Electric Water Heater Side and Back Wall Clearances?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by chuck b, Jan 19, 2011.

  1. chuck b

    chuck b sea-bee

    Jan 19, 2011
    levering, michigan
    Installing a 40-gallon electric water heater in my smallish (624 sq' ft') Northern Michigan lake side cottage.

    Space is limited and I wish to build an three sided alcove for the heater in the bathroom.

    What are the side and back wall clearance recommendations, and hazards for a (near) zero clearance.

    Also, is a 30-amp breaker sufficient for a 4500 watt unit, and is a 30-amp switch near the heater also sized correctly and a good idea.

  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Aug 31, 2004
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    There are NO clearance limitations for an electric water heater. 30 amp breaker is the standard for residential water heaters, even though they actually only draw about 18 amps. I have only seen a few heaters with a "switch" at the heater, and in the normal course of events it would have limited utility.
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  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Aug 31, 2004
    San Diego, CA
    You must follow the specific instruction manual for YOUR water heater. hj is correct...you will undoubtedly find the the clearance spec for side and back is 0"

    A 25 amp breaker would suffice for a 4500 watt water heater, but since that size breaker is hard to find, they are almost always done on a 30.
  5. DavidTu

    DavidTu Member

    Dec 3, 2009
    Seattle, WA
    My B&W water heater calls for 12" clearance on all sides, I believe. This is for ease of maintenance I assume. So sounds like nothin' in code about it... So I'd be ok with less clearance then, yes?
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Sep 2, 2004
    Retired Systems engineer for defense industry.
    New England
    Keep in mind that the way code is sometimes written, is that you install PER THE MANUFACTURER'S INSTRUCTIONS, so yes, it may require that clearance to pass code...depends on where you are. Also, keep in mind that when that one does die, if there's no clearance, you may be severely restricted in what you replace it with and may need to go through the remodel phase again. They don't last forever!
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