While most of the time there is no need for worry, your hot water heater can be very dangerous if not maintained properly. There are multiple ways a hot water heater can emit Carbon Monoxide in your home. It is important to make sure your hot water system is properly installed, make sure the vents are not blocked, and make sure there are no cracks in the gas valve or burner assembly. If any of these problems exist, Carbon Monoxide could be leaking into your home, resulting in sickness and even death.
HOT WATER TANKS AND CARBON MONOXIDE
External Components of the Hot Water Tank
Should be the same diameter as the draft diverter of the tank. The vent should generally go up and out. Direct vent heater vents should go out of a side wall. With power vent heater vents there is more flexibility since the fans blow the fumes out. When a vent passes through a wall or roof it should be double walled. Single wall vent sections should be screwed together in order to prevent them from falling apart. This can also ensure a good draft to prevent back drafting.
Temperature Pressure Relief Valve (TPRV) is designed to prevent s water tank from exploding if the temperature or pressure reaches unsafe levels.
The combustion chamber hatch is where a determination can be made on whether an appliance is experiencing any issues. The flame should be a consistent blue in color. Inspect the roof of the chamber to ensure it is not black. A black roof could mean there are draft. Combustion, or fume problems. If the roof is rusty and water marked, this could also be problematic.
Possible Negative Scenarios
These are one of the most probable negative scenarios. Since a water heater stores many gallons of water, it is subject to rusting. The pressure combined with rusting can cause leaks and can even cause the tank to burst.
Because gas water heaters use a flame to heat, they are susceptible to starting fires if the vapors from nearby flammable materials come into contact with them. This is why it is crucial to keep flammable material away from your water heater.
Carbon Monoxide Leaks
A gas water heater that has been improperly installed or maintained, could leak Carbon Monoxide, which can prove deadly with increased exposure. Carbon Monoxide (CO) is an odorless, colorless gas produced from burning fuels. The most obvious signs of a water heater leaking CO come from the inhabitants of the home. Headache, dizziness, weakness, and upset stomach are all common signals that someone may be subject to CO poisoning. Vomiting, chest pain, and confusion can also occur. If you suspect CO poisoning, exit the area immediately and call 911 or go to a hospital. Tankless water heaters, which heat as needed and do not store water, are powered by natural gas or propane, so they must also be vented properly to get rid of CO. A professional can ensure they are properly ventilated.
Even the best maintained water heaters will eventually cause problems. They may experience rust or parts may fail. According to the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety, the average life expectancy of a gas water heater is just under 11 years. Once a water heater has been in use for over 10 years, it is important to be extra cautious.
According to the National Board of Boiler and Pressure Vessel Inspectors, in order to maintain longevity of a water heater it is important to check the T&P valve.
The Department of Energy recommends flushing a quart of water from the tank every three months to remove built up sediment.
Call a professional and have them inspect the water heater. Have them replace the anode rod every few years in order to inhibit rusting.