Water Heater Safety Issues You Should Know

Published: 16th April 2010
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These days, water heaters are more commonly used as domestic hot water sources. But according to Aris Parviz of Able Air-1, Inc., if improperly maintained or damaged, your water heater can pose serious health and safety risks. Here, he talks about some common safety issues associated with home water heaters.





Your water heater is an essential part of creating a comfortable environment for you and your family, but it can cause a number of safety hazards as well, especially if it's an older, gas-burning model. Proper ventilation, regular maintenance and homeowner awareness all play important roles in keeping your family safe from the dangers related to your water heater. The following are some most serious risks that you should know.





The Potential for Burns


It is important for you to set your water heater to the proper temperature. When the temperature is set too high, you and your family are at risk for burns in the shower or bath. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable to scalding, even at temperatures that may not seem too hot to others. To avoid the potential for burns altogether, simply lower the temperature setting. In any case, your water heater should never be turned up higher than 120 degrees as this is the highest temperature considered safe.





Sediment Buildup


Over time, sediment builds up in your water heater tank, which can interfere with the water heater's efficiency and decrease its lifespan. It can also combine with chlorine to form unhealthy chemical compounds in your water. To avoid sediment buildup, water heaters need to be drained periodically. Self-cleaning water heaters eliminate sediment concerns, but older ones should be drained and cleaned about every six months. This is something that the homeowner can normally do on his own by following the manufacturer's instructions.





Carbon Monoxide Leaks


The leading cause of accidental poisoning in the United States, carbon monoxide is a real and all-too-common danger with gas-burning water heaters. Carbon monoxide is produced when any type of fuel is burned. Usually, it is ventilated to the outside of the home. Carbon monoxide buildup occurs, however, when gas-burning appliances like water heaters are not properly ventilated.





Colorless and odorless, carbon monoxide is a normal by-product of burning any fuel, including gas, wood, oil or charcoal. When fuel-burning systems in the home are not working properly - that is, the right balance of fuel and air is not present - carbon monoxide can build up, creating a potentially deadly situation for the home's inhabitants. Even at moderate levels, carbon monoxide can make you and your family sick, with symptoms ranging from dizziness, headaches and nausea to mental confusion. If these symptoms are allowed to persist, they can be fatal. Pregnant women, infants, children and the elderly are particularly susceptible.





To prevent a carbon monoxide leak, it's important to have your water heater (and all gas-burning appliances) inspected and cleaned at least once a year. In addition to properly maintaining your fuel-burning appliances, it's also important to install a carbon monoxide detector in your home.





Natural Gas Leaks


Particularly common with older water heaters, gas leaks are a risk with any gas-burning appliance. Unlike carbon monoxide, natural gas has a rotten egg smell thanks to an additive provided by the gas company. The specific smell enables a home's inhabitants to detect a leak quickly and evacuate. When inhaled, natural gas first causes mild symptoms like headaches and dizziness, but can quickly cause much more serious health problems.





Unfortunately, an undetected gas leak is a potentially serious situation. The biggest risk associated with it is an explosion. Because natural gas is extremely flammable, the smallest spark can cause a catastrophic explosion and fire. To avoid a gas leak, keep the area around your water heater clear, have the system regularly inspected and cleaned, and replace the unit after about 10 years.





The information in the article is not intended to substitute for the medical expertise and advice of your healthcare provider. We encourage you to discuss any decisions about treatment or care with an appropriate healthcare provider.





Aris Parviz is a writer for Yodle, a business directory and online advertising company. Find an HVAC contractor or more HVAC contractor articles at Yodle Consumer Guide.






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