Santa Clarita Water Heater CodeAs Santa Clarita home inspectors, we get asked a lot of questions. The most popular being, “How did this pass inspection with all of these things wrong“? My replay is usually something like… “it most likely was not inspected. As a contractor myself having had water heaters permitted in Santa Clarita, I know many of the water heater the codes. And trust me, you have to install them according to Santa Clarita Water Heater Code. Otherwise, the city will make you correct your mistakes.
Santa Clarita requires permits for a water heater change-out. That said, most people opt not to get them. Personally I don’t think a water heater installation without permits means it’s all wrong. Not exactly. I’ve seen professional installations without permits just as I’ve seen permitted installations look unprofessional.
Having the city official check the installation of a water heater is just a good idea. As a Santa Clarita contractor, and homeowner myself, I wouldn’t trust some of the contractors I’ve seen install these water heaters. So getting permits for a new water heater installation is a good way to have their work checked.
Santa Clarita Water Heater New Code vs Old Code
As a Santa Clarita home inspector for over two decades, we’ve seen a few things. We’ve been called a few things as well by many of the local realtors. We’re not your “typical” inspection company who consider ourselves as “generalists” whatever that means. It also no secrete that we’re rough on houses when we inspect them. And why shouldn’t we be? I mean, there are families living in the houses we as inspectors claim to protect right?
So when it comes to inspecting water heaters for example, sure, we’re going to inspect them to the newest building code. Building code is written in order to prevent injury. Or as Wiki defines building code; “The main purpose of building codes is to protect public health, safety, and general welfare as they relate to the construction and occupancy of buildings and structures“.
So for us, it doesn’t matter if the water heater was installed to an older building standard. If there is a newer standard that was written because enough people were injured… that’s the Water Heater code we’re going to use. Let the realtors handle it afterward.
Just so you’re not confused as to the role of the home inspector. Not every water heater that has code infractions have to be retrofitted to a newer standard. As a matter of fact.. this is just a home inspection. We have no authority to dictate retrofitting anything which is building code related. That’s the job of the city and code enforcement. Not us. We just make recommendations.
Listed water heater vs Unlisted water heaters
04.3.1 Listed Water Heaters
The clearances shall not be such as to interfere with combustion air, draft hood clearance and relief, and accessibility for servicing. Listed water heaters shall be installed in accordance with their listings and the manufacturer’s installation instructions.
In accordance with the 2016 CPC (California Plumbing Code) listed water heaters shall be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions. Which is to say the water heater was tested within a controlled environment under the supervision of a nationally recognized testing agency. Effectively, the manufacturer now becomes the one who dictates the minimum installation standard for that specific water heater. Actually, to put it another way… they write the code standard for that component or systems installation.
504.3.2 Unlisted Water Heaters
Unlisted water heaters shall be installed with a clearance of 12 inches (305 mm) on all sides and rear. Combustible floors under unlisted water heaters shall be protected in an approved manner. [NFPA 54:10.28.2.2]
Because there are building components which may have not been tested by a nationally recognized testing agency, they have minimum Water Heater code assigned to them. Typically, these building products would have been tested by the manufacturer only. Unlisted Components are generally those that are made by or for an Applicant for use only with that Applicant’s own certified equipment.
As you can see the differences between these two codes above. The listed code has a little nugget of specificity, but overall just says to follow the manufactures installation instructions. Contrast this to the unlisted unit which has minimum clearances to anything combustible as a safety precautionary measure.
Water Heater Earthquake straps
In case it wasn’t obvious, earthquake or seismic straps are to prevent the water heater from falling over. Doi… I know. Most people just aren’t sure as to the correct way to support a water heater. So here goes…
According to the CRC (California Residential Code) 2016
507.2 Seismic Provisions
Water heaters shall be anchored or strapped to resist horizontal displacement due to earthquake motion. Strapping shall be at points within the upper one third (1⁄3) and lower one-third (1⁄3) of its vertical dimensions. At the lower point, a minimum distance of four (4) inches (102 mm) shall be maintained above the controls with the strapping.
Note: [HCD 1 & HCD 2] Reference Health and Safety Code Section 19211(a) which addresses new, replacement, and existing water heaters.
Note: The applicable subsection of Health and Safety Code Section 19211(a) which addresses new, replacement, and existing water heaters is repeated here for clarity and reads as follows:
Section 19211(a) Notwithstanding Section 19100, all new and replacement water heaters, and all existing residential water heaters shall be braced, anchored, or strapped to resist falling or horizontal displacement due to earthquake motion. At a minimum, any water heater shall be secured in accordance with the California Plumbing Code, or modifications made thereto by a city, county, or city and county pursuant to Section 17958.5.
More from the Health and Safety Code Section 19211(a)
All water heaters manufactured for sale in California on or after July 1, 1991, shall include a statement in the installation instructions that water heater units must be braced, anchored, or strapped to resist falling or horizontal displacement due to earthquake motion. The instructions provided by the manufacturer may include a reproduction of the generic installation instructions and standard details as prepared by the Division of the State Architect in accordance with Section 19215 .
- For a sample of the State, Architect document go here.
- Details for the installation of a Santa Clarita water heater go here.
As Santa Clarita home inspectors we see issues with water heater strapping constantly. California building code sets minimum provisions for earthquake seismic strapping for Santa Clarita water heaters. When we say minimum it means just that. They are the least restrictive Santa Clarita Water Heater code for strapping a water heater. So in essence, you can wrap your water heater like a Christmas present if that’s your thing. But not necessary.
Gas supply to the water heater
Gas supply to a water heater has been modified over the last few years. Effectively, the water heater code which stipulates gas volume and pipe diameter can get somewhat complicated. But we’re not here to discuss that. Essentially, we’re just speaking to the basics. That said, the basics for fuel is this.
507.18 Adequate Capacity of Piping
Where additional appliances are being connected to a gas piping system, the existing piping shall be checked to determine where it has adequate capacity. Where inadequate, the existing system shall be enlarged as necessary, or separate gas piping of adequate capacity shall be run from the point of delivery to the appliance. [NFPA 54:9.1.16]
507.19 Avoiding Strain on Gas Piping
Avoiding Strain on Gas Piping Appliances shall be supported and connected to the piping so as not to exert undue strain on the connections. [NFPA 54:9.1.17]
1210.8 Drips and Sediment Traps
For other than dry gas conditions, a drip shall be provided at a point in the line of pipe where condensate is capable of collecting. Where required by the Authority Having Jurisdiction or the serving gas supplier, a drip shall also be provided at the outlet of the meter. This drip shall be so installed as to constitute a trap wherein an accumulation of condensate will shut off the flow of gas before it will run back into the meter. [NFPA 54:7.6.1]
1210.8.1 Location of Drips
Drips shall be installed in such locations that they will be readily accessible to permit cleaning or emptying. A drip shall not be located where the condensate is likely to freeze. [NFPA 54:7.6.2]
1210.8.2 Sediment Traps
The installation of sediment traps shall comply with Section 1212.8. [NFPA 54:7.6.3]
9.6.7 Sediment Trap. Where a sediment trap is not incorporated as a part of the appliance, a sediment trap shall be installed downstream of the appliance shutoff valve as close to the inlet of the appliance as practical at the time of appliance installation. The sediment trap shall be either a tee fitting with a capped nipple in the bottom outlet as illustrated in Figure 9.6.7 or other devices recognized as an effective sediment trap. Illuminating appliances, ranges, clothes dryers, decorative appliances for installation in vented fireplaces, gas fireplaces, and outdoor grills shall not be required to be so equipped.
What are exactly a gas-fired, Illuminating Appliances? Well, here’s a definition of Illuminating appliances according to the UL (Underwriters Laboratory). Or Here.
“This category covers gas-fired illuminating appliances rated 5,000 Btu/h or less per burner, intended for indoor or outdoor use. These include lamps and fixtures and the like as identified in the individual certifications. These appliances are stationary and intended for attachment to a fixed gas piping system or a self-contained liquefied petroleum gas supply system. A means of support is provided by the manufacturer as part of the appliance…
Water Heater Venting
The water heater vent is what is used to exhaust the tanks combustion chamber after combustion (in the event its a gas-fired water heater). Water Heater vents are comprised of sheet metal mostly round but in some cases the pipe can be an oval shape. These vents are usually no less than 5′ in height above the water heater tank.
The section starting at 504 of the CPC speaks to the Santa Clarita Water Heater regarding venting. Not only does the code address the piping type, but rest assured, it covers just about every specific type of venting system there is for water heaters.
The most common issues associated with these Metal vents is the lack of clearance to combustible materials. For this, one might assume that the Santa Clarita Water Heater building code might have a standard right? Well, they do. Interestingly enough, the CPC water heater code refers back to the manufacture for clearances. Whereas, Santa Clarita water heater code actually just states the clearances in their handout.
Santa Clarita Water heaters code for vent clearance is 1″ for double wall and 6″ for a single wall. In fact, the manufacture’s clearances are the same as seen here from the Dura-Vent manufacturer.
Another issue which we come across quite often is the “slope or pitch” of the vent. The slope or pitch for water heater vents is to be no less than 1/4″ per every foot of length. Water heater Code, specifically for venting can get somewhat complex. Meaning, there are many other standards associated with vents. Slope and clearances to combustibles are the most commonly found in Santa Clarita home inspection however.
509.1.1 Vent Installation
Listed vents shall be installed in accordance with this chapter and the manufacturer’s installation instructions. [NFPA 54:12.2.1]
Pressure Relief Valve
Temperature pressure relief valves are valves installed onto the tank of the water heater in an opening provided by the manufacturer. Every water heater tank has one, and every owner of a water heater wants one… trust me. In the event the tank was to ever become pressurized it has the potential to explode. A TPR will alleviate that pressure.
As Santa Clarita home inspectors we see issues with the TPRs all the time. For instance,
- Missing TPR drain pipe
- TPR drain pipe too small, wrong material, too high / low to the ground
- TPR drains tied-into furnace condensate lines
The CPC has standards for the TPR and its connecting drain pipe. For the most part, this pipe is to be CPVC or metal and terminate no less than 6″ and no more than 24″ from the ground, in a downward slope from the tank. The pipe can’t be threaded and there is actually a limit to the number of 90 degree turns a pipe can possess in a specific number of feet. According to some manufacturers, the maximum number of 90-degree bends is 4 in 30 feet.
608.4 Pressure Relief Valves
Each pressure relief valve shall be an approved automatic type with drain, and each such relief valve shall be set at a pressure of not more than 150 psi (1034 kPa). No shutoff valve shall be installed between the relief valve and the system.
608.5 Discharge Piping
The discharge piping serving a temperature relief valve, pressure relief valve, or combination of both shall have no valves, obstructions, or means of isolation and be provided with the following:
- Equal to the size of the valve outlet and shall discharge full size to the flood level of the area receiving the discharge and pointing down.
- Materials shall be rated at not less than the operating temperature of the system and approved for such use.
- The discharge pipe shall discharge independently by gravity through an air gap into the drainage system or outside of the building with the end of the pipe not exceeding 2 feet (610 mm) and not less than 6 inches (152 mm) above the ground and pointing downwards.
- Discharge in such a manner that does not cause personal injury or structural damage.
- No part of such discharge pipe shall be trapped or subject to freezing.
- The terminal end of the pipe shall not be threaded.
- Discharge from a relief valve into a water heater pan shall be prohibited.
For gas-fired water heater ventilation is needed for the combustion of fuel gas. Ventilation is also needed for the dilution of fuel gases should they contaminate the water heater space. The specifics for combustion, makeup and ventilation are many. Suffice it to say, here, we will cover just a few. I’ll admit, there’s a lot of water heater code with respect to combustion-air, ventilation and makeup air. The remaining Santa Clarita water heater codes which apply to ventilation can be located in the CPC.
When mechanical ventilation interferes with combustion air needed for the water heater, makeup air shall be provided. This, in section 506.1.3 of the CPC. “ Makeup Air Where exhaust fans, clothes dryers, and kitchen ventilation systems interfere with the operation of appliances, makeup air shall be provided.”
Items regulated for this ventilation are the location of the vents which supply the air, the number of vents and the size of the vents needed to supply the ventilation and the locations by which the ventilation is acquired (indoor / outdoor).
Support of the water heater
Often times as Santa Clarita home inspectors, we come across water heaters that are leaning, sagging or simply crushing their respective bases or stands. As a matter of fact, there are provisions set for stands and bases which support water heaters in Santa Clarita. I’ve listed a few building codes associated with the stands and bases supporting these appliances.
I almost forgot… many of the Santa Clarita home inspectors I see never call out the fact that the water heater base, when attached to the dwelling unit, is an integral part of the fire separation wall. If there is damage to this wall such as missing material, holes and so forth, repairs are recommended.
507.3 Support of Appliances
Appliances and equipment shall be furnished either with load-distributing bases or with an approved number of supports to prevent damage to either the building structure or the appliance and the equipment. [NFPA 54:188.8.131.52]
507.3.1 Structural Capacity
At the locations selected for installation of appliances and equipment, the dynamic and static load-carrying capacities of the building structure shall be checked to determine whether they are capable to carry the additional loads, Appliances and equipment shall be supported and shall be connected to the piping so as not to exert undue stress on the connections. [NFPA 54:184.108.40.206]
507.4 Ground Support
A water heater supported from the ground shall rest on level concrete or other approved base extending not less than 3 inches (76 mm) above the adjoining ground level.
It’s true that a pan has to be installed under your water heater tank, much to the disbelief of many. In the event that the unit might leak, it has somewhere to escape as opposed to damaging your garage or interior walls.
507.5 Drainage Pan
As a water intrusion specialist I’ve seen my fair share of water damaged buildings from water heaters. Adding a pan at the bottom of the water heater will reduce the probability that in the future when you water heater fails, it won’t water damage the walls of your building.
Where a water heater is located in an attic. in or on an attic-ceiling assembly, floor-ceiling assembly, or floor-subfloor assembly where damage results from a leaking water heater, a watertight pan of corrosion-resistant materials shall be installed beneath the water heater with not less than 3⁄4 of an inch (20 mm) diameter drain to an approved location. Such pan shall be not less than 11⁄2 inches (38 mm) in depth.
Water heater locations
Placement of the water heater carries with it a variety of water heater codes. Whether the unit is in the garage or in your building, determines the Santa Clarita water heater code associated. Moreover, the location of the water heater address issues such as protection from damage, safety within the home and clearances to flammable materials.
507.12 Flammable Vapors
Appliances shall not be installed in areas where the open use, handling, or dispensing of flammable liquids occurs, unless the design, operation, or installation reduces the potential of ignition of the flammable vapors. Appliances installed in accordance with Section 507.13, Section 507.14, or Section 507.15 shall be considered to be in accordance with the intent of this provision. [NFPA 54:9.1.9]
The installation of water heaters is most commonly found in the garage. At least that’s true for the homes here in Santa Clarita. Most inspectors call out the fact that the base clearance to the floor is less than 18″ as required. But what many didn’t know is that you can actually have the water heater sitting on the floor of the garage. Of course, with stipulations.
507.13.2 Access from the Outside
Where appliances are installed within a garage and are enclosed in a separate enclosed space having access only from outside of the garage, such appliances shall be permitted to be installed at floor level, provided the required combustion air is taken from the exterior of the garage. [NFPA 54:220.127.116.11]
Who here has ever run into your water heater with your car? Well, even if you haven’t… it happens more than you might think. The water heater code stipulates a way to protect the water heater from damage as seen here. Usually, the city having jurisdiction will prescribe their method for protection. It’s sufficient to say that it’s usually a pole embedded into the garage floor where available.
Santa Clarita Building And Safety -CRASH POST
“A crash post is required when located in a garage and the vehicle could drive into the water heater. Wheel stops are not sufficient to stop a vehicle”.
507.13.1 Physical Damage
Appliances installed in garages, warehouses, or other areas subject to mechanical damage shall be guarded against such damage by being installed behind protective barriers or by being elevated or located out of the normal path of vehicles.
507.13 Installation in Garages
Appliances in garages and in adjacent spaces that open to the garage and are not part of the living space of a dwelling unit shall be installed so that burners and burner-ignition devices are located not less than 18 inches (457 mm) above the floor unless listed as flammable vapor ignition resistant. [NFPA 54:18.104.22.168]
Water heater installations in bedrooms and bathrooms shall be in accordance with one of the following [NFPA 54:10.28.1]:
- Fuel-burning water heaters shall be permitted to be installed in a closet located in the bedroom or bathroom provided the closet is equipped with a listed, gasketed door assembly and a listed self-closing device. The self-closing door assembly shall meet the requirements of Section 504.1.1. The door assembly shall be installed with a threshold and bottom door seal and shall meet the requirements of Section 504.1.2. Combustion air for such installations shall be obtained from the outdoors in accordance with Section 506.4. The closet shall be for the exclusive use of the water heater.
- Water heater shall be of the direct vent type. [NFPA 54:10.28.1(2)]
504.1.1 Self-Closing Doors
Self-closing doors shall swing easily and freely, and shall be equipped with a self-closing device to cause the door to close and latch each time it is opened. The closing mechanism shall not have a hold-open feature.
Gasketing on gasketed doors or frames shall be furnished in accordance with the published listings of the door, frame, or gasket material manufacturer.
Exception: Where acceptable to the Authority Having Jurisdiction, gasketing of non-combustible or limited-combustible material shall be permitted to be applied to the frame, provided closing and latching of the door are not inhibited.
Many, including a lot of home inspection companies in Santa Clarita say that water heaters are not allowed in a bedroom when in fact they are. In my opinion, it’s difficult to work as a home inspector if you have never had real building experience. You have to understand that here in Santa Clarita there are no experience requirements for home inspectors to actually work as home inspectors. This might change one day if not for the need created and perpetuated by most Santa Clarita realtors, actually wanting unlicensed contractors performing Santa Clarita home inspections.
So what do you end up with? A lot of individuals who may or may not have real “provable” construction experience performing low cost home inspections for people who really, genially need protection.
How do you prove real construction experience? The only way I’m aware of is with a Contractors license. that said, an ICC certified person, engineer or architect are also capable of performing inspections (with limitations). This is the reason why I’m so adamant about having a contractor perform a building inspection as opposed to a “certified” inspector. Whatever that means.
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