Water Heater Codes By State: Everything You Need to Know8 min read

I think we can all agree that water heaters are essential! Bringing us hot water at the flip of a switch, I can’t imagine living without one. But there are rules and regulations around installing a new water heater, and these vary from state to state.

All water heaters are governed by the IRC (or International Residential Code). In some states, homeowners are subject to additional regulations depending on the conditions that the state experiences. For example, if you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes or floods, there may be different rules. On top of that, some cities also have their own codes.

If you’ve recently moved state or you’ve never installed a water heater before, you need to know this info. Let’s check out all the water heater codes, state by state, so you don’t miss anything.

I take information accuracy seriously therefore everything you’re about to read has been expert reviewed by Mark Longhurst, a professional plumber with over 15 years experience.

Water Heater Codes State by State

As we mentioned, water heater codes vary from state to state. Some smaller states don’t have their own codes, but many do. Even if your state doesn’t have codes, they usually do have something based on national or city code, to do with the installation, operation and maintenance of your water heater.

We’ve broken down the water heater codes for you in almost every state below. We’ve included the IRC code (international residential code), which applies if your state doesn’t have codes.

I always tell my clients that if they’re having any worries or doubts about the installation of their new water heater, it’s way better to ask for help from a professional, registered, licensed contractor. They’ll know the state and city codes by heart, and you won’t have to worry about missing anything.

Mark Longhurst

IRC Water Heater Code

The full code can be found here. I know it’s a lot to process. In a nutshell, here are the guidelines:

  • There must be a drain valve for emptying the heater, and it should be of a standard size
  • There needs to be a water pan around the hot water heater to catch leakage
  • Water heaters need to be installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions
  • You need to follow flood regulations for the area
  • In townhomes, all hot water heaters are subject to seismic straps (even if you don’t live in an area that is prone to earthquakes)
  • The water heater must be insulated properly
  • You need to pay attention to specific location regulations based on the type of water heater you have

There’s also the UPC (Uniform Plumbing Code) which is similar, and the IPC (International Plumbing Code). Different states follow different guidelines, but they are broadly similar to the IRC.

Okay. Now that we’ve gone through that, I’ll give you a quick rundown of the differences between each state. Having moved across states several times in my life, there are definitely some local considerations you need to think about.

Water Heater Codes By State

So, just before we start, if you don’t see your state below, it’s likely that the standard IRC code applies. You can double-check with a professional before you install your water heater.

Alaska

As the final frontier state with a widely different climate than the rest of the US, you shouldn’t be surprised to discover that Alaska has its own unique plumbing code. You can find it here.

Arizona

Arizona is governed by the IPC codes except, confusingly, for those homeowners who live in Phoenix. Phoenix has its own set of codes that govern the size of water heater you can install in your home based on the number of fixtures it serves.

While the rest of the code is mostly the same, this can be a huge factor for those wishing to upgrade their water heater or add an additional bathroom to their home. You can find the full code here.

Arkansas

Arkansas has its own unique plumbing code which goes into depth on water heaters as well as the type of fixtures you have connected to your water heater. This is one I’d definitely recommend triple-checking before you get started. Take a look at the code for yourself here. 

California

In the state of California, your water heater size is governed by the number of bathrooms in your home. Those with more bathrooms will need a larger water heater. 

You also need a permit to install water heaters, meaning you may not be able to DIY a replacement (which is annoying for us DIY addicts!). 

Not to mention it will need earthquake straps, for obvious reasons (fascinating fact: the state of California has approximately 500 earthquakes per year!). Find the full code here.

It is also worth noting that California, Los Angeles, and San Francisco are also governed by their own water heater regulations, too.

Colorado

Those living in Colorado are subject to more stringent restrictions when it comes to the placement of a water heater. If you want to install a water heater in your garage, or attic, it is subject to more regulations than just those outlined in the IPC. Find the full code here

In Colorado, those living in the city of Denver will also be subject to additional water heater regulations, so make sure you follow them closely.

Delaware

Delaware, despite its small size, also has its own plumbing code. This code specifically addresses water heater restrictions when using potable versus non potable water. Find the full code information here.

District of Columbia

I know this is probably a surprise to see this here. Although it isn’t a state, the District of Columbia is a large metropolitan city and as a result, it has its own unique water codes. You can find them here.

Florida

Florida has some very specific requirements when it comes to the pressure relief valve and the type of pan which is to be installed beneath the water heater, thanks to the geography of the area. If you live in Florida and want to install a water heater, read the full code before you begin here.

Georgia

Georgia has specified in their plumbing code how high the rating of a water heater needs to be. You can find the full code here before you get started with installation.

Hawaii

Unsurprisingly, Hawaii also has its own code which governs water heaters. Because this state is located so far from all the others, this makes sense! If you’re lucky enough to live in beautiful Hawaii, you can find the code here.

Illinois

Generally, Illinois adopts the IPC without amendments, however, large cities and counties like Chicago, and DuPont do have their own code to consider so I’d recommend you double-check for codes governing your area before you get going.

Iowa

Iowa is unique because its code includes information about oil-powered water heaters. These are uncommon water heaters and therefore aren’t usually described in the IPC. You can find more information about the Iowa water codes at this link.

Louisiana

As a state that has some cities below sea level with levies in place, Louisiana has some further specifications beyond the IPC, which definitely need to be followed. You can take a look at them at this link.

Maine

Maine has made a few amendments to the IPC in their local code. While they likely won’t affect you because they are so specific it’s a good idea to take a look before you start the installation. The full code is available here.

Maryland

Maryland has specific requirements when it comes to protecting your water heater from explosions. These high-pressure regulations are important, especially when you live in a crowded area. Check them out here before you get started.

Michigan

Michigan also has its own plumbing codes, with even more specific codes for the city of Detroit. You can find all the code information for your water heater here.

Minnesota

Minnesota is unique because while they do have its own plumbing code, it’s basically an amendment of the IPC codes with sections removed. Thus making certain types of water heaters legal in Minnesota that wouldn’t be legal elsewhere, which is an interesting twist! Find the code here.

Montana

Montana has their own plumbing code which has changes to the section about how water heaters should be installed and maintained. You can find the full code here.

Nevada

Nevada is unique in that most of the state’s population lives in a single metropolitan area (Clark County) which is not the state capital. As such, the state has unique plumbing codes for this area which are different than the rest of the state. They can be found here.

New Hampshire

New Hampshire, for the most part, adopts the IPC, however, they remove certain sections from their code. This means New Hampshire water heater codes are more lenient than in other states, making your job a little easier. Find them here.

New Jersey

New Jersey is unique in that it doesn’t adopt the IPC codes at all. Rather it has its own full plumbing code which can be found here.

New York

In New York, earthquake straps are also required just in case. Additionally, this state requires that your hot water heater has an anti-siphon device and outlines specifications when it comes to the types of valves on your water heater and where they are located. You can find the full code here.  

North Carolina

North Carolina adopts the IPC code with a few amendments which can be found here.

North Dakota

North Dakota adopts the UPC plumbing codes and adds their own amendments. You can find the full code here.

Ohio

Ohio generally adopts the IPC but they do have a few of their own amendments which can be found here.

Oklahoma

Oklahoma, like Ohio, adopts the IPC but has a few additional amendments to the code. They can be found here.

Puerto Rico

Many people forget that Puerto Rico is a US territory and technically a state! Because they are an island like Hawaii, they also have their own codes for water heaters though they generally adopt the IPC code. Find the full code here.

Rhode Island

Another small state, Rhode Island adopts the IPC code with amendments. You can find them here.

South Carolina

South Carolina, like many of the other states on this list, adopts the IPC codes with amendments. The code can be found here.

Texas

In Texas, there are limits to the size of a hot water heater depending on its volume. They also must be installed in an area with easy access. Texas additionally requires all hot water heaters to be installed with seismic supports for obvious reasons. You can find more information by reading the code yourself here

Utah

Utah has adopted the IPC but has made a few amendments. You can find them here.

Vermont

Vermont generally adopts the IPC, but they do make a few of their own amendments. You can find them here.

Virginia

Virginia has adopted the IPC codes, but they have made a few amendments which you can find at this link.

Washington

Washington, nestled in the Pacific Northwest has adopted the UPC plumbing codes which they have made some amendments to. You can find them here.

West Virginia

Not to be outdone by its neighbor of the same name, West Virginia has adopted the IPC codes but has also made their own amendments which can be found here.

All Other States

Don’t see your state on this list? That means they use the international IPC code or the UPC code without any amendments. Therefore if your water heater meets these requirements, you are good to go!

How to Understand State Water Heater Codes

Water heater codes are a specific set of regulations that govern the installation, operation, and maintenance of a water heater. While every home has one, water heaters can be dangerous, which is why these codes are so important.

These codes vary from state to state, and (annoyingly) even city to city. There’s a good reason for this though: for example, in California, you need earthquake straps installed around water heaters. But this won’t be an issue in North Carolina, where earthquakes are less common but freezing is a real problem.

I know it’s a headache, but these codes are there for your safety. Water heaters contain a heating element, and contain tens of gallons of water which could flood your home and cause a heck of a lot of damage.

Installation and Inspection of Water Heaters

Just as the types of water heaters allowed to be installed vary from state to state, so do the installation and inspections guidelines. At a minimum, per the IRC code, all water heaters must be in an area which is easily accessible. I’d recommend seriously thinking about installing your water heater in a place that you can get to, because then you can run routine maintenance on it and generally make sure there are no leaks, etc.

Some states may require your water heater to be inspected regularly, but most have no such requirement. It is recommended, however, to have your water heater inspected each year to check on the condition of your water heater and to catch problems before they become serious. 

Maintenance and Repair of Water Heaters

Most state and city codes don’t specify maintenance or specific repairs required for your water heater. It is expected that you will correct any issues as soon as possible because, of course, having a faulty water heater is going to be a huge problem for you and your family.

The only exception to this is when your water heater overheats. Overheating is governed by the IRC codes which state that if your hot water is over 215°F (99°C) this could cause a dangerous (and possibly deadly) situation.

What do I recommend you do in this situation? You need to switch it off, right away, and repair it before you can use it again.

Upgrading Your Water Heater

I know a lot of homeowners who look to upgrade their water heater for a few reasons: because they’ve just moved into a new home, or because their old one just isn’t as efficient as it could be. When we moved into our house (which is an older home), we had to replace our water heater for something that worked better and cut down our energy bills, especially because it started running constantly.

But I know it’s a big job! There’s a lot to think about. Before you upgrade your water heater it’s important to take a look at IRC, state, and city codes for where you live. While there is no water heater size restriction in the IRC codes, a larger water heater may violate other restrictions like where you are supposed to install the hot water heater and the size of pan you need beneath it: these little things are easy to miss if you don’t do this sort of stuff a lot.

I know I’ve said this before, but even if you plan to DIY your hot water heater upgrade, it’s important to contact a professional before you do. They can let you know the local restrictions you are facing as well as any additional information you need to know about upgrading your hot water heater. We’re good at decoding these rules, so you won’t get into trouble or miss anything super important.

Water Heater Codes State by State: Key Takeaways

I hope this has helped you to figure out the code for your state!

Here are the key things to remember:

  • The full IRC (which can be found here) needs to be followed
  • However, some states have a slightly amended code, or even a different set of rules
  • Some states require extra protections like seismic straps in areas prone to earthquakes
  • Densely populated cities may also require a different set of rules around water pressure
  • A qualified professional plumber can really help you to figure out what you need to do
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Hi, I'm Ed, and I run BuildFanatic! I enjoy providing the best possible information on a range of home improvement topics.

Mark Longhurst
Plumber at http://www.pipesmart.com.au/ | Website | + posts

Mark Longhurst is a professional plumber with over 15 years of experience, owns Pipesmart, and is our resident expert in all things plumbing.

Mark helps review plumbing-related articles for BuildFanatic to ensure we're providing our readers with the most accurate and updated advice.

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