This Old House warns that each year several families fall prey to leaking or exploding water heaters. This water heater catastrophe could threaten homeowners with the risk of a violent explosion, exposure to deadly chemicals and skin scalding burns. Families can minimize these risks by keeping their aging water heaters in good repair or upgrading to a new appliance. Regardless, consumers can take steps in increase household safety by taking a hard look at their water heater.
Ensure proper temperatures
Water heaters must be carefully sized to fit the size and heating needs of a household. Homeowners, especially when a house's water heater was purchased by a previous owner, are often unaware that their water heater is improperly sized for their home. Improperly sized tanks are more likely to reach unsafe temperature or pressure levels, and both problems can lead to an explosion. The Maryland Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation recommends that homeowners make use of a water heater's pressure relief valve on a regular basis. Likewise, homeowners should never set their water heater's temperature above 120 degrees.
Remove fire hazards
This Old House also offers a bevy of fire-related water heater safety tips for consumers. Homeowners with gas-powered heaters should pay special attention to the appliance's pilot light. Storing flammable materials near the pilot light is a huge risk, as is using volatile liquids in proximity to the water heater. Homeowners must tactically activate and deactivate a standard water heater's pilot light to ensure that fire hazards remain at a minimum.
Homeowners with standard tank water heaters must stay diligent in order to prevent gas leaks. A small crack in a water tank or internal damage caused by corrosion, both common issues that affect water tanks, greatly increase the chance of a gas leak putting a home in danger. These risks are especially true for water tanks that have been in service for over 20 years.
Ditch the tank
Several of the water safety issues that plague standard water heaters is a result of outdated design. In fact, standard water heaters are only able to utilize 65 percent of the energy they consume. Tankless water heaters are significantly safer and more efficient by comparison, boasting thermal efficiency of 99 percent. Simply removing the large storage tank from the design of water tanks removes risks of explosions and pilot light fires. Furthermore, homeowners upgrading to tankless appliances won't have to suffer the anxiety of constant maintenance.