Water Heater on a Brick Wall

Can You (And Should You) Install a Water Heater Outside?

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Figuring out the best place to install a water heater can pose a multitude of challenges. This is an indispensable component of the plumbing system in your house. It’s a good idea to decide on a location where the water heater can be accessed easily when needed while not occupying desirable space. Considering how saving some extra square footage in your home sounds very appealing, lots of homeowners think about putting the water heater outside but can you keep the unit outside safely? The answer to this question is more complex but the following guide should help you understand whether it’s truly a good idea to install the water heater outside the home.

Short Answer: If you have a tankless water heater (ideally gas powered) it will generally work well outside. If you have a classic water heater with a large tank, in almost all scenarios it’s not a good idea to install it outside. There are other considerations like the type of climate you live in and whether your home has a structure where you can easily incorporate the water heater to avoid exposure to extreme rain or sun. I explained everything else in detail below.

Benefits of Putting the Water Heater Outside

Putting a water heater outside is possible and sometimes even encouraged by models designed to support this type of installation. Although there are certain caveats, it’s safe to say that you can enjoy some great benefits by choosing an outside location for this appliance. If you’re troubled by a lack of space in your home, it’s worth putting the bulky water heater somewhere outside and recovering some valuable space.

It’s not just the size but also the appearance and noise of the water heater that may motivate you to try an outdoor installation. Even the more discreet models can still be inconvenient to deal with. By putting it outside, you can get rid of an eyesore but there’s also the advantage of increased safety. There’s no need to worry about leaks of hot water that might be harmful in case of an accident.

Drawbacks of Installing the Water Heater Outside

As you’ve probably guessed, installing the water heater outside lets it become exposed to harsh weather conditions. This is not a small problem because there’s a serious risk of damaging the unit and incurring costly repairs. Many water heaters feature special protections in place to prevent the danger of freezing temperatures. However, even if the appliance remains unaffected, the connected pipes can still be damaged severely.

What to Keep in Mind When Installing a Water Heater Outside

Water Heater With an Enclosure

There are some important considerations when it comes to putting a water heater outside the home. Whether your climate is mild or really cold, you still need to come up with some sort of protective shelter for the appliance. Projects involving outdoor water heaters will typically have to include the expense of reliable steel stands as well as proper weather insulation.

Keeping the pipes leading to the water heater properly insulated is pretty much mandatory if you wish to avoid any frustrating leaks. Thankfully, pipe insulation isn’t particularly costly, especially if you happen to have surplus material from a similar insulation project. By installing the water heater outside you can enjoy some extra space inside the home but only if you’re comfortable with all the hassles associated with cold temperatures and moisture damage.

Another aspect that you need to be aware of is ensuring that your water heater sits correctly elevated off the ground in a level position. The appliance won’t be able to function as expected if placed on an uneven surface outside the home. Finally, it’s worth checking out water heater placement regulations in your local area. Don’t make any plans before you’re not absolutely confident that you can install the water heater outside correctly.

Installation Considerations According to Water Heater Type

  • Tankless Water Heater

Tankless water heaters are ideally suited for putting them outside the home. The lack of a tank makes this type more convenient to install while weatherproofing is also greatly simplified. Many models are already designed with reliable watertight housing for this purpose. Tankless heaters can also feature self-warming abilities to counter the problem of freezing temperatures.

If your tankless water heater works with electricity, you might run into some problems with burst pipes in case of an extended power outage during the cold season. Gas-powered units are better suited if this represents a great concern for you. Tankless electric water heaters require proper shelter from rainy weather even if they allow external wall mounting.

Tankless gas-powered models are typically more forgiving when it comes to outside installation compared to electrical units. In some cases, they might be even easier to mount because there’s no strict shelter requirement. However, pipe insulation is still strongly recommended. Keep in mind that you need to deal with the gas line connection when putting a tankless gas-powered water heater outside.

  • Tank-Style Water Heater

Water Heater Outside

When it comes to tank-style water heaters, it’s generally not advised to put them outside unless the benefits feel truly worth it to you. Aside from having to deal with the hassle of maintaining the tank in good condition while exposed to the elements, you also need to consider the reduced efficiency of this type of water heater when installed outdoors. It will simply have to work harder to do its job, especially in very cold climates.

Whether you opt for a gas-powered or electric model, the tank-style water heater needs to be adequately protected from weather conditions. If you still wish to keep this type of water heater outside, the most important aspect worth remembering is that you need to take extra precautions when insulating the tank and all the connecting pipes.

Relocating a Water Heater Outside

Installing a brand new water heater outside can be a good idea for many homeowners. That being said, the process can be a little more complicated if you plan to relocate the appliance from inside to outside the home. The reason is that water heaters are fairly delicate and not easy to move without professional help. It’s similar to any other large home appliance that’s difficult to relocate.

It’s not just the weight of the water heater that can be considered an obstacle in the relocation process. You also need to take into account the complications involved in setting up the plumbing and meeting all the necessary electrical and gas requirements. Hiring a professional is highly recommended to simplify this type of project.


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