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  1. #1
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    Default Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Hello forum, I am looking for help on how to handle a builder not concerned with safety. We are buying a home in a planned development (60 units total) in Los Angeles County. The builder is DR Horton. The picture attached is from the model home, and our unit would have the same layout. You can see the tankless gas water heater installed on the wall, without any protection. It is sticking out by about 9-10", which is more than the garage opening. A vehicle coming in straight through the garage would have no problem hitting the heater, with all the disastrous consequences that would come from it.


    We pointed this to the builder reps, but they insist since the model passed inspection, this is according to code. I'm not getting anywhere with them, I'm asking the heater to be installed on the outside wall but they would not budge.


    Any idea on how to proceed from here? The code seems detailed in showing regular water heaters needing bollard protection, and having to have the heating flame located 18" above ground, but seems quiet with regards to tankless heaters. I think in our case, the flame would indeed be located more than 18" above ground, but to my knowledge that provision is only intended to ensure the tank's ignition source does not ignite flammable gasses that may be concentrating on the floor. The only code section that I found that seems to be relevant here is the 2003 International Fuel Gas Code section 305.5, which says that appliances in private garages should be installed at least 6ft above the floor, unless they are protected from motor vehicle impact.


    Two questions: 1) is my concern valid, and should I continue to fight this? If so, 2) what's the best way to get the builder to install the water heater on the outside wall?


    Thanks all.

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Go the the city building inspection department with the photo and code citation and ask them to rule in writing as to "if it is or is not in compliance."
    Likely the head code official (AHJ) will agree with you and have the builder fix it. Even though it passed final inspection, the AHJ has the power to shut the builder down on future houses and in general make life difficult for them until they fall in line.
    Looks like they just missed this to me. Sometimes even the best official will have blinders on looking for the "normal" issues and just miss seeing the issue on newer installations.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Plano, Texas

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Thanks Jim, I'll reach out to the city inspection office. I'm excited to be working with city officials... A friend also recommended that I file a complaint with the Department of Consumer Affairs, Contractors State License Board. I'm considering that option as well, although at this point I'm trying not to antagonize the builder too much.


  4. #4
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Doesn't look too hard to protect it. I'm sure that is what DR will do if the AHJ makes them do a correction. Much less money than moving it.

    Jim Robinson
    New Mexico, USA

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Robinson View Post
    Doesn't look too hard to protect it. I'm sure that is what DR will do if the AHJ makes them do a correction. Much less money than moving it.
    And I can see protecting that could make the garage not usable as a garage, resulting in the relocation of the water heater.

    I suspect that if one were to park a car in the garage in the photo, trying to get past the water heater with the car there will be a bit difficult ... unless the garage is a lot wider than I suspect it is - and I suspect it is likely about as small as they can make the garage and fit a car and walk space on each side.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  6. #6
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    You guys can see right through the issue here... the garage is indeed too narrow for a car to maneuver around the heater, especially if new protection is added.

    My hope is DR Horton sees the need to address this and simply places my heater in a new location - in my unit the heater has not been installed just yet, so it would be easy for them to just place it in a better location.


  7. #7
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Since this is a 'model' home, I imagine the glass door will get changed to a fire-rated door once the house is sold ?

    Last edited by Joe Klampfer; 11-09-2015 at 11:01 AM.
    Joe Klampfer RHI
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    I have been waiting for someone to reply about that useless sediment trap ... surely that does not "pass code" as a proper sediment trap over there on the left coast. That trap is so useless it is as though it is not even there.

    That sediment trap, in and of itself, is enough to deem that installation as being "noncompliant" with the code.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by Joe Klampfer View Post
    Since this is a 'model' home, I imagine the glass door will get changed to a fire-rated door once the house is sold ?
    Yes, that's correct. There were other doors in the model home that were missing as well, and those will get installed in our home. Otherwise it will be a very non-private private business...


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by Jerry Peck View Post
    I have been waiting for someone to reply about that useless sediment trap ... surely that does not "pass code" as a proper sediment trap over there on the left coast. That trap is so useless it is as though it is not even there.

    That sediment trap, in and of itself, is enough to deem that installation as being "noncompliant" with the code.
    Thanks for catching and pointing that out Jerry! Indeed, we missed that out completely but I can see the issue now.

    I think they had a really weak designer/contractor, here are other plumbing/heating related issues in the home:
    - makeup air provision for laundry room (35sqft area) missing. Supposedly having a window that can open satisfies that requirement (laughable claim).
    - the drain pipe from the pressure release valve from the tankless heater (white plastic in the picture) is downgraded from 3/4" (valve diameter) to 1/2" (pipe diameter)
    - the gas range with 1000CFM capacity does not have a makeup air provision

    We are working with all these issues, but the biggest one for us is the water heater location.


  11. #11
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by Octav Badea View Post

    The only code section that I found that seems to be relevant here is the 2003 International Fuel Gas Code section 305.5, which says that appliances in private garages should be installed at least 6ft above the floor, unless they are protected from motor vehicle impact.
    In the 2012 IRC section G2408.2.1 has the same wording. It is pretty clear that this is not protected from vehicle impact. Also, the National Fuel Gas code has wording regarding protection from vehicle impact.

    If they do not understand how stupid that location is for a water heater from a functional and safety standpoint, then it may be hopeless arguing with them.

    I have only seen one DR Horton house. It was a sample, and if that was any indication of their lack of quality, I would be looking for a different builder.


  12. #12
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    The part in bold and underlining (my highlighting) says it all:
    Quote Originally Posted by Octav Badea View Post
    Hello forum, I am looking for help on how to handle a builder not concerned with safety. We are buying a home in a planned development (60 units total) in Los Angeles County. The builder is DR Horton.
    That has been my experience in various locations, and I know other inspectors have found the same lack of concern that they have for their customers.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Thank you for your post and please let us know how things work out with the builder. One of the most frustrating aspects of this profession is reporting safety issues and never hearing how they eventually work out.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Stichter View Post
    Thank you for your post and please let us know how things work out with the builder. One of the most frustrating aspects of this profession is reporting safety issues and never hearing how they eventually work out.
    I certainly will. I'm already in touch with the city inspectors (one for HVAC, one for plumbing) to get them to engage with the builder.

    As an aside - I did not identify these issues myself. On the contrary, I would have been completely oblivious to these issues until moving in (or even after) were it not for an independent inspector that I hired to help me monitor construction quality while the house is being built; he'll be the same one doing the final inspection as well.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    This is the gift that keeps on giving... it looks like the drain pipe (in white) has four 90 degree elbows on this side of the wall, with another one on the outside wall, pointing the pipe down. Apparently that's one more than desirable, although I'm not sure if this is a code requirement or just a manufacturer recommendation.

    The other thing that I will apparently have to check is whether the sediment trap is installed before or after the on/off valve for the heater. It's not clear in the picture which way the gas is flowing, and we didn't have access to the garage when we went on site but we'll have to try to do that next time.


  16. #16
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Check the vents slope...towards the unit needs a condensate collector tube. Sloped away does not.

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  17. #17
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Yes, the sediment trap should be after the shut off valve, not before as it is installed.

    The discharge line from the pressure relief valve is incorrect ... but not for the reason you gave - the discharge line should discharge to the floor, a floor drain, or a receptor, through an air gap, in the same room or space (the garage) ... and then it can drain to the outdoors.

    There may also be other aspects which are not right with it - I doubt any of us have zoomed in and thoroughly looked the photo over ... even then we may not be able to see enough to find everything which may be, or is, not right.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  18. #18
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    In California, the "drain must end outside building or ar other approved location." My understanding is that the AHJ approves of any other location. In my city, the AHJ will only allow the drain to terminate 6-24" above the garage floor IF the homeowner approves (I have yet to see a written approval).

    (My take) I dont call call that a sediment trap. I call that a drip leg. Sediment catches solids. Drip leg catches liquids. Gas line enters from the top on a sediment trap and the gas line enters from the side on a drip leg.

    I would call out missing protection for the gas line.

    i would call out too many 90s on the drain line (manufacturers instructions).

    if that is PVC, I would also call that out.

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  19. #19
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Drip legs are supposed to be constructed the same as sediment traps - so that is wrong no matter what one calls it.

    Drip legs are also only required when "wet" gas is present, and I haven't heard of any places nowadays where "wet" gas is present and supplied by a utility or propane supplier ... not saying there aren't any, just haven't heard of any.

    Drip legs are also supposed to be located at the lowest point in the gas piping system as that is where all the condensate will collect.

    Which would also make that wrong ... if it was supposed to be a drip leg.

    Additionally, if that is supposed to be a drip leg ... the required sediment trap is missing.

    All of the above makes it much simpler to call that what it is supposed to be - a sediment trap.

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  20. #20
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    After some additional research:

    i havent found an IRC or UPC diagram of a drip.

    i haven't found an IRC or UPC reference to a "drip leg."

    I would call out an improperly configured sediment trap.

    i would also call out the improperly configured sediment trap improperly installed ahead of the gas valve.

    I understand that the "drip" and the "sediment trap" have different purposes (similar....but different). I haven't been able to confirm or deny the correct configuration for a drip.

    thoughts?

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  21. #21
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    sediment trap.jpg
    This is not IRC diagram but is the best depiction I have found.
    Further information can likely be found in the fuel gas code which is by reference part of the IRC.
    Very few locations (only those with "wet" gas) need drip legs. Sediment trap however are required in all instances without regard to water content.

    Jim Luttrall
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  22. #22
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Most authoritative drawing/photo of a "drip" I have found so far tonight (Philadelphia Gas Works):
    http://www.pgworks.com/files/pdfs/Ma...stallation.pdf
    Page 9, which then refers to exhibit on page 51, which shows that a "drip" is made the same as a "sediment trap".

    Jerry Peck, Construction / Litigation Consultant
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  23. #23
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    Default Re: Tankless gas water heater on inside garage wall without protection from vehicles

    Is that a door with a window in it that goes into a garage? If so, fire separation has been compromised.


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