A water heater drain pan is one of those things rarely mentioned until you already have a leak and it’s too late. A properly installed drain pan that’s connected to a drain pipe will catch water heater leaks no matter the severity. It’s cheap insurance to prevent water damage to your floor, walls, or worse.
While simply putting a pan under your water heater will collect water from slow leaks, even the best water heater drain pan won’t hold 50 gallons of water so it’s important to run a short pipe from the drain fitting to a drain.
For such a simple product, you may be surprised to find so many different models on the market. Here are 2 of our favorite drip pans. Both are excellent choices for your water heater, with sturdy, durable construction, and a large capacity.
Water Heater Drain Pan Reviews
Top Pick: Camco 20922 Water Heater Drain Pan
Camco’s 20922 drain pan is a good option for both gas and electric water heaters. With a base of 24 square inches, top measuring 25.25 square inches, and a depth of four inches, this pan can hold a large volume of water in the event of a sudden leak.
The steel core is plated in zinc to provide additional durability and help prevent rust. Finally, a PVC drain fitting is included that is compatible with both one and one point five inch drain pipes.
Those who have bought this pan love the added depth. Consumers have also noted that its overall size and squared shape make it excellent for use with other appliances, such as washers. Also available is 30″ x 30″ x 6″ version for larger water heaters.
Most complaints about this pan are related to measurements. As noted above, this pan has a top measurement of 25.25 inches even though it’s classified as a 24″ x 24″ x 4″ pan. This top measurement was often left out, which led buyers to believe the pan had straight sides. When purchasing this pan, be sure to account for the flared sides.
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Runner-Up: Eastman 60086 Water Heater Pan
Made of durable aluminum, this drain pan is perfect for gas water heaters. It measures 24 inches on the outside and 22 inches on the inside. The water heater pan comes with drain fittings to make installation quick and easy.
The low cost and above-average quality make this pan perfect for many consumers. In some cases, the flexibility have allowed buyers to install the pan in tight spaces, bending it back into its original shape afterwards.
Many customers have received damaged pans as a result of poor shipping quality. While easily repaired, this is an issue to watch out for if you have yours shipped. A few others have complained that the aluminum is less rigid than they would like.
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Comparing Pan Materials
You can purchase drain pans in a few different materials, although it mainly boils down to plastic versus metal. Plastic pans tend to be cheaply made and are vulnerable to sudden temperature changes or other environmental factors. They can quickly become brittle and crack, making them only useful in an emergency.
Metal pans are most often made of steel or aluminum. Steel pans are the strongest, but also tend to be the most expensive. Conversely, aluminum has a lower cost without losing much durability, making them an excellent choice for most heaters. When it comes to the price of aluminum vs plastic, the lifespan of aluminum make it a clear winner.
Choosing the Right Size
There are no hard-and-fast rules for sizing your drain pan. As far as water heater drain pan sizes are concerned, it’s a simple matter of measuring the space and choosing a pan with the appropriate dimensions. It’s best to choose a pan that gives some extra space. An extra two inches of diameter is generally a safe choice. So if your water heater tank has a 22″ diameter, a 24″ drain pain would suffice.
Deeper pans (4″ +) will contain a larger leak than a lower profile drain pan but keep in mind that drain pans are meant to only contain a small, slow leak. Pans that are connected to a drain pipe (they all should be) will theoretically allow the entire tank contents to drain but for a large leak or tank rupture, no drain pan will help and you’ll likely be dealing with some water damage cleanup. Thankfully the majority of leaks are the slow type.
A Note About Automatic Shut Off Valves
Even if you have installed an automatic shut off valve on your water heater, you will still need a drain pan. An automatic shut off valve works by using a sensor to detect a leak which in turn shuts off the flow of incoming water. It’s great that you won’t have an unlimited amount of water leaking out of your water heater but the valve won’t prevent the water that’s already in the tank from leaking out.
How to Install a Water Heater Drain Pan
Installing a drain pan for water heaters in newer homes is fairly easy, as the heater may be elevated. Older homes require more effort, and it is best to have two people present to move the heater. Once you are ready, you will need to do the following:
- Shut off and disconnect the water lines connected to your heater.
- Disconnect any service lines, and shut off the main power if you have an electric heater.
- Open the T&P valve and completely drain the water heater.
- With assistance, lift the empty water heater and slide the pan underneath. Note that many pans have a discharge hole which should be pointed in the direction you wish drainage to flow.
- Once the heater is back in place, reconnect the water lines.
- Close the T&P and drain valve
- Test all connections for leakage using a paper towel.
- Reconnect the supply lines. If you have gas power, add a little soapy water to the connections to test for leaks.
- Light the burner and turn the power back on.
- Connect some PVC pipe to the drain pan to direct any water that leak out.