrical disconnect is also recommended for water heaters under the stairs. By having the disconnect in the area, it will often meet with code and will provide an easy way to disconnect the unit if necessary.

Can a Water Heater Go Next to A Dishwasher?

Some people want to put a water heater next to a dishwasher because they are lacking in space. Other people want to do it for convenience. Is it a good idea?

There is no problem putting a water heater next to a dishwasher. You might even find that it is a convenient location, provided you have enough space for the water heater and can potentially build a cabinet around it. Since hot water is being used in the area, including the sink, it may be a convenient place for the water heater to be positioned.

One thing to keep in mind when deciding if you will put a water heater next to the dishwasher is why you want to put it there. If you want to pipe hot water into the dishwasher, that is not typically necessary.

Dishwashers are usually filled with water from the cold water line. There is a heating element in the dishwasher that heats the water to a high temperature for washing and rinsing the dishes. Piping hot water into the dishwasher may make the dishwasher work less effectively.

Can a Water Heater Go on Its Side?

We typically try to fit a water heater in a location where it makes the most sense in our home. If a horizontal location is best for you, is it okay to run a water heater on its side?

A water heater can be installed on its side but it is best if you use one made for that purpose. Most of the functioning elements of the water heater, such as fittings and valves will work fine with the water heater installed horizontally. Make sure that the water heater has ample support so the weight of water in the middle will not cause problems.

One of the reasons why water heaters are installed vertically is because of the limited footprint. They can be installed vertically in a small area, such as a closet, without using up a lot of square footage in the home.

The weight of the water in the tank is also a consideration. In some cases, the inner shell of the tank is made out of glass and lined with porcelain. The weight of the water against the center of the tank installed horizontally could cause the lining to crack.

Generally speaking, water heaters are designed to be mounted in a vertical position. If you install them horizontally, they may work, but the lifespan and reliability will likely suffer.

Even in a horizontal position, you should not store things on or leaning against the water heater. Doing so would create a potential hazard and could damage either the water heater or the pipes running into it. Always leave ample space around the water heater once it is installed.


I love doing things around the house. I'm taking my years of experience as a homeowner and a full-time handyman and putting them here for your benefit. When I'm not writing, you can find me on the beach watching the waves come in. Call me Tom or Tommy, it's all the same to me.

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