Water heater in attic

Hi everyone! I inspected a townhouse last week that had both gas fired water heater and heating units in the attic.The water heater was set in a pan and plumbed to the outside,but the tpr extension was a short piece of pex tubing about 12 inches from the pan and not plumbed to the outside.the tpr was leaking into the pan and the water heater was only one year old.I would like to know what you all think about this.Seems pretty scary that these gas fired units are in the attic.

John Cubit
JC Home/Mold Inspections

It’s common here to find gas HVAC equipment in the attic. Every now and then I find a water heater in the attic too.

What is your concern is it that gas fired equipment is in the attic or that water heater is in the attic.

Both are allowed here not that I agree, someone is going to have to replace the water heater at sometime and they can be a B**** to change out in the attic.

My personal opinion is that if I had to have the water heater in the attic I think I would rather have the option of electric, and the heating system gas fired unit be at the outside unit.

It is very common here in AZ to have a gas fired heating unit in the attic. Rare to have a water heater there.

Water heaters fail and when they do…gas or electric…they release significant amounts of water. When someone is at home to shut the water off, the damage will be less than when the family is on vacation or gone for the weekend.

Advise your client of the danger that this arrangement could present to the home and the property within it and let him decide if it is worth the risk. Remember…you are not a code inspector and are not limited to only reporting “code violations”.

(Perhaps you might want to remind your client that the first reference to a “cubit” in the bible had to do with the greatest flood in the history of the world and that your observations on potential water catastrophes should be heavily considered.)

Thanks James! Cool advice.


Just a heads up. The Drain Pan is required to be drained
The pan drain shall extend full size and terminate over a suitably located indirect waste receptor or floor drain or extend to the exterior of the building and terminate not less than 6 inches and not more than 24 inches above the adjacent ground surface

if the home is 1 year old, the expansion tank may have failed.
if an expansion tank is not present, you may need one… :slight_smile:

So as Water Heater Leaks go, what is an insignificant Leak James?

Any water heater “Leak” is significant IMO, so I just call them leaks and try not to use adjectives to describe them.

BK some people like to be drama queens anytime a water heater is located in a area that can creata damage from a leaking tank it is a common sense rule that the tank be located in a safety pan with an appropriate drain attached. Been that way since Mobey Dick was a minnow.

:mrgreen: :mrgreen: :mrgreen:

You’re welcome, John.

There are some legitimate reasons for locating a water heater in the attic since it is usually warmer than a basement, crawlspace or garage (depending upon your location). The pull-down-stairs to the attic allows access…but is unlikely to hold the weight of anyone trying to remove a bad water heater. There should always be a catwalk built to the water heater for replacement and service with plenty of room for access to all sides of it for inspection and maintenance.

Being in the attic makes it easy for venting through the roof and, in most cases, it gives you much faster hot water distribution to your plumbing fixtures.

But as I said, the major drawback is water damage inside your home if the unit bursts or rusts out in the attic and the pan under the hot water heater can not handle all the water at one time. Many do not.

If it’s already there, you certainly would not recommend moving it but bigger drain pans installed under the hot water heater with high banks and extra overflow outlets to handle lots of water in case one rusts out or bursts is an excellent idea and should be recommended. In case of an absence of these extra measures, your client should be warned of their absence and the consequences of a significant discharge. Advise them to periodically test the drain to be sure that it is open. The water heater should always be well supported with beams under it and should have a plywood sub-floor under it as well and be well braced.

Without these additional safety precautions…as I stated before, your client should be prepared for major damage if the water heater were to fail in that location.

Thanks to everyone for your help.

Would you make the same comments about Water Piping, Fire Sprinkler Piping, Waste Piping and or Condensate Drain Pining passing through the Attic as well James? :smiley:


Attics should be around the same temperature as the outside so your statement that they are warmer is a false presumption based on your personal geo location.
The basement is warmer because the furnace is located there.
The Hot water heater also helps heat the home better from the basement .
Where is the TPR pipe exit located so that a leak can be viewed by that old lady living below if in an attic?

You do not want water pipes in the attic in Chicago if not necessary.

1 Like

Better re-read the first post. The furnace is in the attic, too. Tennessee has longer cooling seasons than heating seasons (half the HDD than Chicago), normally, and the attic is kept relatively warm from the sun. As far as attic temps being equivalant to outdoor temps, let’s revisit this discussion in August and I’ll call you from an attic.

Heating the home with the hot water heater must be a Chicago thang.

Your words in post #13 (There are some legitimate reasons for locating a water heater in the attic since it is usually warmer than a basement)
Now getting back to what you said about the furnace being up there in the attic…why would I be running it in summer:):):slight_smile: and also since it is switched to A/C why would I want a super long run of the freon line for my split system condensor in the rear yard to run all the way to the attic,cool the attic partially since we all know the insulation is not 100% effective,risk condensation damage (we have basements around here),make the Unit far less accessible, pay an HVAC tech extra because he hates working up there,not have the filter near the casement where it should be,pay more for installation,and last but not least those horizontal units are just plain weird.
Property.South I could add that duct systems are most likely already set up to handle everything from the basement where all the other utilities are nearby and convenient.

It is also a good idea form the home owner to check the flame when changing the filter and be able to smell gas leaks easily to effect repairs immediately.
I could go on but will stop there.
Well OK one more.
The insulation field may be effected by the unit footprint.

I disagree. Is that okay? Water heaters are not a good idea for an attic without extra added precautions that were not mentioned as being present.

Besides…I would never recommend a heating/cooling system in an attic. The author of the first post told us it was there. I had nothing to do with it.