Many homeowners prefer placing their water heaters outside.
This option is especially attractive to owners of manufactured or mobile homes because of the need to save on space.
Outdoor heaters are prone to denting, corrosion, and other damage from the insults of the weather. So, if you have a water heater already installed outside your home, there are odds you have considered protecting it with some sort of a cover.
Fortunately, there are specially designed protectors that can enclose your equipment as perfectly as you want.
Later in this guide, we will list four impressive water heater enclosures worth considering. But first, let’s look at the things you should keep in mind when choosing the one.
Seven Factors to Consider when Selecting a Water Heater Enclosure
What is the size of your water heater?
You will need an enclosure that fits the size of the heater.
The best way of finding the size of your heater is by checking its capacity or the total number of gallons it can hold. Of course, the higher the capacity the larger the enclosure.
2. Material of construction
The material of construction should give you a clue about the effectiveness of the enclosure.
It just goes unsaid that, because the enclosure will be exposed to the outside environment, it needs to be made from a material that’s rot and rust-resistant.
The most commonly used material is galvanized steel which is safe and easy to work with and lasts longer just as it’s sturdy.
Electrical devices can be erratic sometimes, you don’t know when your water heater will fail and turn into a safety hazard inside or outside your home. That’s why the positioning of the enclosure is critical.
The positioning can affect the time taken by the emergency personnel or maintenance technician to access the heater and fix the problem.
Also, the enclosure should be spacious to give the electrician an easy time when conducting regular repair and maintenance checks.
Aesthetics are important whether you choose to install your heater indoors or outside.
It all boils down to one thing, is the enclosure presentable?
So, before you even buy and install the enclosure, think of how the whole setup will look from different points of view.
You might choose to keep the entire set up concealed or standing out like a sore thumb.
The location of the heater can influence your aesthetic considerations.
If it is located in open spaces where many people will see it then would want to invest in the best-looking enclosure you can ever lay your hands on.
Or let’s just say the enclosure needs to be affordable.
Enclosures range from the cheapest – which come as simple curtains – to the expensive galvanized steel cabinets.
You only buy what you can afford.
You want a long-lasting enclosure. It is never cheap to replace them so often.
7. Air circulation support
Water heaters require a lot of air supply to function properly and safely.
Another reason is the insulating materials on the surface of many tank-type water heaters.
Some heaters come smeared with dry calcium-infused compounds that don’t smell nice when suffocated in corners away from ample supply of air.
Fortunately, most of the enclosures you will find on the market today have air vents somewhere on the walls or front door to keep your water heater breathing
Two Reasons You Need A Water Heater Enclosure
There are a couple of reasons why you might add an enclosure around your water heater.
1. You Want To Hide The Water Heater
A water heater left in the open in your backyard can alter the appearance of your property and it’s usually not in a good way.
The same thing is true indoors, the towing tank-like structure of the water heater in indoor settings doesn’t look good.
Adding an enclosure is often the only way of getting rid of the eyesore without necessarily relocating the entire unit.
2. You Want To Add Some Style
It is an aspiration of every homeowner to have a unique styling in their home.
You want the kitchen area to look uniform as per your styling. The same thing applies to any other room in your home.
The installation of a new water heater, however, tends to interrupt your style and orderliness.
The outdoor environment too can be interrupted by a new water heater which the designers of your home had not envisioned.
In both cases, it only makes sense to add enclosure with the same color schemes and styling as the rest of the house to remove the inconsistency.
The Two Types of Water Heater Enclosures
These are the types of enclosures you will find on the market.
- Complete enclosures
They are the simplest and cheapest enclosures out there. Like the functioning of any other curtain, you simply slide it sideways on a string and gain access to your heater.
The first thing you need to do is measure the height and width of the entrance without forgetting to leave a reasonable space so that the curtain doesn’t sweep the floor.
Curtains aren’t the best enclosures you could buy for your heater but works great if the heater is installed in a garage or any other partially unfinished place.
They are also cheap and flexible as you can switch between different designs any time you please.
These simple dividers can be traditional divider screens of tall standing shutters. They are the perfect option if you are looking for a decorative cover for your heater.
Because they are freestanding in nature, they can be moved easily. If you feel like it, you can easily paint, do some papering, or leave them in their factory design.
2. Complete enclosures
Cabinets are the best enclosures for heaters installed in finished basements or kitchen.
They often come as all-metal structures with an industrial feel.
Wood cabinets are just as popular as metal cabinets.
Cabinets can be freestanding or recessed structures.
Whether you go an all-metal or wooden route, these cabinets are considerably expensive compared to cover-based options, but they last longer.
Closets offer the best option for hiding your water heater completely.
If you have been house hunting widely you might have noticed that some apartments have their water heaters and furnaces hidden in bedroom closets.
You can do the same in manufactured property of you have a sizable space lying idle in your bedroom.
Doors on water heater closets tend to be painted and styled to match the rest of the walls and other closets.
The main pros of having a closet around your water are that you get to tell the expert to install it as per your specifications although you can still buy pre-made closets for the same purpose.
That, and the fact that closets tend to conceal the water heater, makes them an attractive option.
Four Water Heater Enclosure Recommendations
You can use a DIY enclosure manual to install the enclosure yourself or hire an expert to do it for you.
That’s the case if you choose to build the enclosure from the ground up.
However, you can buy an already finished enclosure and simply install it around the heater. Here are some of the best enclosures on the market:
This enclosure was designed for gas/electric 80-gallon water heaters.
It is easy to assemble into a complete enclosure unit as the components can be fit into each other like a jigsaw.
It is constructed of quality galvanized steel which is strong against tampering and weather. The design is compact enough to save on floor space if your heater is installed in a crowded place.
- Meets code requirements
- Galvanized steel construction
- Easy assembly with the most basic tools
- Superior engineered design
- Screws provide secure installation
- Superior front panel design that provides an access door for servicing
- Large capacity enclosure, tank capacity of 80 gallons
- Durable and rigid steel frame
- Easy to install
- It’s not smart compatible (no Bluetooth or app support)
This spacious and easy to assemble water heater enclosure from Rubbermaid is dent-resistant and impressively weather resistant.
The large vertical storage frame comes with a heavy-duty floor that can withstand heavy impact and can easily accommodate virtually any wood shelving of your choice.
It comes with a spacious 52 cubic feet capacity or storage space. I
t has enough space for storing garden and lawn tools, trimmers, and an array of other outdoor items. Besides being megafinance free, it is rust and rot-resistant.
- 52 ft3 storage capacity
- Lockable doors (though the lock is not included)
- Heavy duty and leakproof construction
- Lawn maintenance
- Large-sized yet easy to install
- Reasonably large, doesn’t occupy much space
- You can add shelves on the interior’ walls
- It would’ve been great if this enclosure came with its own custom locks
If you are looking for a minimalistic enclosure designed for tankless gas water heaters, you might want to try out this enclosure.
It comes as three joined steel walls that can easily be installed around the heater and still leave a lot of interior space for repair and maintenance.
The simple cover was designed in such a way that it can mount to the underside of your tankless water heater without requiring any expertise.
- For use with RL94 and R75 series
- HE + pipe enclosure for HE silver models
- Underside mounting capability
- A simple steel cover that’s easy to install
- Sturdy steel construction
- Not resistant to dents and other household impacts
Rinnai has been producing water heater cover solutions for 45 years and this one of the covers that depict their experience.
This aluminum cover is light enough to be assembled and disassembled easily while standing up to corrosion just perfectly.
It is surprisingly strong against the wind and unwanted tampering.
Because it is designed for recess use, it will hold your tankless gas water heater into the wall which is both stylish and a space-saving maneuver. The convenient removable door allows the service person to flawlessly reach the heater.
- Aluminum construction
- Integrated, seamless water/moisture-seal flange
- Removable front door
- Drain holes for drainage
- Lock ring
- Hides the heater into the wall far from view
- Slim, lightweight, yet sturdy and impact resistant
- The lock ring provides the much-needed security
- The edges are dangerously sharp
Four Mistakes to Avoid When Installing Water Heater Sheds
Enclosures work perfectly when they are installed correctly. These are the mistakes to avoid when installing them:
1. Not considering the position of the pans and drains
Tank-type water heaters are often accompanied by drip pans.
These pans are installed in an area where a leak is more probable and could cause serious damages if it occurs.
The common position of installation is the base of the tank where the pan will again be connected to a drain pipe that will direct the leaking water into the ground.
However, we tend to prioritize space when installing enclosures more than anything else and it’s not uncommon to forget the correct position or future installation of pans and drains.
Therefore, if you are using a tank-type water heater, bear in mind the value of pans and how their position will augur with the rest of the enclosure.
2. Ignoring proper distancing between the heater and the walls of the enclosure
As mentioned earlier, sufficient space needs to be left between the walls of the enclosure and the heater.
It’s understandable that you want to save on space but if you cramp things too close to each other, the repair guy or yourself will have a hard time accessing the interior and doing some maintenance work.
3. Failing to consider basic safety precautions
It is important to bear in mind the safety precautions when installing enclosures on your water heaters.
For instance, it just goes unsaid that you should get your electrical wiring right and avoid letting them anywhere close to the metallic body of the enclosure.
Most enclosures, especially the cover and cabinet style ones, are made from steel or aluminum or other high conductivity materials.
Also, the corners of the enclosure shouldn’t be sharp enough to cause injuries when they come in contact with the skin.
4. Thinking that the enclosure will boost energy conservation
It is easy to be tempted to add an enclosure just to boost the energy efficiency of the water heater.
The whole idea may sound effective in your mind, but it’s awfully impractical.
The large space between the walls of the water heater and the enclosure is packed with enough air to transfer heat from the heater to the outside.
Still, most enclosures today, whether cabinet or cover-style, have vents added on their front doors to leak excess water in the event of a leakage. The vents will still lose the heat to the outside.
So, if your water heater is energy inefficient, do not add an enclosure thinking it might help. The best thing to do would be to invest in a better replacement or adding some insulator claddings on the pipes and the tank.
Enclosing Your Water Heater
1. Gameplan The Enclosure
While it is important to install a small-sized enclosure to maximize the space left for the rest of the kitchen or basement, you can’t just position the enclosure a few inches, say, six inches, away from the heater.
- It is prudent to leave a reasonable buffer zone between the wall of the enclosure and the heater. The space should be large enough to let the repairperson complete the regular repair and maintenance work.
- You will also need to install double doors at some point on the walls.
- Double doors permit easy removal of the old heater unit and the addition of the new unit.
- And if your water heater is the gas-powered type, double doors would be better than a single door because the unit requires a lot of fresh air to burn efficiently.
2. Wall Framing
Consider constructing the solid wall frame with 2x4s to boost its durability and strength.
Keep your studs spaced between 16 inches apart or less.
If you choose to use the concrete foundation walls as part of your enclosure walls, only use masonry screws or equivalents to attach the stud’s frames to the slab of concrete.
Water heater enclosures are essential for protecting your heating equipment from corrosion, denting, and other impact-based damage.
When choosing the best enclosure, bear in mind such factors as the cost of the cover, aesthetics, and positioning.
You can choose to build your own enclosure by obtaining a DIY guide and following the procedure.
Better yet, you can purchase a ready-made enclosure and hire an expert to do the installation.
Some of the mistakes many homeowners make when installing enclosures is positioning the walls of the enclosure too close to the walls of the heater and getting the wiring wrong.