While DIY repairs are often the right decision for homeowners looking to reduce their maintenance costs, there are many scenarios where taking this approach can come with destructive consequences. One Massachusetts resident almost paid the ultimate price earlier this year when making repairs to her water heater, according to U.S. News & World Report. A mistake during maintenance allowed gas to propagate into the basement, which eventually ignited and caused an explosion. Thankfully, the family wasn't at home at the time; the house was totaled, but no one was injured.
These types of accidents occur more frequently than most homeowners realize. Even worse, gas fires are just one of multiple injury risks posed by an aging water heater. That's why it makes sense for families to go tankless if their water heaters begin waving red flags that indicate a serious problem.
Stopgap repairs to older models can result in fiery malfunctions
Modern appliances are designed with an obsolescence date in mind so manufacturers can eventually sell new models to repeat customers. With regard to water heaters, this means that after a certain point the performance of the appliance will begin to decline. Parts that were never meant to be replaced begin to wear out, and the only way to address drops in performance is by treating the symptoms. For example, wrapping a water heater in a thermal blanket will only do so much to address heat loss when the aging appliance is operating at minimal levels of thermal efficiency.
"Stopgap repairs threaten your family's safety."
This trend is extremely relevant to repairs made to heating elements and natural gas valves attached to older water heater models. Allowing these components to sink into disrepair significantly increases risks of a heater explosion. Addressing stopgap repairs to these problems can actually be counterproductive to your family's safety, as these fixes do not actually solve the problem, even though homeowners might feel they have nothing to worry about.
Obsolete equipment puts seniors and toddlers at risk
Aging water heaters are even more likely to deliver uneven water temperatures than explode, but this seemingly harmless malfunction is still a danger to the household, especially with seniors and young children.
The skin of senior citizens is vulnerable to burns, and more likely to scald at a lower temperature, according to Kindred Healthcare. Likewise, uncontrolled water temperatures put young children in harm's way at an alarming rate. The Burn Foundation noted that scalding injuries bad enough to require medical attention affect 100,000 kids each year. Burning scenarios highlight another reason to go tankless over attempting to save an out-of-date appliance.
Conversely, top-of-the-line tankless models are designed stand up to strict, industry regulations. Heat controls are incorporated into the body of the appliance, eliminating opportunities for homeowners or repairmen to accidently readjust the temperature. Tankless models are also designed to operate efficiently for up to two decades, meaning that homeowners who dump their aging tanks can also avoid costly safety repairs.
Leaking tanks can generate additional health problems
Old water heaters are also more likely to spring a leak. While this damage is an obvious threat to water and energy efficiency, leaks also create safety hazards in the home if they go untreated. It doesn't take long for a serious leak to form puddles on the floor, creating a slip risk in basements or utility closets that are often poorly lit. Additionally, unattended water leaks can begin to compromise the structure around the water heater or expose the home to health problems associated with mold growth. By going tankless, homeowners remove this large reservoir from their home and, subsequently, protect their families from a long list of accident scenarios.
New regulations represent a shift in professional repair expertise
Manufacturers have made several changes to their product lines in response to new federal regulations adopted in April of this year, according to the Free Detroit Press. This legislative update creates more strict requirements for water heater efficiency, causing most traditional manufacturers to go back to the drawing board and design all new water heater models.
It's only a matter of time before the industry's expertise shifts as well, meaning professionals will receive less training pertaining to obsolete models. As current models become more dated, they will also become increasingly difficult and expensive to repair properly. Homeowners can circumvent this wicked cycle completely by investing in an efficient, compliant electric tankless water heater.