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4 Safety Tips to Avoid Water Heater Emergencies

Heater Control Panel
According to the National Fire Protection Association, 10 percent of home fires between 2012 and 2016 were caused by faulty water heaters. Neglected water heaters pose hazards including home fires, explosions, and personal injury. Here are four ways to maintain your water heater and avoid disaster.

1. Flush Out Sediment

Sediment builds up inside all standard water heater tanks, especially if you live in a hard-water area. Calcium carbonate is one of the materials that settles at the bottom of tank-style heaters.
If sediment is never cleared from a water heater, the buildup can eventually lead to corrosion of the tank and/or electrical element failure. You may hear popping sounds or other strange noises coming from the water heater when sediment is thick. Your tank is at risk of developing leaks and other problems if you do nothing.
Experts recommend that you drain your water-heater tank at least once per year. Some experts recommend draining your water heater at least four times per year if your water supply comes from hard-water sources.

2. Test the Temperature-Pressure Relief Valve

Water heaters can explode, though this is extremely rare. If a water heater has weak spots or loose connections, pressure inside the water tank can cause the water heater to blow out and spew hot water everywhere.
For this reason, standard water heaters have temperature-pressure relief valves. The temperature-pressure relief valve is a fail-safe that allows water to flow out of the tank and relieve the internal pressure.
However, temperature-pressure relief valves can go bad. Excess sediment, improper installation, or corrosion can cause a relief valve to stop working. A temperature-relief valve that doesn’t work makes your water heater extremely unsafe.
Periodically check your water heater's relief valve to ensure water can flow out of the device. Be very careful when checking the temperature-relief valve so you don't get burned. Pull on the valve handle and make sure water flows when the handle is open and closes when the handle is shut.

3. Insulate Water Heaters Carefully

Wrapping your water heater in an insulated blanket is an ideal way to cut your energy costs. When less heat escapes from the tank's outer surface, the water heater doesn't have to work as hard to keep water at a desired temperature. Wrapping hot water pipes is another energy-conservation step.
However, you need to be careful when insulating your water heater and pipes. Follow these rules:
  • Never insulate the top of water heaters.
  • Don't use pipe wrap within six inches of a gas draft hood or flue exhaust.
  • Don't insulate the temperature-pressure valve, the control panel, or the drain.
  • Ensure that pilot light access and air intakes are open and free of obstructions.
Purchase a specially designed insulation kit for your water heater if you aren't sure how to insulate your water heater properly. Your plumber can advise you on the best insulation kit for your specific appliance.

4. Keep the Water Heater Space Clean

Whether your water heater is powered by electricity or gas, it could be a fire hazard. Leaking gas, sparks, and damaged electrical-element burners can all cause fires.
Don't allow any material to be placed around your water heater area. Flammable materials like paper, cardboard, and fabric will feed any small fire that develops near the appliance, so clear all items away from the sides, bottom, and top of the water heater.
Periodically clean dust and debris from the water heater and the floor around the appliance. Clear away cobwebs, dead leaves, and dead insects from the surface of the water heater and the areas directly above and around the water heater.
Hire your plumber to clean your gas or oil-fired water heater burners at least once per year. Your plumber should also inspect your flues, vents, and gas connections to ensure there are no loose parts or damage that might cause gas leaks.
If your water heater in Northeastern Ohio has been neglected, don't wait for problems to develop. Schedule a complete water-heater tune-up by contacting ABC Drain & Plumbing right away.