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Is your water heater safe?

a) Electric water heater:

How to identify electric water heater: Electric heater has wire or conduit connected to top of tank, unlike gas water heater that has vent pipe located in center of tank top.

Ends of electric wire must not be exposed. Wires ends must be covered and inside covered pocket or covered box at top of tank.
Wire nuts must be attached firmly so they cannot fall off, and ground wire must be connected to green ground screw.
Front covers must be attached in place.
When removing front cover, be sure to put back insulation and cover just as it was before. This is for safety and correct operation.

Correct wire size is important: Look at wattage printed on end of each element. If element wattage is less than 3800, then 12 gauge wire and 20 amp breaker are OK. If element wattage is greater than 4500 and less than 6800, then use 10 gauge wire and 30 amp breaker.
Breaker and wire size must match. Choose correct size wire
How to determine wire size: Yellow coated cable is 12 gauge. Orange is 10 gauge. Buy short lengths of wire at home center and compare with your wire.

Electric heaters are very safe, as long as wires are installed correctly and covers are in place on front of tank.
Inspect wires for damage by rodents. Cables cannot be in direct contact with metal structure. Wire must be attached to structure.
Electric water heater can sit on any flooring surface, including carpet, and belongings can be put directly on top or touching side of electric water heater.
Remember the drain valve is at bottom. Make sure water hose can be attached so tank can be drained. Otherwise TP valve must be removed and water siphoned out of tank. Read about TP valve code

If water heater is electric, then any dry location is fine, and any size room is ok. Small closet is no problem since electric uses no air.
Small closet remains no problem until you need to inspect anode rod, do repairs, drain tank or replace water heater.
Best if water heater is located in area where repairs can be made easily.

b) Gas water heater:

If water heater is gas (natural gas or propane gas), then water heater will have galvanized or stainless steel vent pipe located in center ot tank top that vents to outside.
Gas water heater has a burner and flame located at bottom.

Dangers include poor installation causing risk of fire or explosion, natural gas leak, or propane gas leak causing explosion, and bad venting causing CO poisoning,

Gas appliances are dangerous. Natural gas and propane gas are explosive, and only skilled technicians, such as plumber, should install or repair gas appliances.
Home handymen are generally able to install new gas water heater. However repairs are best left to professional plumber.
If water heater is inside enclosed closet, then fulll louvered door is required by code
Having full louvered door allows ample incoming air supply and venting, and to protect insurance companies and folks from property and casualty loss.
In water heater is installed inside small room without enough air supply, then power vent water heaters are available to draft air into water heater from outdoors.
Also mobile home water heater are available to draft air from below the floor.

c) Safety: For safety, gas water heater burner is set 18" above floor
level... so if gas water heater is sitting on floor, then it must be
set higher on 2x4 fame with plywood or metal top ... not on carpet or
linoleum or formica etc.
Also combustibles such as clothing, paper, carpet etc must be kept
away from front and top of gas water heater. Sides and back of gas
water heater can sit against wall, but this can restrict air flow...
so keep stuff away from gas water heater.

d) Look at flame color: Flame color says if water heater is healthy.
If gas water heater is healthy, and working correctly and getting
enough air flow, then pilot and flame color are clear blue with bits
of yellow and red. And flame appears energetic and not lazy.

e) Yellow Flame color indicates serious problem: If flame is lazy
yellow, or if top of water heater has black soot on top of tank, then
that indicates serious problem, and requires IMMEDIATE service to
clean air intake, inspect vent pipe, check vent pipe draft, check gas
pressure, clean burner and combustion parts, and possibly get adequate
air flow to burner ... and you would call local plumber to do this
required work.

f) How to inspect flame color: You can inspect color of pilot flame
and burner flame by removing metal cover located at bottom front of
tank, and looking through 1-2" square sight glass located on
combustion door. However the flame is upwards from sight glass, so you
have to look upwards at angle ... so get down low, or use a mirror to
help with inspection.

g) Other concerns:
Other concerns about gas appliance safety are h) gas leak or i) vent
pipe leak:

h) Gas leak: Gas leak where natural gas or propane gas leaks from
appliance or from gas line. However this gas has odor that alerts
folks there is a gas leak. Check with local gas company if they sell
gas detector for this. Leave home immediately if you smell gas and
call gas company.

i) Vent pipe leak: Vent pipe located on top of gas water heater can
leak odorless poisonous carbon monoxide gas into home. I think you can
buy CO gas detector.
This gas will give people headaches first, and then make everybody
sleepy, causing people to fall asleep and die. Get outside into fresh
air immediately, and lay person on their side (do not lay person on
back or they can suffocate). Symptoms of CO gas leak is that everybody
gets headache that goes away when they are not inside the house. Often
the symptoms occur in winter when both furnace and water heater are
working, but the CO leak is year round. Call plumber immediately and
get all gas appliances inside home checked.

j) Inspect water heater vent pipe for possible CO leak and other
issues: Pipe must be galvanized steel (not aluminum or flexible
aluminum that is used for dryer vent or range hood vent) and water
heater vent pipe should vent upwards with as few elbows as possible.
This pipe is hot when water heater is ON. So pipe must not come into
direct contact with combustibles such as belongings, or the sheetrock,
or wood paneling. Otherwise there is clear fire hazard.
The vent pipe must appear clean and have no holes, rust or white
condensate present. Holes, rust and white condensate indicate possible
CO leak. Joints must be held together with 3 screws at each
connection, and some areas also require silver tape. Tape alone is not
best. Screws are best. Vent hood must be screwed to top of tank with
2-3 screws so it does not get pushed aside accidentally. Vent hood on
top of tank must be directly over vent opening on top of tank, and
vent hood must be larger than opening on top of tank. Presence of some
water on top of heater can drip down from vent pipe and drip out of
vent hood, but abundance of water can indicate poor venting.

k) Test if vent pipe is working safely: You can check if vent is
working correctly using a match. Wait for water heater to turn ON. Let
heater run for 1-2 minutes. Next, while water heater is ON, light
match 1" away from vent hood opening on top of heater. Blow out match,
and smoke from match must be drawn into the vent pipe. If smoke from
match is not immediately drawn into vent pipe, then home is getting
deadly CO gas each time water heater is ON.
If vent pipe does not pass match test, you must IMMEDIATELY call
professional plumber to get problem repaired.

l) Repeat vent pipe test during winter: If home has gas furnace that
shares vent pipe with water heater, then turn on gas furnace. Call for
service immediately is air is pushing out of water heater vent hood
when furnace is ON. Next, let furnace run, and repeat match test on
top of water heater. Again, if smoke from match is not drawn into vent
when both both furnace and water heater are ON, then poisonous CO gas
is entering home.

m) There is not auxiliary vent fan that I am aware of that will
interface with existing gas water heaters.
But you can cut hole in wall near floor and add louver/screen to allow
more air flow.
Lowes and Sears also sell flue-dampered series water heater, but you
still need louvered door and must pass all tests shown above:
http://waterheatertimer.org/Review-Whirlpool-Flue-damper-gas-Water-Heater.html

n) Installing louvered door on closet is code, and probably easier
solution than cutting hole or adding vent fans or buying new water
heater.
For perfect hinges on new door ... install hinges on both door and
door jamb... but leave screws loose on door and jamb ... hang door on
hinges, then tighten all screws

o) Also post question on pro water heater forum.
http://www.thetankatwaterheaterrescue.com/forums/forum3/

email with results.
Gene Haynes
a) Electric: If water heater is electric, then small closet is no
problem since electric uses no air. Small closet remains no problem
until you need to inspect anode rod, or replace water heater. Electric
heater has wire or conduit connected to top of tank, unlike gas water
heater that has vent pipe located in center of tank top.
Electric water heater can sit on any flooring surface, and stuff can
be put directly on top or touching side of electric water heater.
Electric heaters are very safe.

b) Gas: If water heater is gas (natural gas or propane gas) and water
heater has a burner and flame with galvanized vent pipe to outdoors,
then closet is required to have full louvered door, and nothing else
is needed usually.
Having full louvered door on gas water heater closet is CODE... and
required by law to protect insurance companies and families and
neighbors from property and casualty loss.

c) Safety: For safety, gas water heater burner is set 18" above floor
level... so if gas water heater is sitting on floor, then it must be
set higher on 2x4 fame with plywood or metal top ... not on carpet or
linoleum or formica etc.
Also combustibles such as clothing, paper, carpet etc must be kept
away from front and top of gas water heater. Sides and back of gas
water heater can sit against wall, but this can restrict air flow...
so keep stuff away from gas water heater.

d) Look at flame color: Flame color says if water heater is healthy.
If gas water heater is healthy, and working correctly and getting
enough air flow, then pilot and flame color are clear blue with bits
of yellow and red. And flame appears energetic and not lazy.

e) Yellow Flame color indicates serious problem: If flame is lazy
yellow, or if top of water heater has black soot on top of tank, then
that indicates serious problem, and requires IMMEDIATE service to
clean air intake, inspect vent pipe, check vent pipe draft, check gas
pressure, clean burner and combustion parts, and possibly get adequate
air flow to burner ... and you would call local plumber to do this
required work.

f) How to inspect flame color: You can inspect color of pilot flame
and burner flame by removing metal cover located at bottom front of
tank, and looking through 1-2" square sight glass located on
combustion door. However the flame is upwards from sight glass, so you
have to look upwards at angle ... so get down low, or use a mirror to
help with inspection.

g) Other concerns:
Other concerns about gas appliance safety are h) gas leak or i) vent
pipe leak:

h) Gas leak: Gas leak where natural gas or propane gas leaks from
appliance or from gas line. However this gas has odor that alerts
folks there is a gas leak. Check with local gas company if they sell
gas detector for this. Leave home immediately if you smell gas and
call gas company.

i) Vent pipe leak: Vent pipe located on top of gas water heater can
leak odorless poisonous carbon monoxide gas into home. I think you can
buy CO gas detector.
This gas will give people headaches first, and then make everybody
sleepy, causing people to fall asleep and die. Get outside into fresh
air immediately, and lay person on their side (do not lay person on
back or they can suffocate). Symptoms of CO gas leak is that everybody
gets headache that goes away when they are not inside the house. Often
the symptoms occur in winter when both furnace and water heater are
working, but the CO leak is year round. Call plumber immediately and
get all gas appliances inside home checked.

j) Inspect water heater vent pipe for possible CO leak and other
issues: Pipe must be galvanized steel (not aluminum or flexible
aluminum that is used for dryer vent or range hood vent) and water
heater vent pipe should vent upwards with as few elbows as possible.
This pipe is hot when water heater is ON. So pipe must not come into
direct contact with combustibles such as belongings, or the sheetrock,
or wood paneling. Otherwise there is clear fire hazard.
The vent pipe must appear clean and have no holes, rust or white
condensate present. Holes, rust and white condensate indicate possible
CO leak. Joints must be held together with 3 screws at each
connection, and some areas also require silver tape. Tape alone is not
best. Screws are best. Vent hood must be screwed to top of tank with
2-3 screws so it does not get pushed aside accidentally. Vent hood on
top of tank must be directly over vent opening on top of tank, and
vent hood must be larger than opening on top of tank. Presence of some
water on top of heater can drip down from vent pipe and drip out of
vent hood, but abundance of water can indicate poor venting.

k) Test if vent pipe is working safely: You can check if vent is
working correctly using a match. Wait for water heater to turn ON. Let
heater run for 1-2 minutes. Next, while water heater is ON, light
match 1" away from vent hood opening on top of heater. Blow out match,
and smoke from match must be drawn into the vent pipe. If smoke from
match is not immediately drawn into vent pipe, then home is getting
deadly CO gas each time water heater is ON.
If vent pipe does not pass match test, you must IMMEDIATELY call
professional plumber to get problem repaired.

l) Repeat vent pipe test during winter: If home has gas furnace that
shares vent pipe with water heater, then turn on gas furnace. Call for
service immediately is air is pushing out of water heater vent hood
when furnace is ON. Next, let furnace run, and repeat match test on
top of water heater. Again, if smoke from match is not drawn into vent
when both both furnace and water heater are ON, then poisonous CO gas
is entering home.

m) There is not auxiliary vent fan that I am aware of that will
interface with existing gas water heaters.
But you can cut hole in wall near floor and add louver/screen to allow
more air flow.
Lowes and Sears also sell flue-dampered series water heater, but you
still need louvered door and must pass all tests shown above:
http://waterheatertimer.org/Review-Whirlpool-Flue-damper-gas-Water-Heater.html

n) Installing louvered door on closet is code, and probably easier
solution than cutting hole or adding vent fans or buying new water
heater.
For perfect hinges on new door ... install hinges on both door and
door jamb... but leave screws loose on door and jamb ... hang door on
hinges, then tighten all screws

o) Also post question on pro water heater forum.
http://www.thetankatwaterheaterrescue.com/forums/forum3/
Gas and electric water heaters Support the economy:
Buy water heaters  from my associate links:

50 gallon Gas water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon gas water heaters at Amazon
50 gallon Electric water heaters at Amazon
40 gallon electric water heaters at Amazon
Hybrid / heat pump/ water heaters at Amazon

Resources:
How to install gas water heater
How to install electric water heater
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Troubleshoot electric water heater
Point of use water heaters
Intermatic control centers Intermatic control centers:
+ manuals and parts


Including Z-wave
box timers Compare box timers

Control with Z-wave
programmable timer Compare programmable timers

Control water heater with programmable wall timer
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