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What are Water Heater Straps?

By Sherry Holetzky
Updated May 17, 2024
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Water heater straps are made to hold a water heater in place, preventing as much movement as possible during emergency situations such as earthquakes. In California, for example, water heater straps are required by law. Every unit must be effectively secured with water heater straps in the manner prescribed by law before any commercial or residential property can be sold or purchased. The favored type of water heater straps are those that can be wrapped around the unit completely, because they provide greater immobility.

In earthquake prone areas where water heater straps are mandatory, at least two straps are required for each unit. One must be placed approximately twelve inches (30.4 cm) from the top of the unit while the other should be placed about eighteen inches (45.7 cm) from the bottom. If there is space between the unit and the wall to which it is to be secured, "back spacers" may be required to fill in the gap before installing water heater straps. Planks of wood are sometimes used as back spacers.

If your home was built before 1990, check to see when your water heater was installed or if it was replaced before 1990. Those installed before the laws went into effect may not be secured with water heater straps. Even though no one is likely to drop by to check your water heater if you aren't selling your home, you should install water heater straps to help keep your home and family safe in the event of an emergency.

While you're at it, check to make sure the water heater has flexible gas and water lines as well, since these are also legally required and imperative to safety during an earthquake. Non-flexible lines can break easily with only the slightest movement of the water heater. You should also turn gas off at the main cut off in the event of an emergency. If you're not sure what kind of parts and equipment you need, consider purchasing a restraint kit that includes water heater straps, clamps, and other necessary hardware for installation. Instructions are included and installation is fairly straightforward, so it should be do-able for most homeowners.

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Discussion Comments
By Drentel — On Sep 05, 2014

@Laotionne - I think all electric water heaters and gas water heaters are required to be secured in some way in earthquake zones. I don't know the actual laws, but both types of heaters hold water that could be released during an earthquake.

However, I am thinking that the tankless water heaters would not need straps. As the name indicates, these heaters don't have water holding tanks, so you don't have to worry. Of course, if you don't live in an earthquake zone and your home water heater is well installed you should be fine without any straps.

By Laotionne — On Sep 04, 2014

Do all water heaters need the water heater straps? I have an electric water heater in my apartment and it doesn't have a strap. After reading this article, I was a little concerned, but I'm thinking that electric heaters probably don't really need the straps. After all, they are not as dangerous because there is no gas to explode or gas fumes to overpower you.

By Feryll — On Sep 03, 2014

I have always lived in areas where we didn't worry about earthquakes. Those only happened in places far away. However, recently there have been more earthquakes in areas where they hadn't been felt over the last several decades.

I don't know of any people around here who has earthquake straps on their home water heaters, which is too bad. If a gas water heater were to break loose and the gas released you would have a situation that could get really dangerous, especially since an earthquake might lead to power outages. And what's one of the first things we start looking for when the power goes out?

If the power goes off and you strike a match to light a candle after a quake, and you have gas from the water heater in the air, you know what's going to happen.

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