A water heater does not require bricks. A water heater needs elevation. It is common practice to raise the appliance 18 inches off the floor. Those 18 inches is the distance between the pilot light and the ground.
Technically, you can install any tool you want that achieves this objective. Some water heaters have special stands. Others use straps. The inspector won’t penalize you so long as you elevate the heater to the correct height. You’re not obligated to use bricks.
Why Should You Elevate The Water Heater?
A water heater sitting directly on the floor is a fire hazard. What if combustible liquids spill? Those flammable liquids can ignite, starting a fire. This is a significant threat if the water heater sits in the garage because the room exposes the appliance to gasoline and paint thinner.
Which Water Heaters Should You Place On Bricks?
You don’t have to elevate every heater. These concerns apply to gas heaters, specifically the non-FVIR models. FVIR stands for ‘Flammable Vapor Ignition-Resistant.’ 30, 40, and 50-gallon gas heaters in North America are FVIR.
You can’t sell non-FVIR gas heaters in the sizes mentioned above without attracting hefty fines and penalties. Therefore, any gas heater you bought after 2005 can technically sit directly on the ground without worrying about the pilot light igniting spilled liquids.
How Can You Determine Whether Your Water Heater is FVIR Or Not?
If you move into a house with a water heater, check the manual. It will tell you whether or not the appliance is FVIR-certified. If you can’t find the manual (which is often the case), locate the model and serial numbers on the rating plate and send them to the manufacturer.
They will identify the model and determine its specs. They will tell you whether or not the gas heater is FVIR. If you can’t access the internet or the manufacturer, inspect the heater. If you can see the pilot light and light it with a match, you have a non-FVIR heater, which requires elevating.
It is worth noting that FVIR certification doesn’t necessarily exempt you from the 18-inch elevation rule. Some manufacturers will tell you to place their gas heaters on bricks regardless of whether they are FVIR or not.
You can ignore them if you want. However, don’t be surprised if they void your warranty. If things go wrong because you refused to elevate an FVIR gas heater on bricks, many manufacturers are not obligated to honor their warranties by providing free repairs and replacements.
What About Electric Water Heaters? Can You Put Them On Bricks?
People primarily associate bricks with gas heaters because they have a pilot light. Electric heaters do not matter in this conversation because they don’t have pilot lights. The threat posed by spilled flammable liquids does not apply to electric heaters.
The local authorities are less likely to punish you for placing an electric water heater directly on the floor. However, most experts you consult will encourage you to use bricks with your electric heater for three reasons:
- Bricks save energy because they insulate the appliance from the cold floor. The United States Department of Energy recommends a blanket. If you place it underneath the heater, it won’t lose heat to the floor, saving as much as 9 percent (Water Heating Energy). But if you don’t want to waste a blanket, use bricks.
- Elevating the heater defends the device against flooding, especially if the heater sits in locations like the basement with a reputation for flooding. The last thing you want is for a heavy-duty appliance that runs on electricity to sit in a puddle of water.
- Even if fires and shocks are not a threat where electric heaters are concerned, bricks will prevent rust damage.
What Does The Law Say?
The law requires manufacturers to sell FVIR-certified gas water heaters. You don’t have to place them on bricks. But if you have a non-FVIR model, the local code may compel you to elevate it.
Locations like California expect consumers to apply straps to heaters to prevent them from tipping over during an earthquake. Ultimately, the local code will determine your response. Federal regulations like the NEC can provide guidelines, but individual states are not obligated to follow them.
You can ask local inspectors for clarity. If an inspector tells you to place the heater on bricks, you should obey them.
Safe Way Of Installing Water Heater On Bricks
Most consumers that want to elevate a gas heater with bricks will follow these steps:
- Arrange the bricks beneath the tank. Try to create the 18-inch distance between the pilot light and the ground that experts recommend.
- Place the heater on the bricks.
- Insert a stud into the wall behind the appliance.
- Use straps to connect the water heater to the studs. Adjust the length until the straps are sufficiently tight. Loose straps are useless to you.
Some people mortar their bricks. They don’t trust the bricks to remain stable, especially when you place a heavy appliance on them. Mortar allows you to add more layers of bricks without making the whole structure more unstable.
Common Mistakes To Avoid When Installing A Water Heater On Bricks
1). Don’t place the heater on bricks when it has legs. If the legs are too short or unstable, remove them before putting the heater on a layer of bricks.
2). Don’t ignore the local code. Many experts will tell you to elevate the appliance by 18 inches. But if your code demands a greater height than 18 inches, you should obey it.
3). Technically, it is safe to place a heater on a dry concrete floor in a location without flammable materials. A dry concrete floor is unlikely to cause rust damage in electric heaters. That being said, you should still elevate the heater if the code says so.
4). A layer of bricks is not enough. Add straps to prevent the heater from tipping over.
5). Pay attention to the quality of the bricks. Find a retailer with a strong reputation and ask them to make a recommendation, especially if you know nothing about bricks. Poor-quality bricks will eventually crack, and the heater will fall.
6). If you’re worried about structural damage and the possibility of a leak, install a pan under the heater.
7). Don’t stack too many bricks. The more bricks you stack, the more unstable the heater will become. You can mortar the bricks to increase their stability.
8). Make sure the heater is elevated above the flood level of the pan’s rim.
Pros & Cons Of Installing A Water Heater On Bricks
1). Bricks protect the heater from floodwater. Water can rise higher than 18 inches. However, bricks will give you the time to remove the water before it rises to the level of the heater.
2). Have you ever tried to inspect the bottom of an appliance sitting directly on the floor? It is a challenge. Bricks make such inspections easier because you can see the bottom.
3). If you want to repair or clean the water heater, the appliance is easier to drain when you elevate it off the floor. You have more options at your disposal. On the other hand, completely emptying a heater sitting on the floor is quite tricky.
4). The bricks are energy-saving tools. They reduce the amount of heat lost by insulating the heater from the floor. This makes the appliance more energy-efficient.
5). Bricks protect the heater from rust damage.
6). Bricks prevent the pilot light in a non-FVIR appliance from igniting flammable liquids that spill.
1). It increases your expenses. Besides buying a heater, you must also pay for bricks, mortar, and straps.
2). Bricks add to the time it takes to install a gas water heater.
3). You can’t trust bricks to stand the test of time. They can crack after a while, which is terrible for the heater. It can sustain severe damage after falling.