As mentioned in the previous post, water heaters are basically household appliances that heats water for our convenience. Heated water is normally used for showers, dish washers, and clothes washers. The truth is the availability of heated water in the tap is very convenient, whether you live in cold or warm regions. However, using water heaters, specifically gas-fired types, can be very dangerous, especially if some safety measures and maintenance are ignored. Knowing the signs for water heater safety and knowing where to look can be very helpful in preventing such situations.
Combustion Chamber Hatch – checking this regularly is highly recommended. Taking the outer hatch off is not usually a big deal, but inner hatch is usually the problem, especially if it has recently been fired as the hatch can get be quite hot. On the other hand, with new heater models, you will not find an inner hatch but a small glass window that allows you to see what’s on the other side of the chamber.
When looking inside the hatch, the one thing you need to watch out for or observe is the flame. If the flame is yellow, there is likely some problem with the air intake. Yellow flame creates lots of soot which can clog up the combustion roof and vent if left unattended for prolonged periods. This makes it very dangerous as the flames may billow out at the bottom, or worst, the carbon monoxide created by the combustion will escape from the seams of the vents. This is also true if you notice the chamber to be black and full of soot. Combustion problems, drafting problems, fume problems, and fire hazards are some of the problems caused by excessive soot in the chamber. Vacuuming the dirt underneath can help to solve this problem and prevent any worst case scenarios from happening. However, if what you see on the inside chamber is blue flame or simply the gray metal of the chamber, then you have nothing to worry about.
Pedestal – all across the U.S., one of the safety codes they implement for storage tank water heaters is that they be mounted at least 18 inches off the floor. This safety measure is made to keep low lying fumes from getting ignited. In fact, this standard has been mandated several years back. This mandate also includes electric storage tank water heater units, except on vents and combustion chambers as they are not equipped with those.
Drain Valve – if you live in an area prone to natural disasters such as tornados, hurricanes, and earthquakes, there is a high chance that during one of those instances, your waterline will be cut off. If water has been cut off for a long time, it means that the water sitting in your water heater unit is left there for days. Should the water in your area be hard water, there is a high possibility that sediments will be building up in your unit which could corrode your aluminum anode rod. This makes it very important to drain to drain the water in your tank as accidentally ingesting the water can cause serious damage to your stomach, intestines, and joints. Opening the drain valve and allowing the water to drain will help to prevent this from happening.
Anode Rod – Aluminum anode rods generate gunk that is bad for the water heater unit. The worst part would be ingesting water littered with corroded aluminum. In many cases of natural disasters, it has been know that people drink water stored in the tank of their water heaters, something that could be very bad for the stomach. Substituting your aluminum anode rod with a magnesium one will help to prevent such scenarios should you require the use of your storage tank for emergency situations.
The Dangers of Gas Water Heaters
Carbon Monoxide – this is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is caused by gas appliances or combustion engine that are not properly vented. Detecting this toxic gas can be very difficult. Continuous exposure to carbon monoxide will lead to carbon monoxide poisoning with which the person exposed to such will not even know they are being poisoned. The only thing they would notice would be lightheadedness, confusion, headache, and vertigo. This is why they often refer to carbon monoxide as a silent killer.
Fire – this occur when flammable vapors collect around the water heater unit which could ignite when unit kicks in. Combustible materials that emit vapors such as paints, cleaners, and gas cans can get ignited. Having papers, drapes, and other materials that easily catches fire will become ablaze when the vapor catches fire.
Explosion – new models of gas-fired water heaters have sealed bottoms which is why it is unlikely that gas vapors will get ablaze by the unit’s flame. On older units however, the bottom part is not sealed which can pose as a risk for explosion. Another reason why storage tank water heaters explode is due to the failure of their pressure relief valve. If this is busted or is not working properly, the pressure inside the tank will get at very high levels which may result into an explosion. Always make sure that the safety relief valve is working by checking it regularly in order to avoid such scenarios.
In order to prevent such accidents from occurring, it is important to make sure that the unit is properly vented. Try to make sure that the vents are double-walled and that the vents are using the same diameter as the vent of the unit itself. Making sure that the pressure relief valve is working properly will also help greatly. When it comes to carbon monoxide poisoning, it is best to install a carbon monoxide detector so that it will alert you should the levels become dangerous. Another important step you may want to make would be to keep the area of your water heating unit clean at all times. Make sure that there are no chemicals stored nearby as these potentially combustible and flammable materials or chemicals may get ignited resulting in a fire or explosion.