Common items found while inspecting the water heater

There are several things inspectors look for while inspecting the water heater. I sure I won't be able to cover all of them in this article, but will give you a good overview. The water heater is used to heat the water for your home. Most homes in Southern California have a tank type water heater and are usually located in the garage, although they could be inside the house or in a closet that is accessed from the exterior. Some homes have "tankless" water heaters, but I'm only going to cover the tank type in this article.

According to the industry experts, the average water heater life in the U.S. is 8 to 12 years. Water heaters should be properly braced, anchored or strapped to the structure. This may be a requirement when a transfer of property occurs. Kits are available at your local hardware store for about $15.00. Each kit comes with 2 straps. Each strap should be 1/3 from top and 1/3 from the bottom of the unit with the bottom strap being at least 4 inches above the temperature control knob. These straps should go 1 1/2 times around the water heater and be bolted into a wood stud. Units up to 50 gallons require 2 straps, 75 gallon units require 3 straps, and 100 gallon units require 4 straps. These straps are to prevent the water heater from tipping over in the event of an earthquake.

The energy source for most water heaters in Southern California is natural gas. The flex gas line connection is designed for one time use and should be replaced when you replace the water heater. The gas line should be long enough to allow movement in an earthquake and should have a shut off valve that can be operated without using any tools. Water heaters manufactures also recommend a sediment trap be installed on gas line. A picture below is showing an example of a sediment trap. Gas water heaters should be installed on a platform 18 inches above the floor to the flame if they installed in the garage.

The exhaust vent pipe on top of the unit is designed to remove the hot product of combustion from the water heater. 3 Screws are required at each pipe connection to insure that the pipe will not come apart and allow carbon monoxide into the area.

On the side or top of the water heater you will find the temperature and pressure relief valve or T&P valve. This valve is designed to open if the temperature climbs to 210 degrees fahrenheit or if the pressure exceeds 150 P.S.I. The drain pipe connected to the T&P valve should be a metal pipe and flow downhill to the exterior of the building with an elbow facing downward. If you would like to see what kind of damage that can happen from a water heater missing a T&P valve just UTube Water Heater Explosion and watch a video.

Water heater temperatures over 125°F can cause severe burns instantly or death from scalds. Children, disabled and elderly are at high risk of being scalded. Feeling water before bathing or showering is highly recommended. Temperature limiting valves are available through your local plumbing supply store.