Furnaces and water heaters are essential appliances in many homes, but not everyone can tuck them away in a crawl space or attic. Furnaces and water heaters have to be accessible, and they are hot, so enclosing or covering them has to be done right.
I’m going to walk you through why you need to be careful hiding furnaces and water heaters and provide you with six ways to ensure that your appliances are hidden safely.
Enclosing furnaces and water heaters is possible if clearances are maintained, airflow is ensured, and access is provided. Curtains, screens/room dividers, closets, cabinets, decor, and blinds can all be used to hide a furnace or water heater.
Tips for Concealing Furnaces and Water Heaters
As stated, furnaces and water heaters can be safely enclosed. But it can only be done if certain conditions are met, all of which can be met using the tips in this article!
Maintain Proper Clearances
Clearances are the requirements for how much space there needs to be around an appliance for it to work properly and safely.
Typically, they are decided by the appliance’s manufacturer and can be found in the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the appliance.
This is especially important for furnaces and water heaters regarding fire safety, as both appliances will reach high temperatures as they run.
Adequate space between objects or walls and the appliance will ensure that nothing nearby will catch fire in the event of heat accumulating around the appliance.
Clearances are also important for maintaining airflow around the appliance. Too many objects too close to the appliance can cause unnecessary strain on the appliance and wear it down quicker. We touch on more airflow-related factors in the next section.
Finally, accessibility is ensured when the clearance requirements are met. Appliances need to be accessible so that proper maintenance can be done to keep them running smoothly. Again, we’ll talk more about this in a moment.
Ensure Adequate Airflow
In any home, airflow should be a top priority, but it is especially important to ensure that there is good airflow around appliances that involve heating and burning.
Air needs to be constantly going into the space around a heating appliance, like a furnace or water heater, because oxygen is a key part of the chemical process of burning and ensures that the combustion by-products remain as safe as possible (CO2 as opposed to CO).
In addition, it’s important that air is also moving out of the room. This is important to prevent smoke, gas, and heat buildup, particularly in the event of overheating or fire, as well as to avoid an imbalance in the home’s airflow.
This is especially important in the case of a furnace because there needs to be return and supply air to the appliance for the air cycle to be complete.
Again, this is extremely important in the case of heat and fuel-burning appliances because, while there is always a risk of fire, without proper airflow, that risk is substantially increased.
Make it Accessible
The accessibility of a furnace, water heater, or similar appliance needs to be a top priority for a number of reasons.
For starters, putting a water heater or furnace in a location where it’s accessible allows for easier monitoring of the appliance.
It’s important to be able to easily access and take a look at the appliance every once in a while to make sure it isn’t malfunctioning somehow.
If an issue arises with your water heater or furnace, such as breaks or leakage, you will want it to have plenty of room around it for you or a professional to work on and fix the issue.
Finally, accessibility is a key factor in the fire safety of water heaters and furnaces. If a fire were to start in the area of the appliance, you would want there to be enough room for the fire to be extinguished and to be extinguished before it jumps to the surrounding furniture or materials.
Options for Hiding Furnaces and Water Heaters
1. Hang a Curtain
A curtain is a great option to conceal a water heater. For the best results, the curtain should run the entire height of the room, from the floor to the ceiling.
This option is also fairly easy, as the only physical work necessary involves measuring your water heater dimensions and ceiling height, setting up a rail, and hanging the curtain.
To keep the curtain from becoming a fire hazard, you should make sure the curtain is somehow weighed down to keep it from blowing into the appliance.
You can do this by purchasing heavy curtains (you can even get curtains that are intentionally weighted), by purchasing curtain weights and adding them to a lighter curtain, or by running a second rail at the bottom.
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Another way you can prevent fire when using a curtain is to buy curtains that are made out of a heat-resistant material.
You can find curtains that are made of fireproof materials at many major retail stores for a wide range of prices.
If it isn’t possible for you to obtain heat-resistant curtains for any reason, you should put the curtain a farther distance away from the appliance so that it can’t easily catch on fire.
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Another great thing about curtains is that you can use them to help with the aesthetic of the room the appliance is in.
For example, you can choose one that is the same color as your walls, which will help it blend into the room and further conceal the furnace or water heater.
You can also choose a curtain with a pop of color or a fun pattern to serve as an accent decor piece for the room.
Finally, a great tip for accessibility is to install the curtain either on a rod with hooks or mount a single hook into the wall so that it can be easily pulled back.
2. Set up a Screen/Room Divider
A screen or room divider is another easy way to conceal one of these appliances, as it requires minimal work or setup to start using one.
However, it’s extremely important to find one made of fire-resistant material as many are made of wood or fabric that can easily catch fire.
There are several screens and room dividers on the market that are made of flame-resistant material, and you can find them at several furniture and hardware store chains.
In addition, some of the fireproof options available can fold up or come with wheels, which are great features for accessibility.
Although flame-resistant room dividers are great for concealing these appliances, they tend to be pricier.
To combat this, you can attempt to make your own screen/room divider. The most logical way to do this is to make a frame from materials like wire or wooden pallets (treated with a fire-resistant or fire-retardant paint) and cover it in fireproof fabric.
There are many resources online with different methods for this. If you attempt to DIY a room divider, be sure to do your research to ensure it won’t be a fire hazard.
To prevent the screen/divider from falling into the appliance, you can purchase triangle-shaped brackets to fasten one side of it into the wall or stabilize the bottom of it.
If you use a bracket to attach a divider to the wall, only attach it at one end of the screen so it can still be moved to provide room for access.
As I mentioned before, accordion-style screens/dividers are great for accessibility as they can be easily folded and moved. Wheeled options can simply be wheeled away.
3. Put it in a Closet
Placing your water heater or furnace in a closet is a great way to prevent it from sticking out in a room in your home, as well as completely hide it from your view.
However, you may need to make some changes to an existing closet to make sure it’s a suitable place for your appliance.
As always, the closet will need to have plenty of airflow. This may seem like a complicated addition to make, but don’t worry, there are a couple of ways you can accomplish this.
The easiest way to provide airflow to a closet is by installing a louvered door. Keep in mind that the door should be made of fireproof material or treated with a good fire-resistant or fire-retardant paint.
Heat-resistant, louvered doors can be found at many common furniture and hardware store chains, and there are many different size options to choose from to work with any size closet.
If possible, you can add vents to the closet and create an exhaust/air inflow system. Please note that this will likely require the help of a professional and can be costly.
One great thing about doors is that they allow for the appliance to be easily accessed—if you need to get to the appliance, you can simply open the door.
Another perk of putting the appliance in a closet is that most closets can be easily provided with electric lighting through the ceiling, which would be helpful when doing maintenance or checking the appliance.
4. Build a Cabinet for the Appliance
It may come as a surprise to you that you can enclose a furnace or water heater by putting it in a cabinet, which would fully conceal it.
To build a cabinet that is suitable for these types of appliances, you will need to make modifications, additions, and features similar to those you would need to make for a closet.
Before building a cabinet for the appliance, look at the manufacturer’s instructions to find out the necessary clearances so you can construct the cabinet accordingly.
You will also need to measure the appliance itself so that you can be sure to build a cabinet that is big enough to contain it.
When it comes to keeping the appliance accessible, you will want to be sure to put some sort of door on the cabinet.
One good thing about building your own cabinet is that you have creative freedom for how you want it built.
You can choose your materials (make sure they are fireproof), as well as how tall you want the cabinet to be.
For example, the cabinet can be built floor-to-ceiling, or it can be built based on the height of the appliance, and the top of the cabinet can be used as a spot for decor.
When it comes to airflow, a fireproof louvered cabinet door will be your best bet to make sure there is plenty of air movement around the appliance.
Like closet doors, there are many different sizes of louvered doors available at many well-known hardware and furniture stores.
5. Decor Shields
If you want to conceal your furnace or water heater while also bringing in some decorative pieces for your space, you can use clever placement of decor items to hide your appliance!
Large plants, real or fake, are a lovely decor piece for this purpose, as you can find ones that are tall enough to conceal these appliances.
However, both real and fake plants can be fire hazards, so you must be extremely careful if you decide to use them for this purpose.
To prevent fire, ensure that real plants don’t grow towards the appliance. Keep fake plants far away so that they won’t fall into the appliance. You can weigh plants down by putting rocks in the pot.
Another great option is a free-standing, full-body mirror. The big thing to watch out for is the material of the frame—avoid anything that can catch fire easily.
If you are an artsy person, a non-wooden easel with a painting is a cute decoration that is large enough to cover a furnace or water heater.
Be extremely careful when using paintings as decor, though. Some kinds of paint can be extremely flammable, so if you do this you may want to stick to printed, decorative paintings.
Oversized, tall vases or jars can also work well for concealing large appliances. Just make sure if there are any things inside the vase that they aren’t flammable, like fake flowers or reeds.
For any decorative items you choose to place in front of these appliances, make sure they aren’t too close in order to prevent fire hazards and promote airflow.
In addition, make sure it can be moved for accessibility.
6. Mount Some Blinds
It may come as a surprise to you that blinds can also be installed to come down in front of a furnace or water heater. This out-of-the-box solution is extremely effective for this purpose.
Blinds should be installed around the furnace or water heater. You can hire a professional to do this, or you can do it yourself.
The supplies needed to install blinds are all fairly common household tools, such as a drill, screws, a measuring tape, etc.
Even if you choose to have someone install blinds for you, you will still need to measure the height of where the blinds are going on your own so that you know what size blinds you need to get.
When it comes to the blinds themselves, you will want to buy a more heavy-duty set of blinds that has some weight to it, as blinds that are too light will be easily blown into the appliance.
In addition, you will want heat-resistant blinds to minimize the risk of a fire starting, and there are several options you can find online made of various styles and materials.
Closed blinds will allow for plenty of airflow into the space containing the appliance, as long as they aren’t blackout blinds.
However, if it’s something you’re worried about, you can always open the blinds to let even more air into the room containing the appliance.
Finally, blinds also allow for accessibility. In the event you need to enter the space containing the appliance, all you have to do is raise them.