Water Heater Rescue: Know-How, Solutions, Parts graphic
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dangerous asphyxiation hazard from water heater venting

Looks like an ordinary apartment building, doesn't it? It's not. Cleverly designed into each block of apartments is a sort of well or deck in the center (red rectangle) that holds heating/cooling equipment and a commercial water heater.

Makes sense, doesn't it? Or does it? In most situations, commercial tanks can be replaced by wheeling them out the door. This situation requires a crane.

Simple access is equally exotic. One could storm the castle with a scaling ladder -- if this were a castle.

Less romantic, but little less exciting, what is required is to climb up a ladder in a tenant's bedroom, remove a hatch in the ceiling, and hoist oneself into the attic and out a little door onto the deck (orange arrow).

Even that isn't so simple. We found some apartments where whoever had designed the hatch forgot its function and routed copper piping over the top of the hatch so that it couldn't be lifted.

We like to see easy access for inspection or service and super-easy access for replacement. In all situations, time is money.

We also know of another situation made for cranes: commercial water heaters installed on the 10th floor of a building in San Francisco. In that case, management got fed up with that situation and replaced the commercial tanks with boilers-and-storage tanks that could be brought up in pieces on the elevator.