Important Maintenance Information for Tank-Style Water Heaters
The average water heater sits in the dark recesses of the basement year in and year out with little or no attention from its owner. Although most people enjoy the luxury of hot water when bathing, they don’t actually think about the water heater. People seem to expect a lifetime of safe operation out of their tank-style heaters and never anticipate that a problem could occur. Occasionally, My Plumber will hear from one of its technicians about someone who built a room around their water heater and made the entrance smaller than the circumference of the tank, or just dry-walled completely around their water heater.
Considering how much people depend on having an available supply of hot water, it should be a priority to make sure one’s water heater is operating properly. Whether powered by electricity or gas, if it stores hot water in a tank until needed, it needs to be inspected frequently.
Hot water heaters come with an owner’s manual, and the safety instructions and inspection procedures outlined there should be followed. If the owner’s manual cannot be located, contact the manufacturer and request a new copy. Most manufacturers will be happy to oblige.
Here are a few tips about water heater safety:
· Avoid leaving any flammable liquid, solvent or chemical stored in the same room with a tank-style water heater. Those items should be stored elsewhere, with lids firmly in place and away from children and pets.
· Keep the thermostat set below 125°F. At higher temperatures, the elderly, the disabled and small children can be easily burned or may be unable to react swiftly enough to avoid scalding water.
· Check around the base of the water heater for moisture. Moisture indicates serious problems in the making which should be addressed quickly.
And finally, check the function of the T&P (Temperature and Pressure) relief valve. Because most tank-style water heaters function day in and day out without problems, it is easy to forget about them. But a tank-style water heater with a malfunctioning T&P valve is a bomb waiting to explode, and if it goes off it may very well take out the side of a house, or take off and go right through the roof.
In fact, water heater explosions were a fairly frequent occurrence before plumbing code demanded the inclusion of a T&P relief valve as part of a water heater’s installation. Providing all water heaters with a T&P relief valve prevented the excess pressure build up inside the tank and prevented the explosions. But the T&P valve can fail, so it should be inspected frequently.
The T&P valve is found on the side or on the top of the tank. Water dripping from the pipe connected to the T&P valve is an indicator that the valve needs to be replaced or that the water is getting too hot due to a malfunctioning thermostat. If the T&P valve needs to be replaced, it needs to be replaced sooner rather than later.
The plumbing system has been estimated to make up one seventh of the cost of building a home. Plumbing disasters can cost homeowners thousands of dollars when they occur. A careful inspection of the plumbing system and judicious maintenance can prevent many problems. Because the failure of a water heater’s T&P valve can cost more than dollars can ever measure, the Master Plumbers and Journeyman technicians at My Plumber Heating and Cooling strongly recommend that readers take a moment to check their water heaters soon.