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My existing water heater is electric and is likely to need replacing soon. The heater is in a converted garage that I use as a guest room.

As the house is piped for gas, I'm considering the purchase of a gas water heater to replace the electric one. Is there any hazard with a modern gas water heater being used near where people are sleeping? (I'm more concerned here with fumes than the possibility of explosion.)

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You might want to take a look at tankless water heaters (aka "on-demand" or "instantaneous" heaters). I'm not sure if they're any more or less safe carbon monoxide-wise, but I hear they're great. –  Jared Harley Jul 28 '10 at 22:32
    
@Jared - Someone else mentioned that to me as well, so I'm going to research those as well. –  Will Shaver Jul 30 '10 at 15:53
    
Sure, I wouldn't mind a large container of scalding hot water surrounded by FIRE in my bedroom closet. –  spoulson Aug 4 '10 at 12:27
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3 Answers

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The amount of oxygen consumed by a hot water heater is negligible. The risk of the gas heater sucking all the oxygen out of the room is zero. Now that does not mean that it's code to have it in a bedroom, but there is no safety issue from consumption of oxygen.

The safety issue is on venting of the carbon monoxide (CO) from the hot water heater. In order to make the install safe, ensure that the new gas water heater is properly vented through the ceiling. There are lots of resources online about properly venting gas appliances. Here's a reasonable one to start with.

Obviously since a gas hot water heater requires adding a vent, it's more expensive to install. You may find that an electric water heater still makes financial sense once you consider installation costs.

As noted in the comments, be sure and get a CO detector for the room. These are relatively inexpensive and you can get them at your local hardware store or order through Amazon.

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+1 for the reason they're usually banned. There was a case in Greece (or one of the Greek islands) a couple of years ago where the children in a family died due to faulty heater and CO poisoning. –  ChrisF Jul 28 '10 at 20:58
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Your answer is good, but missing one critical thing: make sure you have a CO detector! (probably on the other side of the room from the water heater) –  gregmac Jul 29 '10 at 15:59
    
@gregmac, very good point. I added the CO detector to my answer. –  JD Long Aug 2 '10 at 14:57
    
Can you provide a source for your statement that the amount of oxygen consumed by a hot water heater is negligible? I'm not trying to be a jerk but we are talking about something that can kill people here. –  Mike Powell Aug 2 '10 at 18:50
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I know of no model code that allows a fuel burning water heater in a bedroom unless it is a direct vented type. Installing a CO detector anywhere there are fuel burning appliances is a good idea. But it is foolish to tempt fate by installing a fuel burning water heater in your bedroom, and relying only on a single electronic device to save your life. Don't risk it! –  bcworkz Jul 17 '12 at 0:30
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Pretty sure codes prevent using a gas appliance in a location where it will get it's combustion air from a bedroom. The reason for this is that if the heater is burning up all the oxygen in the room and it can't be replaced quickly enough through natural air flow through the house, you'd end up being asphyxiated in your sleep.

I think there's an exception though if you use a direct-vent model that gets it's combustion air from the outside. So you would need to make sure whatever hot water heater you buy is rated for that kind of installation.

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+1. Triple check the regulations that apply and use a certified fitter. –  ChrisF Jul 28 '10 at 20:29
    
Not too long ago several houses in the neighbourhood almost burned down because of a faulty part in one of those gas heaters. –  txwikinger Jul 28 '10 at 20:40
    
wow, two downvotes on this? anyone care to comment why? –  Eric Petroelje Jul 29 '10 at 21:19
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I'm not one of the downvotes, but looking at the first answer, maybe the disagree with the oxygen consumption logic? –  derobert Jul 29 '10 at 21:54
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CO is dangerous as it has not odor, It is best not to take risks.

You can place a gas water heater outside in a metal closet with the proper ventilation.

This is much safer. I also currently have an electric heater, but when I put in gas pipes a couple of years ago, I put one outside so one day I can set up a gas heater in a safe way.

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