Will Your New Water Heater Fit?

If you're replacing a conventional tank-style water heater, you already know these units can be big. A high-capacity water heater may be much larger than other plumbing and HVAC equipment in your home, such as your furnace or air handler assembly. As a result, a water heater's footprint size and height are often critical considerations during installation.

While size may not be too much of an issue if you're installing your heater in a basement or crawlspace, it can be a concern for utility closets or other tight places. Although you might think that replacing your old water heater with a similarly sized unit will solve this problem, you may be surprised to find that your new unit is larger than your old one.

What Determines Your Water Heater's Size?

A conventional water heater is a large pressure tank that stores hot water until you're ready to use it. The vast majority of the interior space in gas and electric water heaters is the volume occupied by the water, with heating elements, burner assemblies, and other components taking up much less room. However, the insulation is another major factor in the size of the unit.

Older water heaters typically use less insulation, allowing far more heat to escape and making the unit less efficient. Newer units utilize more internal insulation and may also feature external insulation "blankets" that make the overall footprint even larger. While more efficiency is better, these units may also occupy more space at the same capacity.

What Should You Do?

Most importantly, don't decide on a new water heater before working with a professional plumber. A plumber will check your old water heater, measure the available space, and determine the largest unit you can fit in its place. They will also consider other essential spacing issues, such as the area occupied by plumbing and exhaust vents.

Your plumber should also help you calculate your home's hot water needs. Since older units were less efficient, you may have needed a larger tank to compensate for potential losses. In other words, you may need less capacity (and a smaller overall tank) with a newer, more efficient water heater. You might even discover that your old tank was oversized for your needs!

Are There Other Options?

While newer water heaters may have a larger footprint, it's still rare for one to be too large to fit into most spaces. However, you may want to try to save some space or gain even more efficiency. If you're unhappy with how much room a new water heater will occupy in your home, you may want to consider an "on-demand" tankless heater instead.

Tankless heaters tend to cost more upfront but require far less space than conventional units. If the size of your new water heater is a significant concern, discussing this option with your plumber may be a good idea.

For more information, contact a company like Merrimack Valley Plumbing LLC.