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Question DetailsAsked on 9/26/2017

Is it better to replace the gas water heater with an electric one or see if it can be moved under the house?

We need to convert the back room into a bedroom but fire code says we cannot because of the gas flame in the water heater. But also, we only have a crawl space under the house. Could we build a small closet around it or would that not qualify as safe enough? What is our best option here?

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I don't like crawlspace water heaters - and given the excavation and new access needed probably not cheapest solution unless you already hasve a utility room with access door down, there which has about 7 foot headroom. Also can be an issue with rodents nesting at the warm heater and causing a fire that way - (have seen that too many times) so if you go that route you need to consider excellent rodent blockage/screening. Also - if your crawlspace gets cold you have freezing concerns.

Just a closet around it does not work if a sleeping room - has to be totally isolated (air-tight) from sleeping rooms if a fuel-fired appliance.

You could go electric for probably ballpark $2000 ASSUMING your existing electric system can provide that additional electric power - thugh in most areas will increase your annual heating bills in the some hundred to hundredss of $, typically, depending on local rates. Also, if your existing system does not have availble capacity, can go up by a thousand to few if you have to upgrade electrical capacity.

Another option - acceptable in some areas but you lose some space from the room - frame around it with an airtight door into the room (allowed in only some areas) or otherwise full fire-rated wall with the room and an outside door or a door into an adjacent non-bedroom space in the house, providing combustion air separately from outside the bedroom. A variation is to build an exterior utility room tacked onto the side of the house and move it there - common in areas without serious winters. Generally, blocking out the heate space in the bedroom space is not a good idea - makes it look funny and takes away space which can be an issue when it comes time to sell the house - since you have to do something about it now I would get it entirely out of the bedroom at this time, and in a "standard" way.

Nother alternative - move to a basement (if you have one) which does not include any sleeping space, or to the garage (though has to go up on a platform typically 18" high to minimize risk of igniting gas fumes from parked cars in garage).

Because of the cost of rerouting piping and such, usually the cheapest is a move to someplace where the new pipes runs are short - though sometimes that can include a move to some distance away in the house where there just happen to be water and gas lines nearby, but consider (especially if pipes are in outside/crawlspace air) how far the hot water has to got to get to the demand points (especially bath/shower) so you don't have a long period of cold water before it gets hot.

One of the key factors (to the tune of $1000 or more commonly) is the exhaust flue - if moving a current gravity heater more than a couple of feet (presumably only if a newer one because if paying to do a new installation location if more than say 3 or so years old usually you would put a new one in during thge move to avoid another $600-1000 ballpark installation cost just a few years down the road when the water heater gives up the ghost) - anyway - the flue is a common problem - expensive to put in new one in new location unless it can go up the side of the hosue outside, which mnost people do not find acceptable from an appearance standpoint. Of course, if putting in a new heater than a higher-efficiency unit with direct venting (straight out the wall) avoids the flue relocation issue but does costmore and require electricity to it even if a gas unit. Though in rare cases if a furnace is on the same flue then the flue size may need to be reduced if it is too large for the furnace alone - usually not but does happen in warmer areas or small houses with smaller furnaces, which can run the bill up $500-1000 range.

I would talk to your architect (your Search the List category) if using one for the conversion of the room - otherwise select a couple of well-rated and reviewed Remodeling - General Contractors to discuss concept and then when you have a concept you like to give you a bid for the complete scope of relocate/new water heater in an acceptable location to you, including all framing and finishing and all utility changes needed to make it work and permitting.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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