Tankless water heater in attic?

newtoremodelMarch 7, 2012

My contractor recently suggested that instead of having 2 tankless water heaters at opposite sides of my almost new construction single story house (4.5 baths, laundry, and kitchen), I may want to consider a single larger unit in the attic. We had originally planned to have the water heaters on the exterior walls of the house. His reasons include saving the cost of installing the additional water heater and that hot water would arrive at the fixtures faster due to the heater's central location and that the water flows "down" faster. I'm not so sure about the last part since basement water heaters seem to work pretty well.

I'm located in Southern California, no freezing risk, but the unconditioned attic will get quite hot in the summers. I had also planned to have a water softener installed outside "before" the first water heater so I would have soft water throughout the house. If I installed the tankless heater in the attic, I would still keep the water softener outside and run the water to the attic after the softener.

Is the placement of the tankless water heater in the attic recommended for the reasons above or at all? It just seems that the attic would be very difficult place to service the tank if needed and there is always the risk of a leak.

The other choice would be to install a larger tankless (eg Noritz NRC111) outside with the softener, but the kitchen would be about 60 ft away as would be the furthest bath.

Thanks for any guidance.

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dadoes

Tankless units typically have electronics, and electronics don't like excessive heat exposure.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 8:59AM
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brickeyee

Electronics and freezing temperature.

Electronics do not like excessive heat, and water still freezes at 32 F.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2012 at 3:45PM
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thull

Note that the units themselves have freeze protection as long as they're powered up, if they're intended for mounting outside on the wall. Any cold/hot piping in the attic would need to be freeze protected if you use hard pipe. Ours is outside on the wall, and the little bit of piping that's exposed has a heat tape and insulation on it. I had the impression a while back that PEX could withstand freezing without bursting, so that might be an alternative on the piping.

I agree about the summertime heat, because even though they're intended for outdoor installation, adding an addition 20+F won't help any.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 2:17PM
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brickeyee

"Note that the units themselves have freeze protection as long as they're powered up, if they're intended for mounting outside on the wall."

The AHJ may not like the idea of an outside unit in an attic.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 2:27PM
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ionized_gw

"Note that the units themselves have freeze protection as long as they're powered up,"

What happens if the power goes out? Is your tankless heater toast? Maybe a popsicle would be a better term. If it is in the attic, it then thaws out and floods the house. I saw that happen in a recently-rennovated laboratory building. It was not with water heaters but with water to air heat exchangers after the heating supply went out on a very cold night.

I do recall that before I discovered that they are too expensive to make any economic sense, I noticed that one brand uses a turbine in the water supply to make spark to ignite.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 3:40PM
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agentslim

My architect also advised to put the tankless in the attic int he middle of the house. We building a single story 3300 sq ft home. I still feel two units would work better. Would love to hear additional advice!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2012 at 7:20PM
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thull

ionized- if the power goes out, then you just go old-school and let a faucet trickle to keep it from freezing.

This winter's been a cakewalk here in GA, but it was really cold last year. A new industrial plant I worked on had some big outdoor pipes freeze and burst (4" and 6"). If someone had cracked the hose station at the end of the line, it wouldn't have happened, but no such luck. We went back and added freeze protection valves that will open up and trickle water through the line if it gets below freezing.

Kind of a slick idea. Very little expense for that use. Might be pricey for the house, but it is kinda dummy proof.

Here is a link that might be useful: Ogontz freeze protection valve.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2012 at 8:27PM
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zl700

Does any one read the post before responding?

OP says there is no freeze risk, why all the concerns of freezing?

To hot, are you kidding me? Countless commercial units are run at 185 degrees, it's just as hot in that cabinet.

Mines in the attic, who assumed a outdoor unit would be used in a attic? OP never said that

Go for it but have a pan with drain to protect from water damage.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 2:40AM
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lazypup

Installing both tank type & tankless water heaters in the attic has been a common practice if Florida, Calif, and other regions in the sun belt for years. In fact, both the IRC & UPC address specific additional requirements for installing the water heater in the attic.

1. The water heater must be located within 20ft of the attic hatchway.
2.There must be at least a 24" wide solid floor catwalk from the hatchway to the water heater location.
3. There must be a 30" workspace in front of the water heater.
4.At the water heater location there must be a 24" solid floor walkway all around the heater.
5.There must be a 120v electrical outlet in the near proximity of the water heater to permit operating power tools when servicing the unit.
6.There must be an electric light in the near proximity of the heater and the light must be controlled by a switch that is placed near the attic hatchway.
7.There must be an approved drip pan with a minimum 3/4"dia drain line that is run outside and terminated by code specification or it must terminate in an approved indirect waste.
8.The TPRV must have a full bore discharge line that goes outside and discharges in an obvious location per code spec or it must discharge into an approved waste receptor at and obvious location. TPRV MAY NOT discharge into the pan.
9. The water heater must remain accessible for service or inspection, (must not be blocked by personal items stored in the attic.)

Under the IRC the attic hatch must be a minimum of 22"x30"
Under the UPC the attic hatch must be a minimum of 30" x 30"

Note, those dimensions are the minimum, but code also says the water heater MUST fit through the opening. That would generally not be an issue with a tankless but with a tanktype you need to check the tank size.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 11:02AM
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ionized_gw

Here is a link that might be useful: Ogontz freeze protection valve.

I need about 5 of those for my house.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2012 at 2:10PM
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