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I have an outside shower to put in. Have limited space! If I put the heat elements down ,will it work? I know this is not done ,and recovery will be slow with the water mix at the same level. But why not??
I can build anything You want , if you draw a picture of it , on the back of a big enough check .
You already gave the answer to your own question. You know it's not right, and you know the recovery will be slow, so don't do it. How the heck would you change an element if they are under the water heater? It's a bad idea.
You'll find that a 12 gallon electric water heater is about the same height as it's diameter so I really don't know why you don't want to install it upright. Also, you really want the T&P valve port in the proper location for reasons I'm sure you know about. Please install it as the manufacture intended and save yourself on troubles later. If the 12 just won't fit, how about a 10 gallon?
A water heater is meant to stand up, it is built to stand up, if you lay it on the side, I bet you will have problems with the stability of the water heater on it's side, I am sure they are built strong on the bottom then on the sides.