Can You Lay Down a Water Heater for Transport or Installation?

Transporting or installing a water heater can be a challenging task, especially when space is limited. Many people wonder if it’s possible to lay down a water heater during transport or installation without causing damage or affecting its performance.


While it is generally safe to lay down a water heater during transport, it is not recommended to install a vertical water heater in a horizontal position. Doing so can affect the proper operation of the unit and may lead to reduced efficiency and hot water output. However, some specially designed models allow for horizontal installation.

How Does a Water Heater Work?

An electric water heater operates based on the principle of stratification. Cold water enters the tank and is heated by a heating element. As the water is heated, it loses density, becomes lighter, and rises to the top of the tank. This hot water is then drawn from the top of the tank when a hot water tap is opened.

The main components of an electric water heater include:

  • Tank
  • Heating element
  • Thermostat
  • Dip tube (cold water inlet)
  • Hot water outlet
  • Pressure relief valve

The thermostat controls the temperature of the water, while the pressure relief valve ensures that the tank does not exceed safe pressure levels. The positioning of these components is optimized for vertical operation.

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Transporting a Water Heater Horizontally

According to plumbers and water heater experts, it is generally safe to transport a water heater laying down, as long as proper precautions are taken:

Consider The Weight

Water heaters can be heavy, and attempting to move them alone can lead to injuries or damage to the unit. The following table illustrates the weight of water heaters based on their size:

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

To safely move a water heater, use a dolly that can handle the weight of your specific unit.

Other precautions include:

  • Place the heater on a flat surface, using lumber if necessary to create an even base
  • Secure the unit with ratchet straps, placing them 2 inches from the top and bottom of the box
  • If the heater is used and not in its original packaging, drain the water, secure the controls facing upward, and protect the unit from dents and scratches using blankets or a transport frame made from scrap wood

Installing a Vertical Water Heater Horizontally

While it may be tempting to install a vertical water heater horizontally to save space, it is not advisable. Vertical water heaters are designed to operate based on the principle of stratification, where cold water loses density when heated, becomes lighter, and rises to the top of the tank.

Installing a vertical heater horizontally can lead to several issues:

  • The hot water pipe will be in the center of the tank instead of at the top, making it difficult for hot water to rise and be used effectively
  • Only half of the hot water in the tank may be usable
  • Air pockets may form, reducing the amount of available hot water
  • Internal components may not function properly in a horizontal position

Choosing the Right Water Heater

If you need a water heater that can be installed horizontally, look for models specifically designed for this purpose. These units have internal parts and piping positioned to ensure proper operation regardless of orientation. Always consult with your dealer or plumber to ensure the water heater you choose is suitable for your installation needs.


While it is safe to lay down a water heater during transport when proper precautions are taken, installing a vertical water heater horizontally is not recommended. Doing so can negatively impact the unit’s performance and efficiency. If a horizontal installation is necessary, choose a model specifically designed for this purpose and seek expert advice from a dealer or plumber to ensure the best results.