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Transport Water Heater Laying Down | Is It Really Safe? +Tips

According to water heater distributers, you might as well take a baseball bat to your water heater if you are going to transport it laying down.

In fact, the only way to get your water heater home would be to make use of their delivery services—which often come at an additional cost.

Suspicious, don’t you think?

As it turns out, this is most likely a money-making strategy, although there are some guidelines to follow to guarantee your new water heater will arrive at the destination in perfect condition when laying down.

Water heaters can be safely transported horizontally or laying down on their side. There are simple guidelines to follow to ensure there will be no damage. Salespeople spread the myth that water heaters can’t be transported lying down to boost delivery commissions.

Key Things To Know

  • Distributors push costly delivery services, falsely claiming risks during horizontal water heater transport.
  • Plumbers endorse safe horizontal transport, emphasizing proper securing and road condition awareness.
  • No instances have been documented where a water heater suffered damage due to transportation in a horizontal position.
  • Transport new water heaters with a dolly, flat surface, ratchet straps, and check box markings for correct orientation.
  • For used water heaters, drain water, secure controls upward, use a transport frame with scrap wood, and protect against dents and scratches with blankets.
  • Extra precautions are essential for safely transporting used water heaters without original packaging.

Why Some Say to Only Transport Water Heaters Upright

There is so much false information about bending anode rods or dip tubes, shattering glass lining, or some other mythical problem that could occur when transporting water heaters laying down.

As I have already indicated, most of the false information actually comes from salespeople trying to force water heater delivery on people. It’s a common sales technique, but that does not make it right.

Open service van with a water heater on a pulley in front of a warehouse

Salespeople say the water heater must be transported upright because they know a large water heater will not fit standing up in typical cars. People who believe the salespeople tell the same story to their friends, and this is how the wrong information is spread.

It is very easy to fall into this particular trap. After all, you have just spent a lot of your hard-earned money on a water heater, the last thing you want is for it to be damaged before it’s ever used.

The salesperson probably also scared you by telling you that if you transport it on its side and it is damaged, the warranty will be void.

In the end, most people, whether they genuinely believe what they are told or they are simply not willing to take the chance, pay for the transport.

I hope that reading this article prevents you from being swindled in the same way!

What Do Plumbers Say?

The truth is if you drive reasonably (you don’t even have to be excessively careful) there is absolutely no risk of your water heater being damaged if you place it on its side.

It is also worthwhile checking your intended route beforehand to note any road imperfections that would lead to major bouncing or jostling of the water heater.

I have spoken to many plumbers and they all transport them horizontally.

In fact, plumbers think it is safer to transport the water heater laying down since there is no risk of it tipping over. A 60″ water heater tipping over will definitely damage something!

Water heater on the back of a pickup truck

Keep reading to find out how to transport water heaters safely; the same way 90% of the plumbers do it every single day across the country.

How To Transport a New Water Heater Laying Down

Unless you bought a floor model, the new water heater most likely comes in a cardboard box.

The following tips assume the water heater is still in its packaging.

Consider The Weight

You know how it goes – appliances often end up with battle scars from their journey when we humans try to play superheroes and move them around alone.

Especially when we’re dealing with stuff that’s just too heavy or awkward to handle. It’s like a recipe for dents and dings! Not to mention hurting yourself.

Here is a table illustrating how heavy water heaters really are. Those weights are for gas water heaters but the weights are quite similar for electric waters as well.

Size (gal)Empty Weight (lbs)Full Weight (lbs)Empty Weight (kg)Full Weight (kg)

I would recommend using a dolly to move the water heater so that you don’t hurt yourself.

There are so many ways you can use a dolly so don’t be afraid that you will buy it only for moving the water heater.

Personally. I have used mine to –

  • Move fridges
  • Move washing machines
  • Carry firewood into the house
  • Move water heaters
  • Move akward furniture
  • etc.

Whatever dolly you get, make sure it can handle the weight of your water heater. If you are unsure where to start, you can check out these two:

Magna Cart Personal 150 Pound Capacity Aluminum Folding Hand Truck with Telescopic Handle and Foldable Wheels for Industrial, Black and Red
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  • Ruggedly designed cart features a robust 15-inch wide aluminum base, providing exceptional durability and the ability to carry loads of up to 150 pounds effortlessly
  • Product boasts a quiet operation thanks to its 5-inch ball-bearing rubber wheels that glide silently and smoothly on a wide range of surfaces; Components ensure minimal noise
  • Handle of this product can be extended to a maximum height of 39 inches, providing additional reach; Features a soft grip for comfortable and secure handling
Harper Trucks Heavy Duty Nylon Frame Convertible Hand Truck Dolly Cart with Adjustable Telescopic Frame and Pneumatic Wheels, Black
  • Allow Harper Trucks Hand Truck and Dolly to provide aid on transporting your cargo; Features large, 8-inch pneumatic dolly cart wheels with 3-inch heavy-duty swivel casters to handle any load
  • Lightweight hand dolly holds up to 300 pounds and transforms into a 4-wheel hand cart that holds up to 400 pounds of cargo, letting you carry larger and heavier boxes with ease
  • Glass-filled nylon frame weighs less than steel while retaining strength and has an adjustable telescopic aluminum handle that can be changed into 1 of 3 positions to fit your transportation style
  • Built-in stair glides allow effortlessly moves up and down stairs or curves, letting you go wherever you need whether it be carrying cargo from upstairs or downstairs

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Load The Water Heater On a Flat Spot

Most likely you are trying to transport the water heater in a trunk of an SUV/car.

For larger water heaters it might be necessary to fold down the back seats to make the water heater fit into the car.

The seats on most SUVs don’t fold completely flat (if yours do, then you don’t have to employ the following steps). By placing the water heater on an uneven surface you risk damaging the controls, outer shell, or insulation.

However, there is an easy solution to this problem, which will give you a nice flat base for the water heater!

  1. Fold down the seats.
  2. Place two pieces of straight lumber across.
  3. Add pieces of scrap wood underneath these boards to support them.
  4. Load the water heater on top of the boards.

Below is a table for common water heater sizes including the packaging. This can give you an idea of if it will fit in your car.

Tank SizeTank HeightTank Width
20 Gal.33-1/2″19″
30 gal. Short30 “21-3/4″
30 Gal. Tall49-1/2″21″
50 Gal. Short34″28-1/4″
50 Gal. Tall60-7/8″22-1/4″
Water heater dimensions with packaging

So, go ahead grab a measuring tape and see if the water heater will fit in your car laying down.

If it can’t, then you can probably spring for the delivery fee, but this time, the cost will be for a legitimate reason.

Fasten The Water Heater With Ratchet Straps

Whenever transporting something in a vehicle, it is essential to securely fasten it to the car. This is not just for the item’s protection, but also to ensure the safety of the people in the vehicle.

Most modern cars have hooks on the bottom of the trunk for just that reason.

However, the hooks on passenger cars are quite small, so make sure you get ratchet straps with small hooks.

Rhino USA Ratchet Tie Down Straps (4PK) - 1,823lb Guaranteed Max Break Strength, Includes (4) Premium 1" x 15' Rachet Tie Downs with Padded Handles. Best for Moving, Securing Cargo (Red 4-Pack)
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Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The above-pictured ratchet strap (or something similar) is ideal for fastening loads in a trunk. But, they are less suitable for fastening heavy loads on trailers.

The open-top nature of trailers means that there are more external forces acting on the heavy item during transport.

This is something to bear in mind if you have access to a trailer for transporting the water heater.

Where To Place The Straps?

Most water heaters have polystyrene packaging on the bottom and top of the box.

One strap should be placed 2 inches from the bottom of the box and the other 2 inches from the top.

This ensures that both straps are compressing the polystyrene, not the empty cardboard box, which could buckle and result in the strap coming loose during transport.

Which Side Up?

When you lay a water heater down, you are presented with three orientation options: back down, front down, or side down.

Well, deliberate no longer! If it makes a difference which side should be up it will be marked on the box.

Furthermore, in most cases, it does not matter, since the polystyrene packaging is larger than the controls, so the controls will not be crushed even if they are facing down.

Transporting A Used Water Heater Laying Down

Sometimes it might be necessary to move a used water heater, i.e., one that is not in its original packaging, to a new location.

Some people are overwhelmed by the idea of transporting their water heater to another location because they think they will have to pay for professional help; an expense that will have to be added to the normal costs of moving.

Old man wondering and a big water heater behind him beside an electric breaker

As we have already established, you don’t actually need professional delivery; laying it down should not cause any problems.

However, if it is still in good working order, steps should be taken to transport it carefully so that it remains in that condition.

The big difference in transporting a used water heater is that there is no packaging to protect the water heater.

While this means that the transport approach will be different, it is still perfectly safe to transport it horizontally/laying down.

Drain the Water Heater

Before you lay the water heater down, you will need to drain the water from it as laying it on its side while it is still filled with water can cause damage.

I have written an article on replacing water heater gas valves, which includes a detailed description of how to empty your water heater, but these are 5 basic steps to this process:

  1. Turn off the water supply.
  2. Turn off the water heater.
  3. Attach a hose to the drain valve.
  4. Turn on the hot water tap.
  5. Open the drain valve.

Position The Controls Up

In this case, the controls are not protected by polystyrene packaging, so you should lay the water heating so that the controls face up.

Since water heaters are round, it is impossible to lay them on the side and keep them in the correct position without any side support.

If the sides are not supported then the water heater could roll onto the controls. This could mean your trip will end in a dump since it is rarely worth it to replace the controls on an old water heater.

Once again, there is an easy solution, and once again, all you need is a couple of pieces of scrap wood.

Here’s what you do:

  • Place two 20″ 1 x 4’s on the floor
  • Screw a 4″ piece of 2 x 4 to one end
  • Lay the water heater on top
  • Screw another 4″ piece of 2 x 4 to the other end.

Here’s a picture of what I mean:

Water heater tank on top of wood planks with straps on for transportation purposes illustration

If you place a water heater on top of this frame and strap it, there is no way it can roll, and damage the controls or connections.

Protect the Water Heater From Dents and Scratches

The easy-rigged transport frame I have described will also help to protect the water heater from being dented on the journey.

You need to be careful not to dent the water heater as this will significantly increase the energy consumption of the unit because it interferes with the insulation.

Furthermore, it is a good idea to use moving blankets to protect the water heater from scratches.

Scratches might not necessarily interfere with the function of the water heater unless it removes any weatherproofing that may be on the exterior surface. In this case, scratches could lead to corrosion.

The blanket below would be perfect, and you can reuse it anytime you need to transport something.

WEN 272406 72-Inch by 40-Inch Heavy Duty Padded Moving Blankets, Pack of 6
  • Includes six 72-inch by 40-inch movers blankets
  • Internal padding prevents damage to both your surfaces and your furniture
  • Polyester double stitched material provides extra strength and flexibility during transport
  • Perfect for moving furniture, appliances, and more

Last update on 2024-05-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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