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Can You Transport a Water Heater on Its Side?

transporting water heater

Can You Transport a Water Heater on Its Side?

You can definitely transport a water heater on its side, for those who have a truck with a topper it’s your only option. Use plenty of padding, secure the water heater with straps, and don’t drive like a maniac. Then when you get to your destination, make sure there is plenty of muscle around to help get the water heater safely in place.

Transporting a Water Heater

The main reason that it’s preferable to transport a water heater vertically is because the unit has a glass lining inside of it that can break if the box hits a bump. There are ways to protect the water heater such as using blankets for padding and using straps so that the unit doesn’t rattle around.

The new water heater will also have controls on one side, and it’s important not to transport the unit with those controls facing down (it will be noted on the packaging which way to place ‘up’). 

The dip tube and anode sticking out of the top of the heater are also very fragile. These can be pried out for safer transport when moving, especially on the side.

You can also do yourself some favors by taking the smoothest trek home and driving like there’s a baby on board. The actual moving isn’t the only problem, as plenty of water heater accidents happen when people get the appliance home (fall off the truck, improper moving).

Make sure you have plenty of help to get the water heater into the utility room. These things weigh almost 100 pounds even when empty and are 5′ tall and round – not the easiest dimensions to be lugging around.

Removing a Water Heater

Whether you’re moving a water heater from house to house, bought a new one, or just trying to swap out a defunct unit – it’s important to know the principles behind doing so safely. Almost everybody has heard about safe transport of refrigerators, but water heaters are kind of a mystery.

Before getting into the actual transport of the water heater, a quick refresher on how to unhook it never hurts:

  • Turn off the water heater – there’s a gas control valve that needs to be turned to the ‘off’ position.
  • Turn off the main gas supply – there’s a knob on the gas line that needs to be perpendicular, not parallel, to the pipe.
  • Disconnect gas line from water heater – gas lines have a small and large nut. Two wrenches are needed, one to hold the small nut, and one to loosen the larger nut.
  • Cap the gas pipe – use Teflon tape and a pipe cap to first wrap the threads of the gas pipe and then tighten the cap with a wrench.
  • Remove the gas pipe from the water heater – there’s still a flexible piece of pipe that connects the water heater to the gas line. This can be removed as well.
  • Drain the tank – turn off the water supply to the heater, and turn on hot water faucets in the house until the water runs cold. Hook up a garden hose to the drain valve to get it completely empty.
  • Remove rest of components – you still need to unhook the temperature and pressure relief valve from the side of the old water heater, and the cold and hot water pipes from the top of the unit (copper pipes are hard plumbed and may have to be cut). There is also a vent pipe on the top that comes off.

Electrical water heaters follow similar instructions, except that the gas doesn’t need to be cut and capped.

Appliances That Can Be Damaged During a Move

You might think that helping a person move their vases, or fine artwork, or rare baseball card collection is the most stressful aspect of relocating, but nearly to a T it’s the refrigerator that most homeowners are worried about.

Yes if you break a 6-foot mirror the damage is evident instantly, but many people think that transporting a refrigerator on its side will cause countless damage down the line. Six years from now when a compressor burns out or the unit is cycling too often people will still think it’s because of improper moving, not just general product life cycle.

So how do you transport appliances like refrigerators or freezers? A good rule of thumb is that when in doubt, keep these appliances upright – like they’d be when installed in a home. 

There are issues that can arise when transporting a refrigerator on its side, namely the compressor oil seeping into the cooling lines and clogging them. This ultimately causes the unit to run too hot and eventually burn up.

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