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Water heater safety precautions

Important safety and practical concerns for water heater owners
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Water heater flame will ignite vapors
How to solder copper pipe
Do not store gasoline in open container.


Shellac, Kilz, lacquer, varnish, floor & spray paints, etc. > Read labels for flammable warning
Fire and explosion from flammable vapors:
Applies to: gas water heater & gas appliances & gas logs & electric strip space heater & open fireplace & any open flame (does not apply to typical electric water heater)
            Gasoline vapors, as well as other flammable materials such as adhesives, contact cement, solvents, paint thinners, lacquer, solvent-based cleaners, model airplane glue, aerosol paint, WD40, carburetor cleaner, etc can ignite and cause flashover and explosion that will kill you and burn down house. Other explosive gases include oxygen, hydrogen and acetylene.
           How it happens: Water heater combustion cycle and vent pipe to outdoors will pull vapor into combustion chamber. Flammable vapor enters through water heater air intake where vapor encounters the pilot light or hot-surface igniter or burner.
Flammable vapors ignite, and flames travel back out through air intake and into the room that is filled with vapor, causing a flashover or explosion that will kill you and start a conflagration inside room.
         Caution: Flammable vapors are extremely dangerous around gas water heaters and gas appliances. inclucding tankless gas, tankless electric, and electric hybrid water heaters, and fireplaces, etc. DO NOT handle, use or store gasoline or other flammable or combustible materials anywhere near or in vicinity of a gas water heater or any other gas appliance. Read product labels.

Buy:
Gas safety cans at Amazon


        What to do:
1) Do not store gasoline in unsealed container. Do not store near water heater. Leave container on floor.
2) Read product labels before using products. Do not use products near gas water heater.
3) Turn off the gas appliance when using solvent-based materials, or gas such as oxygen. Rotate shut-off value supplying gas to water heater until  handle is perpendicular across gas line. This will shut off gas.
4) Install gas water heater at least 18” above floor level to protect from flammable vapors.
5) Gasoline vapors tend to stay close to floor, so raising tank will help prevent flammable vapor event.
6) Raising tank will not prevent all flammable vapor events, so caution is still required.
7) Make sure air intake is clean and water heater has plenty of fresh air

Read label for flammable warnings

Raise water heater 18" off floor Install Gas water heater 18" off floor:

Gas water heater must be installed 18" off floor so gasoline vapors close to floor cannot easily enter combustion chamber
gas burner General gas water heater safety
Keep belongings away from gas water heater. And away from top of heater.
Do not obstruct air intake. Do not obstruct vent hood draft on top of heater.
Always set gas water heater on wood or metal surface. Never on carpet or formica etc.

Vent pipe gets hot, and must not directly touch other materials including walls and building materials.
Gas water heater must have adequate incoming air supply to support proper combustion and venting.
Inadequate air supply can lead to FV lockout, and other events such as build-up of unburned fuel gathering inside flue or combustion chamber, leading to explosion hazard. Read about water heater FVIR and repair
If gas water heater is installed in closet, the door must be full louvered, with louvers on both top and bottom panels of door.
Soot on top of gas water heater indicates extremely dangerous situation where poisonous CO gas is entering home.


Exploded house
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Explosion from Gas leak inside house: Applies to gas water heater & all gas appliances (does not apply to electric water heater)

       What to look for: LP and Natural gas have odorant added to aid in detecting gas leak. Some people may not physically be able to smell or recognize this odorant. If you are unsure or unfamiliar with smell of LP or natural gas, ask the gas supplier. Other conditions, such as “odorant fade”, which causes the odorant to diminish in intensity, can also hide or camouflage a gas leak. Water heater that is not maintained can be serious hazard.
       More information: NG or Natural Gas comes from the city gas utility, and house will have a gas meter. LP gas is delivered by tank truck to rural users, and LP gas is stored in pressurized tank located near house.
Natural gas tends to rise so it is easier to smell while standing. LP gas tends to stay low to the floor, and can fill a basement. Many local codes do not permit installation of LP gas water heater in basement.
Always smell close to floor to check for LP gas leak.
       What to do:
       1) Make sure gas water heater is maintained and inspected on yearly basis. Do not reuse old water heater, or old parts, or heater that was flooded.
       2) Install correct water heater. For example manufactured housing require specific type of heater. Install according to product manual.
       3) Do not convert LP to NG or NG to LP: Reason: LP gas is supplied at much higher pressure and burns at higher temperature.
       4) Follow safety rules that come with product. For example: Do not install LP heater below grade in basement.
       5) Always smell close to floor to check for LP gas leak.
       6) Learn to recognize 'gas' odorant. If gas is present, do not turn on a light switch or touch anything that might cause static spark.
       7) If gas smell is present: Leave house immediately. Leave windows and doors open.
       8) Call gas supplier from location outside the house.
       9) Turn off main shut-off at gas meter.
       10) Install gas detector according to local codes.


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Water temperature and scalding: Applies to all water heaters
Residential water heater can cause serious burns

       What to do:
       1) Know how to adjust temperature for your model water heater.
       2) Set water heater temperature to 120° for safety and to save energy. See how to set water heater temperature

      In event of scalding burn:
       1) Place burned area immediately in cold water.
       2) Keep burned area in cold water until aid arrives.
       3) Cold water will lessen seriousness of burn.


Power vented water heater


Use approved vent pipe: galvanized, stainless or PVC
Venting hazards: Applies to gas water heater and all gas appliances (does not apply to electric water heater)
All gas appliances must be properly vented to outdoors, and have adequate fresh air to support combustion so that all fuel is burned.
       
       
Vent must draft air upwards from combustion chamber and out of house. Combustion by-product must be vented to outdoors. Vent must not be susceptible to backdraft caused by installing power-vented furnace on same vent, or caused by other vent fans operating inside the house. Read how to test vent for draft and spillage
       Observe correct distances when venting near windows and doors so that combustion by-product is not drawn back into the house. See illustration
       What to look for:
1) Soot on top of heater and/or on burner means odorless CO gas is entering house. This is immediate danger. Call plumber. Illustration below.
2) Rusted flakes around top of water heater indicate water is dripping back down vent pipe. Water dripping down vent pipe mean vent hood is missing or vent is not working correctly. This is dangerous since the vent is not moving all combustion by-product to outdoors.
3) Obstructions in front of heater and dirty air intake can cause fuel not to burn fully. When fuel is left in water heater and vent pipe, it becomes fire and explosion hazard. Move obstructions away from gas water heater. Open windows. Clean air intake with vacuum cleaner. Clean burner.
4) Vent pipes must not have holes or be covered with white condensate.
5) Each joint must be screwed together with 3 sheet-metal screws. Vent hood must be attached to water heater with screws. More
6) Vent pipe must be spaced away from flammable household construction materials.  More vent resources
7) Vent pipe must be made of approved material. For example aluminum vent that is used for clothes dryer cannot be used for water heater vent. Water heater vent must be galvanized, or stainless steel, or approved PVC. Read product manual for recommended material for your water heater.
8) Vent must be correct diameter for water heater. Read product manual.
9) Trace amounts of chemicals stored in same room, such as bleach and pool chemicals will cause corrosive damage to vent pipes. Read
10) Vent dampers and Heat activated vent dampers can stop flow of combustion gas. Remove unnecessary dampers.
11) Do not install gas water heater in confined area that lacks fresh air: 12.5 cubic feet of air volume for each 1000 BTU Read formulas and definitions
12) Gas water heater installled in closet: The closet must have louvered door so combustion air can enter water heater, and all fuel is burned.
       What happens when vent is incorrect:
1) Pilot and burner might not work correctly.
2) NG and LP gas can be remain unburned inside water heater, causing fire and explosion hazard.
3) Deadly odorless CO gas can enter home. NG and LP gas creates combustion by-product including odorless carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide that can enter and fill house. These atmospheric gases are odorless and deadly.

Soot on top of heater and/or on burner means odorless CO gas is entering house. Can also mean that fuel is not burning fully. This is immediate danger. Call plumber to test and repair vent and catch water heater up on yearly maintenance. Read how to test vent for draft and spillage
Soot on water heater
Soot on top of water heater and/or on burner inside combustion chamber means CO gas is entering house. Also indicates that unburned gas can be present. Call plumber to check combustion and venting.
Symptoms: First symptom of CO carbon monoxide poisoning is lethargy and headaches that disappear when you leave the house. Prolonged exposure can kill whole family.
Call plumber immediately to check vent, clean burner and combustion chamber, check gas pressure, and      

What to do in event of CO poisioning
:
       1) Move affected people to fresh air.  Lay on side... not on back or they will suffocate
       2) Call for medical help.
       3) Open windows and doors.
       4) Call plumber to test and repair vents.
       5) Install CO detector.
       6) Maintain water heater once per year as shown in product manual
Buy:
Carbon monoxide detectors at Amazon

Earthquake zones
Earthquake zones
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Earthquake damage: Applies to all water heaters
Install earthquake straps in areas prone to earthquake. Water heater that tips over can injure people, damage home and cause massive water damage if pipes break. Read pdf file

Weight of water heater:
Empty water heater weighs 75-100 lbs.
40 gallon water heater filled with water weighs 410 lbs. 80 gallon water heater filled with water weighs 670 lbs.
Make sure flooring structure is strong enough to carry weight of 2 to 4 large men.
Earthquake-proof water heater
Earthquake straps at Amazon


TP valve and discharge pipe
TP valve is first line of safetyApplies to all water heaters
SAFETY FIRST:
Do not cap off TP discharge pipe.  Do not cover or obstruct TP valve. TP valve should be set away from walls and materials that stop valve handle from opening outward.
Removing and plugging TP valve or capping off TP discharge pipe can lead to explosion of water heater tank.
TP valve only releases water when tank is overheating -or- when TP valve has gone bad.
When TP valve is releasing water, the water drizzles, drips and/or periodically bursts out of discharge pipe and creates puddle at bottom of heater.
       What to look for: Water heater should be dry at all times. Look for water around base of water heater, and listen for perodic sound of scalding water
being released. Some TP valves drain directly into drain pipe so listen for sounds of escaping water.
        What to do:
       1) Turn down water heater temperature.
       2) Install expansion tank Read more
       3) Check and replace TP valve 
       4) Install water heater in a catch pan so water will not damage home.
       5) Inspect water heater frequently for water leaks and changes.
       6) Stand away from TP dicharge pipe when releasing hot water to avoid scald
       7) Read about TP valve code
       8) Remove unnecessary check valves that cause pressure on hot water lines
Leaking TP valve

Drip pan
Drip pan saves damage
See drip pan installation
Water heater drip pans at Amazon
Install drain pan: Minimize damage from leaking water heater
Drain pan no greater than 1-1/2” deep and at least 2” wider than tank.
Pan must not restrict air flow to gas water heater.
TP discharge pipe cannot be lower than top rim of drain pan.
Drain pipe from drain pan must be at least 3/4". Larger is better in event of ruptured tank. Run discharge into drain or outdoors. 
See installation diagram

Buy:
Water heater drip pans at Amazon
Buy:
Water detectors at Amazon
Auto-shut-off valve at Amazon

Water faucet on fire
Hydrogen gas in water line.
Natural gas in water line.
Larger image
Explosion: Build-up of hydrogen gas in unused hot water system  Applies to all water heaters
Run kitchen faucet before using dishwasher or washing machine when water heater has not been used for several weeks.
Hot water system that is unused for 2 weeks or more can accumulate Hydrogen in some cases.
Hydrogen is extremely flammable. For example the Sun is made of hydrogen. Hydrogen is odorless.
Bacteria in heated, oxygen-depleted water can react with anode rod to produce hydrogen. Similar conditions with sulphur present can produce rotten egg smell. When faucet is turned on, it releases hydrogen gas into room. Enclosed appliances like dishwasher and washing machine can ignite the hydrogen. Light switch can ignite hydrogen if enough of the gas is present.
        What to look for: Sound of escaping gas at faucet when faucet is turned on.
        What to do:
        1) Turn water heater OFF or set to Vacation when water heater is not used for several weeks. This will reduce heat component.
        2) When using hot water for first time after vacation, turn on kitchen faucet for several minutes BEFORE turning on light switch.
        3) Do not use dishwasher or washing machine before running kitchen faucet as described. Enclosed areas like dishwasher or wash machine confine
       the gas into single area where enough gas can accumulte for ignition.

Natural gas in water pipes occurs in some water wells  This is a water well issue and does not apply to water heaters
        Cause: fractured rock during natural gas extraction causes natural gas to migrate to water table. Natural gas enters water table.
Water well draws water and gas from water table. Natural gas enters plumbing pipes.
When natural gas comes directly from the ground, it will have no odor. Natural gas only has odor when odorant is added by gas company.
        What to look for: Sound of escaping gas when faucet is turned on. There will no natural gas smell. Natural gas is odorless until gas company adds odorant.
        What to do: Call congressman and demand de-regulation so drillers can do whatever they want. Then ask which corporation hiding profits in offshore island banks is contributing to your congressman's campaign, and politely ask why the US Navy is protecting those banking paradises on your dime while the tax-dodging corporations blame you for THE Problem.

Read about rotten egg smell caused by oxygen depleted water reacting with anode rod

Wet and flooded water heater is dangerous: Applies to all water heaters
If burner was flooded, NG and LP gas can be remain unburned inside water heater, causing fire and explosion hazard.
Wet insulation inside water heater can create shock hazard when touching water heater.  
       Caution: Do not touch water heater that is wet or was flooded.
Turn off electricity before touching any water heater that is or was wet
This includes gas and electric water heaters.

       What to do:
       1) Replace water heater that has flooded
       2) Do not reuse parts from water heater that was flooded
       3) Raise water heater higher in areas that are prone to flooding.
       4) Keep gas water heater air intake above possible water level.
       5) Install water heater in catch pan to minimize damage caused by leaks.
       6) Inspect for water leaks frequently. Leaking water heater

Multimeter
Larger image
Tape multimeter leads to wood
Avoid electrocution
1) When testing water heaters, tape tester leads to wood sticks.
2) Stand on dry boards.
3) Do NOT stand on bare soil
3) Do not stand in water, or on wet surface
4) Do not touch, or lean into anything made of metal. Do not hold screwdriver in mouth.
5) Wear dry clothes and dry shoes


Installing water heater


Use PTFE yellow teflon tape on gas pipe joints

Installing gas water heater:
       1) READ INSTALLATION MANUAL for tips and advisories relevant to that model.
       2) Use yellow-colored Teflon tape for gas pipe joints. Or use joint compound rated for gas connections.
       3) Leave first two threads of pipe uncovered by compound or teflon tape when threading into gas control valve.
       4) Use approved yellow-colored flexible gas line or black pipe.
       6) Do not use galvanized pipe since flakes of galvanized will enter gas control valve and cause malfunction.
 
       6) Make sure all gas connections are clean before assembly.
       7) Do not over-tighten pipe when connecting to gas control valve. Overtightening will damage gas control valve.
       8) Test all gas connections using soapy water, including connections located under the gas valve. Test for correct gas pressures.
       9) Do not install water heater on carpet. Must be installed on wood flooring or metal surface.
       10) Keep flammables such as curtains and carpet distanced 4” away from front and 24” away from top of gas water heater.
       11) Vent pipe cannot make direct contact with building materials. Read manual for specifics information about venting your model.
       12) Protect gas contyrol valve from getting wet. If gas control valve has been wet, it must be replaced. Do not re-used old gas control valve.
       14) With power vented water heaters that connect to electric outlet: Check outlet polarity. Outlet must be wired correctly.
       15) Power vent water heaters must be grounded. Test continuity between ground prong on extension cord and gas control valve. Install dedicated outlet so water heater is on separate breaker to prevent electrical interference.
       16) DO NOT convert LP gas heater to NG gas, or NG gas heater to LP gas. Conversions can lead to explosion and fire. LP gas burns much hotter than NG. Different gas valve and burner are necessary for each type of gas.
       17) Do not install LP gas heater below grade (basement)
       18) Mobile home water heater must be rated for manufactured housing with direct air intake from outdoors, and screw-down braces.
       19) Do not obstruct or cap-off TP valve
       How to install gas water heater

water heater safety precautions Do not install GAS water heater on top of carpet. Applies to gas water heater
Must be on wood or metal.
Household belongings and building materials must be kept away from gas water heater:
        4" away from front;
        1" away from side and back
        24" away from top of gas water heater. Larger


Use 10 guage wire and 30 amp breaker
Installing electric water heater:
       1) Most electric water heaters have 4500 watt element. Check label on side of tank.
       2) Recommended that 240Volt 4500 watt electric water heaters be connected to 30 amp breaker and orange-colored 10 gauge wire.
       3) Using 30 amp breaker and 10 gauge wire insures efficiency in electrical circuit.
       4) Using smaller 20 amp breaker and 12 gauge wire pushes amp usage to maximum, and will cause possible overheating and early failure of circuit
      breaker, and damage to breaker box from overheated breaker.
       Figure volts amps and watts for electric water heater
       5) Do not obstruct or cap-off TP valve

measure wallet
Measure wallet thickness.

Not necessary to read this information if wallet is thicker than 2"
Protect wallet Applies to all water heaters
Steps below are unnecessary if wallet is 2" thick.

       1) Read and save product manual, save sales receipt and warranty information.
       2) Many water heater warranties are void if you install yourself. How to install gas water heater
Your money
       3) Warranties are void if water heater installed incorrectly, or regular maintenance not performed.
       4) Inspect water heater each 6 months for signs of leaking or change. Leaking water can be rusted and ready to rupture. Leaking water heater
       5) Inspect and replace anode rod once every 2-3 years. Read about anode rods
       6) Keep water heater and water pipes from freezing.
       7) Electrically ground pipes with #6 copper jumper wire from hot to cold water pipes at water heater.
       8) Use di-electric nipples when connecting different water pipe metals together. This will protect pipes from leak, clog, and rupture.
       9) Gurgling or crackling sounds indicate sediment build-up inside tank. Prevent build-up with regular flushing each 6 months. Cleaning tank

       10) With gas water heater: Adequate fresh air is needed. Avoid dusty environ. Clean air intake with vacuum cleaner yearly. Read about FVIR
       12) Follow instruction manual and clean combustion parts yearly. This will avoid overheating and tripped ECO.
       14) Look at flame color: Flame should be strong and clear-blue. Weak yellow-orange flames indicate cleaning is needed.
       15) Keep chemicals out of same room: gas water heaters draw air into combustion chamber. Burning trace amounts of chemical will damage
       combustion parts and vent pipe.
       16) Read: 9 ways to save with water heater

Things to do to increase amount of hot water:
How to increase amount of water:
Adjust thermostat to higher temperature. How to adjust thermostat
Install shower timer so more people can shower before hot runs out.
Install low flow shower heads and areators so hot lasts longer.
Take showers instead of bath. Shower uses 5-9 gallons hot water, bath uses 12-15 gallons
Take showers in quick succession so hot water located at top of tank does not cool when incoming cold water arrives.
Install larger water heater tank.
Install two tanks. Two water heaters
Install under-counter water heater at sinks.
Install insta-hot faucet in kitchen.
Use pot boiler at kitchen sink.
Leave gallon jugs of water in sun during day for hot water needed at lunch or dinner.
Install solar water heater in addition to other sources. Solar water heater
Install tempering tank next to regular tank to passively preheat incoming cold water in winter. Tempering tank
Electric: convert elements from non-simultaneous to simultaneous operation. requires additional circuit breaker and wire to heater, and rewire of heater. Simultaneous wiring
Install mixing valve so some usage points receive warm water while others receive hotter water.
Do not turn on hot water when using cold water. Single handled faucet lifted straight up will cause cold water to immediately enter tank. Crossover
Turn off hot water to washing machine.
Wash dishes by hand.
Install dishwasher on cold water line instead of hot.
Reduce water pressure in house using pressure reducing valve. Turn down water well pressure. Hot water lasts longer. Plumbing pipes and fixtures last longer.
Clean restrictions in pipes. Low hot water pressure
Shorten distance from hot water tank to usage point. Distance hot water travels in 30 seconds
Gas water heater: install external air intake so ambient room temperature is not lowered in winter when combustion draws cold air through cracks and doors.
Install water heater with higher recovery rating, and higher first-hour delivery.
Clean sediment out of tank to increase efficiency. How to remove sediment/ efficiency numbers
Insulate water pipes throughout house. Insulate water heater .Read 9-ways to save with water heater
Low hot water pressure
Two water heaters

Additional links

How to flush gas water heater

Troubleshoot electric water heater

9 ways to save with water heater

How to test elements

Electricity from pole to breaker box

See basic 120V and 240V water heater circuits

Drop wire from attic

Replace circuit breaker

Wire nuts and how to twist wire

How to wire off-peak water heater


Home page
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Hot water circulation system
Solar water heater
9+ ways to save with water heater

Motorized shut off valve

Clean sediment from tank
Cutler Hammer C25BUB230A
Contactors

Anode rods
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My art website
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Do it yourself water heater

Low hot water pressure

Atwater water heater resources

Leaking water heater

Remove water heater from attic

9 Ways to save with a water heater

Remove old element
Pass and seymour TM8113
How to wire switches

Gas control valves

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
Troubleshoot gas water heater
Troubleshoot electric water heater

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