October is Fire Prevention Month, and interestingly enough, it all started back in 1922 as National Fire Prevention Week to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Today, it has evolved into a whole month dedicated to raising fire safety awareness. Fire prevention is so crucial when it comes to your home. And yes – this applies to your plumbing system too! That’s because, on average, around 358,500 house fires occur each year, and about 5,400 of them are caused by water heaters. Now, don’t get us wrong, by no means does this imply that water heaters are inherently dangerous. But, as with all things in life, it’s important to understand that neglecting and not following proper practices can lead to some serious problems if you’re not careful.  

So, join your Westerville Plumbing & Drain family as we spark the fire of safety awareness and help you keep real fires at bay. 

Gas vs. Electric Water Heaters:

Before we jump into safety tips, let’s take a closer look at the differences between gas and electric water heaters. While they use different energy sources, their operations and internal workings are quite similar. So, is one safer than the other? Well, that’s a whole ‘nother topic that could be up for debate. But for now, let’s focus on understanding their energy sources and how they work. 

Gas Water Heaters: These appliances use natural or propane gas to heat water, which means gas leaks could potentially create a flammable vapor. So, if a gas leak happens and the vapor comes into contact with a flame, there’s a higher chance of an explosion caused by the vapor. Luckily, most modern water heater models have a sealed bottom, keeping the ignition flame safe from flammable vapors. To play it safe, it’s a good idea to have a Carbon Monoxide & Explosive Gas Detector in your home, regardless of how old your water heater is. These hybrid alarms can detect carbon monoxide as well as natural gases like methane and propane. 

Electric Water Heaters: On the flip side, electric water heaters depend on – tada! – you got it – electricity! So. it’s important to stay vigilant for any signs of overheating or electrical fires. (Click here for more information on why electric water heaters overheat!) There can be a few reasons why water heaters overheat, but if the temperature goes beyond 140ºF, try lowering it. If the problem persists, it’s best to seek professional help. Typically, water heaters should be set between 120ºF and 140ºF. 

Tips to Keep Your Water Heater Safe from Fires: 

  • Keep Flammable Materials Away: Make sure to keep flammable materials far away from your water heater and its surroundings. Since many water heaters are in garages, it’s common to have flammable items nearby, like paint cans, empty gas containers, oily rags, household chemicals, cleaning products, cardboard boxes, stacks of paper, wood furniture, and plastic bottles. Also, if your water heater is in the garage, be cautious when storing things like lawnmowers that use gasoline, as it can cause a serious fire risk. 
  • Know How to Shut Off the Water Heater: Verify that you know how to turn off your water heater. You might not think you’ll need this info until you’re in a pinch, but being able to act fast is super important. So, having the know-how to shut off your water heater ahead of time can be a real lifesaver! 
  • Clear the Area: Be sure to keep the area around your water heater clear of clutter. Think of it as giving your water heater enough “breathing room” for proper airflow. When you stack things around or in front of it, you’re blocking airflow and creating a real fire risk. So, it’s a good idea to have the general rule of thumb of not keeping items in front of or around the unit. 
  • Schedule an Annual Plumbing Inspection: Schedule an annual plumbing inspection every year. These inspections cover all aspects of your plumbing system, including pipes, drains, sinks, toilets, showers, water heaters, and other plumbing appliances. It’s a proactive way to keep your plumbing system in check, catch any potential issues early on, and prevent them from becoming bigger and more dangerous problems down the line. 

Always prioritize safety and responsible maintenance for your water heater. Doing so will ultimately keep you and your family safe. Give us a call to learn more about our Whole Home Protection Plan. We’ve got you covered when it comes to keeping your home and HVAC system in tip-top shape! 

Stay safe and call Westerville Plumbing & Drain for all your plumbing needs today at (614) 540-3437, or schedule an appointment online now by clicking here!