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Residential Water Heater Safety

Print Date: 7/24/2024 9:37:42 PM

Dean Jagger
Chief Inspector, Ohio

Category : Operations

Summary: The following article is a part of the National Board Technical Series. This article was originally published in the Summer 2001 National Board BULLETIN. (2 printed pages)



Residential water heaters are not typically part of our members’ jurisdictional responsibilities. As a fired pressure vessel, however, the residential water heater represents a marriage of select components that make up both a pressure vessel and a boiler. In promoting boiler and pressure vessel safety, it makes sense to use the water heater as a familiar example. Even though residential water heaters usually do not fall under our jurisdictional regulations, National Board members continue to serve as advocates for home water heater safety. As part of this ongoing effort, we present below a list of tips to keep your home’s water heater operating efficiently and safely.

Do-It-Yourself Maintenance of Electric AND Gas-Fired Water Heaters:


Specific to Gas-Fired Water Heaters:


Professional Maintenance:
Some important tasks require the expertise of a service professional (a qualified plumber, heating contractor, or gas company technician).

Finally, a qualified plumber is recommended if your water heater tank is leaking. The average lifespan of both electric and gas water heaters is eight to thirteen years.

In closing, if your water heater does overheat and your T & P valve is discharging water or steam, the ONLY safe intervention is to remove the heat source by cutting off its fuel, if you can. For an electric heater, trip the circuit breaker; for a gas heater, shut off the gas. NEVER go near the water heater to try to relieve the pressure yourself. NEVER add cool water to the tank. And NEVER try to cool it by spraying it with a hose. Call a qualified plumber and allow the water and water heater to cool naturally.




Editor's note: Some ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code requirements may have changed because of advances in material technology and/or actual experience. The reader is cautioned to refer to the latest edition of the ASME Boiler and Pressure Vessel Code for current requirements.