If you have a furnace and water heater that are out in the open and proving to be quite the eyesore to you, you probably want to construct a utility closet. A utility closet hides and closes off the furnace and water heater so that nobody has to look at them. However, you need to be careful of which design you use for your closet and be mindful of how your HVAC contractor will deal with repairs to these major household systems once they are inside the newly constructed closet. Here are three things to consider when building your utility closet that will help you and your HVAC contractors in the future.
The Depth of the Closet
While you certainly can build a utility closet that comes within an inch or two of the surfaces of the water heater and furnace, you have to remember that people need to get into this closet to repair these systems. If the depth of the closet is so narrow that no one can step into it and reach about the water heater or furnace, then you really should consider adjusting its depth before building it. It may also be a fire hazard or safety code violation if the depth of your utility closet places the doors too close to a fire source such as a lit gas light.
The Ventilation in the Closet
If your water heater or furnace runs on heating oil, gas or propane, you do not want to enclose these systems too tightly. The doors on the utility closet should have some sort of ventilation, like a louvered door, so that the small amounts of fumes from burning fuel do not build up in the closet space and create a potentially explosive area. The majority of the fumes and exhaust should go out of your home through the household ventilation system, but small leaks here and there can really build up inside your utility closet if there is no other way for these little leaks to escape. Additionally, an unventilated utility closet can create excessive amounts of carbon dioxide, which may cause your HVAC contractor to pass out if he or she is working hard to provide repairs to your water heater or furnace.
Blocking the Closet
Although it may be very tempting to place objects on or up against the utility closet door when the door and wall(s) now create a flat appearance of a wall, do not block the door. In the event of an emergency, precious seconds are wasted on trying to move heavy objects out of the way of the utility closet, which can result in injury to your HVAC contractor and/or you. Despite its "vanilla" appearance, you should leave the utility closet wall and door bare and free of anything that can block access to the furnace or water heater.
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