Lesson 4- 7782

Residential Plumbing How To Secrets

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Today’s Lesson:
Part 4 of 7

Can Your Plumbing Really Hurt You?   What You Should Know About Safety.

You probably don’t think much about safety when it comes to the plumbing system in your home.   If you had to name the most dangerous part of your plumbing what would you pick?   If you said your Water Heater you would be right.

While a correctly installed and properly functioning Water Heater is a safe, basic part of every home’s plumbing system, there are some problems that can be extremely dangerous, even deadly, if left uncorrected.

The first of these is any problem with the electric or gas water heater pressure relief valve (T & P or “pop off”).   This is a safety device installed on every water heater to prevent dangerous pressure build up due to excessive temperature or pressure.

gas water heater pressure relief valve

T & P Valve

Many of us have seen the populer show “Mythbuster” episode where they capped a gas water heater pressure relief valve line and heated the water until the tank exploded from the pressure build up.   The water heater blew up like a bomb, shredding the building it was in!

gas water heater pressure relief valve blast

This wasn’t just Hollywood. It really happens, sometimes destroying someone’s home in the process!   It is very important that your T & P be working and the drain line clear.

Fortunately, it’s very easy to check this yourself.   Just find your T & P Valve ( its either on or near top of the water heater), pull the lever out and make sure the water comes out freely.   On newer homes the valve drains through a pipe to the outside, older homes may just run to the floor.

As long as the valve opens, closes and drains freely you should be fine.   The drain line, by the way, should be at least 3/4″ pipe.   It’s a good idea to check this at least once or twice a year.

Another serious concern with your gas water heater is with the exhaust vent.   This is the flue pipe that takes the dangerous exhaust gases out of the house to the water heater roof vent.   Make no mistake, the wrong problem here can KILL you!

The big danger here is Carbon Monoxide, which is a component of the exhaust gases from your water heater.   Carbon Monoxide is odorless, colorless and deadly.   If you have a gas water heater make sure your vent is connected properly and securely all the way from the heater to the water heater roof vent.

gas water heater pressure relief valve vent water heater roof vent
Water Heater Vent                                           Water Heater Roof Vent
(the smaller one)

While you’re at it, make sure that you don’t have anything that might burn too close to the water heater or its vent pipe.   Store any gasoline or other combustible in a separate area from your water heater.

One other area of concern is your water temperature, especially if small children are ever in your home.   A small child can withstand 115° water for more than 10 minutes with no danger while 140° water can produce 3rd degree burns in as little as 1.5 seconds.   You can easily check your water temperature with a standard cooking thermometer.

All of this wasn’t meant to scare you.   Knowledge is power and armed with the knowledge you’ve just gained you now have the power to make sure your plumbing system won’t hurt you.

Since this time we sort of picked on water heaters, next time we’ll talk about what to do if yours isn’t working right.

Until next time,

Bryan Stevens



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