Blog written by Guardline.
Water heaters are easy to ignore until something goes wrong. After all, they primarily stay out of sight in a basement, garage, or utility closet, and, as long as they continue to produce hot water, it seems like everything is operating smoothly. But some invisible problems can crop up with water heaters over time. Some of them can be signs of damage that you need to catch early, such as cracks, corrosion, and shorts. Some problems develop over time, such as hard water buildup, valve failures and clogs, and more.
While these problems seem small, they can quickly develop into broken water heater units, costly water leaks, and even dangerous living conditions if you have a gas-powered heater that has excessively high temperatures and pressure levels. Learn more about how to regularly inspect your home's water and ensure it stays safe. In this guide, the Guardline Security team discusses top strategies for:
- How Can I Ensure My Water Heater Is Safe?
- What Should You Inspect on a Water Heater?
- Water Heater Safety Tips
How Can I Ensure My Water Heater Is Safe?
When your home's water heater is in good operating condition, it can easily provide hot water to all of your appliances without malfunctioning, having unexpected spikes in energy costs, or jeopardizing the safety of your home. To ensure safe performance, homeowners need to perform occasional maintenance tasks. Add these chores to your seasonal and annual to-do lists to keep your water heaters safe and performing correctly.
Ensure Adequate Ventilation
If you have a gas-powered water heater, ventilation is particularly important. Carbon monoxide can build up in a utility closet or enclosed basement space, increasing the risk of poor home air quality and fire risks. Make sure there's a vent that leads directly to the exterior of your home near the water heater's installation point. Also, regularly check the vents for buildup or debris that can inhibit good airflow.
Flush Your Pressure Relief Valve
Whether you live in an area with hard water or not, mineral or organic buildup can develop in your water heater's pressure relief valve, sealing up the opening and creating a clog that won't let steam or water through. Flush your valve every year to get rid of any potential buildup and ensure the valve is still operating correctly. To do this, all you have to do is find the relief valve, which should have a manual release handle attached. Place a bucket under the valve and pull the handle. Water should drip out, and you may need to replace the valve if it doesn't.
Flush Your Drain Valve
Similarly, your tank's drain valve may clog with sediment buildup over time. The valve may have plumbing that runs the drained water to the outside, or it may deposit water into a bucket or drain pan. Stay as far back as possible and briefly open the valve to dislodge any sediment and ensure it works.
Flush Your Tank
If you live in an area with hard water, mineral deposits will build up in the bottom of your tank, and you may hear clanking as the pebbles of mineral buildup shift around inside. Once a year, entirely flush your tank through the drain valve to remove the sediment and refill your tank with entirely fresh water. This can extend the life of your tank by minimizing the risk of buildup and preventing physical damage from the rocks rattling around.
Add Earthquake Straps
Depending on the region you live in, your home may experience earthquakes. Just like you bolt tall bookcases and other pieces of furniture to the wall so they don't tip over when jostled, earthquake straps fix your water heater tank to the wall so it so it won't move, putting strain on the attached pipes and wiring, or entirely tip over.
Consider Smart Home Options
Today's homes have multiple different sensors and smart home connectivity options that allow for remote monitoring and automatic safety checks of all of your major appliances and systems. If you're upgrading your home with smart devices, consider outfitting your water heater with gauges that detect temperature, energy consumption, and moisture without you having to directly check the unit. Then you can be alerted of any unsafe conditions whenever they occur and whether you're at home, at work, or on vacation. Combined with automated or remote shutoff capabilities, you can stay on top of any potential emergency before it even starts.
Prepare for a Leak
Preventative inspections and due diligence can prevent most leaks and emergencies, but that's no guarantee. Instead, take steps to protect your home from water damage in the event of a leak. Install a drain pan under your hot water heater so it can catch water from any leaks or actuation of the relief and drain valves. This can stop water from running into your walls, flooring, and subflooring, especially if you live in a pier and beam house where water damage can quickly become costly.
What Should You Inspect on a Water Heater?
Your water heater is equipped with several different safety features that give the appliance the ability to regulate itself and provide you with the ability to easily monitor its conditions. Those devices include:
- A thermostat that shows you the internal water temperature: This gauge usually displays what temperature ranges are safe and which indicates a potential problem. Your water heater's control panel also allows you to manually change the default water temperature so it stays within safe temperature unless it's malfunctioning.
- A sacrificial anode rod that corrodes before the corrosion reaches the tank itself: Not only does the sacrificial anode rod buy you time to resolve a potential corrosion issue before it ruins your water heater tank, it's an easy way to visually inspect for potential issues without having to investigate the tank itself.
- Temperature or pressure relief valve: This valve automatically opens to release excess water or steam so pressure won't build up in the tank.
Setting reminders on your phone and calendar for preventative maintenance and active monitoring can help you keep track of any developing problems with your water heater, stop problems before they lead to costly repairs, and have peace of mind that your unit is operating properly.
Water Heater Safety Tips
Go beyond basic maintenance and monitoring that can keep your unit in good condition. Also consider these water heater safety tips:
- Remove fire hazards from around your unit. If you have a gas-powered unit or you're concerned about sparks, keeping the area around your unit clear of flammable materials is a good safety practice.
- Install a carbon monoxide detector. Ideally, you'll already have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors in every room of your home. Install one specifically for your water heater, especially if it's enclosed in a utility closet or sits in your garage on the far side from the detectors.
- Keep your water heater's temperature in a safe range. You want it hot enough to mitigate the risk of Legionella bacteria (which can thrive in warm water temperatures) but not so hot the water is a scalding risk.
Keep an Eye on Your Water Heater With an Alarm
Equipping your water heater with adequate safety features and alarms can help you keep an eye on your water heater season after season. At Guardline Security, we've developed multiple different property sensors and alarms so you can keep your home safe from any hazards that come your way, including outdoor motion alert alarms and more.
Contributing Writer: Chris Collins