If you’ve ever been taking a shower and enjoying the warmth of the water, and all of a sudden it turns to a frigid cold stream, you know how important it is to keep your hot water heater properly maintained. While a water heater may look like another non-threatening device in your home, if a problem is left unattended, it can pose real danger to both your home and your family. Simply because it’s a part of your home, and you no longer have to boil water on an open flame to bathe, doesn’t mean there aren’t some real risks. Here are five hot water heater safety tips we believe you need to know:
- Routinely test your temperature/pressure relief valve: This valve is designed to keep your hot water heater from exploding if the temperature or pressure goes higher than the safe limit. As the valves on a water heater are prone to failure over time, it is important that you check them at least once a year. You can do this by pulling on the handle. Water should then flow freely, however, stop when you release the handle. If the water simply drips or is not there at all, the valve needs to be replaced. The drain line running from the valve should go down and out, never up. A valve with these faults can result in a catastrophe, namely combustion followed by an explosion, which can lead to extensive damage to your home, and can also cause bodily injury to your family.
- Turn down the temperature: Water temperatures that are set too high send thousands of people to the hospital each year with burns from water in the shower, tub or even the sink. Most safety experts recommend setting the water temperature to 120°F. Sometimes finding the setting on the dial isn’t easy, as most aren’t labeled with numbers. Here’s a method you can use to set it without the help of numbers: Run the water at the tap closest to the water heater for at least three minutes. Then fill a container and check the temperature. If the water is above 120 degrees, adjust the dial, wait about three hours and check again. Repeat until you get 120-degree water. For a final test, check the temperature the following morning, before anyone uses hot water.
- Make Sure Your Water Heater is Properly Ventilated: Improperly placed vents, vents with drafts, and defunct vents can cause fumes to go inside the home rather than ventilate outdoors. While ventilation is pretty technical, you should at least make sure your water heater vents are free of dips, that they go up and out (rather than up and down), and that they are the same diameter as the tank’s diverter. Make sure all vents are properly screwed in.
- Remove Fire Hazards Near Your Water Heater: You should remove anything and everything near the water tank that is combustible. Never store anything like coats, jump ropes, garbage, or canisters of gas anywhere near your water heater. All it takes is one crack in the water heater or a leak of fumes to form a chemical reaction with these combustible materials that results in an explosive catastrophe.
- Install a Carbon Monoxide Monitor: As mentioned, improper water heater ventilation can cause fumes to leak into your home. Because of this, it is imperative that you install a carbon monoxide monitor in your home. The Consumer Product Safety Commission warns that carbon monoxide poisoning – an odorless and colorless gas – kills 200 people each year and sends another 10,000 people to the hospital. Carbon monoxide is a potential danger and should be protected against very seriously.
While this is not an all-inclusive list of precautions to take when it comes to your water heater, it is a good place to start. If you feel like your water heater needs an assessment or maintenance, make sure to call us.