Water heater safety tips: Common problems and how to avoid them

Hot water heaters are potential disasters waiting to happen. By following these simple steps the risks can be greatly reduced.

Hot and cold running water on demand is often considered one of the great benefits of modern society. For ages clean water was difficult to find, sometimes impossible, and heating it was a chore that made bathing and washing something to be done on a seasonal basis. Between modern plumbing and your hot water heater, those attitudes are a thing of the past.

This does not mean that hot water heaters do not have their drawbacks. Improperly maintained they can become a source of waste in the household, both in terms of energy expended but not used, and monetary hardship to pay for that energy. Worse than that, an improperly set hot water heater can become a burn hazard for children and a poorly maintained one can actually explode.

General Tips For Antique Plumbing Fixtures 150x150 Water heater safety tips: Common problems and how to avoid them

Water heater safety tips: Common problems and how to avoid them

Make sure your hot water heater is properly insulated: a lack of sufficient insulation will simply mean that energy is leaking from the hot water heater into the area around it – radiation heat transfer. The less insulation there is around the hot water heater, the faster this happens. The faster the hot water heater losses heat, the more energy it will have to expend to keep your hot water at the set point of the heater. And energy lost from the hot water heater is energy you have to pay for, that you’re not seeing any direct benefit from.

Similarly, it is prudent to keep the hot water heater set at about 120°F (or about 50°C). This will minimize the heat being wasted from the hot water heater to the environment, and will also prevent scalding from the hot water tap. This is especially a hazard for young children who often don’t understand about hot water heaters, and how they work and affect water temperature from the tap.

Finally there are two valves on the hot water heater itself that every home owner should know: the blow down valve and the safety relief valve. The safety relief valve is a pressure relief valve, usually at the top of the heater which will lift if the pressure in the hot water starts to get so high it poses a danger for the heater’s ability to hold together. It is also set so that if the hot water heater starts approaching boiling temperature it will lift. Once a year, the home owner should check to make sure that this valve can open and pass water/steam.

The blow down valve is located at the bottom of the water heater and serves as a way to remove any debris that may have built up in the heater during the year. Like the relief valve the blow down valve should be operated once a year. Some models of hot water heater will have just one combined relief/blow down valve. When opening this valve, unlike the relief valve above, you don’t want to simply make sure it can pass fluid you’re trying to have the heater spill out water and any debris that has built up in the bottom of the heater tank. This is usually lime flakes, and dust and rust. There are two main reasons for you to want to get this out of the heater: the debris can act as a reservoir of corrosive chemicals if left too long; and the debris is also a measure of how caked up the heating elements of the water heater are, and caked up heating elements are not very efficient.

Additionally make sure that the area around the hot water heater is kept clean and free of debris. Especially keep anything flammable away from the heater. Since you know the hot water heater is a heat source, why take the risk of having it ignite something else.

Two last precautions: When leaving for long trips reset the water heater to the lowest setting, this will both save energy, and reduce the chance of the heater over heating and causing an accident while you’re away. Also read the maintenance schedule listed in your hot water heater’s owner’s manual and follow it.

Subscribe Scroll to Top