What Every Certified Home Inspector Needs to Know About Water Heaters

December 18, 2023

Did you know the first water heater powered by a non-solid fuel produced instant hot water?

An English painter who invented the tub in 1868, had cold water flow down through pipes heated with hot gases. The design was never popular, possibly because Waddy did not include a chimney to vent the bathroom gases.

Modern water heaters may be safer than older models, but they still can cause serious problems if not maintained properly. You will be a part of the home inspection team that is responsible for determining the water heater’s condition.

Recent changes to water heater regulations

National Appliance Energy Conservation Act is the most recent innovation in water heaters used by U.S. homeowners. This act mandated that these units have higher energy factors as of April 2015 Energy factor is a rating that measures the amount of energy used to heat water from the power source. Gas and electric water heaters are affected by these stricter standards.

Location and access

An inspector should note the location of the water heater before examining it. It is not recommended that fuel-fired heaters be installed in areas with air handling machinery or in storage cabinets without sealed enclosures. If the water heater malfunctions, toxic combustion products could ignite in these spaces.

Piping and Valves

To maintain adequate water pressure in the entire home, the piping that runs from your municipal water meter up to the water heater must be at least 3/4″. A cold-water shutoff is also required on the pipe that runs from the municipal water meter to the water heater. This valve can be closed when the time comes to replace the unit. The water heater must be equipped with a fuel-shutoff valve or electric disconnect so that it can be serviced without being connected to the power source.

The temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR) is arguably the most important valve on a water heater. The valve will automatically open when the temperature reaches 210 degrees Fahrenheit, or if the pressure reaches 150 pounds per square inch. The water is forced to flow through a pipe connected to the drainage system when the valve is opened. When a TPR is not working properly, and the unit heats up, an explosion can occur that has the same power as a nitroglycerin explosive.

Expanding product lines

Home Inspector in Kitchener ON will note that there are different types of water heaters installed in modern homes as residents strive to increase their energy efficiency. Tankless water heaters can be installed where you need hot water. They are more energy efficient but require more maintenance. The geothermal water heaters use the heat that is generated by the heat pump to heat water. A passive solar water heating system uses the sun to heat the water.”

Maintenance of Water Heaters

The home inspector must perform the same basic tasks regardless of the type of water heater present in the residence. Here is the “bare-bones” water heater “home inspector checklist:

  • Check the color of the flame, the pilot and burner twice a year.
  • Check the TPR valve and venting system once a year.
  • Anode rods should be inspected every two years. If you use water softeners, do this inspection more often.

There will also be additional maintenance tasks based on the type and size of your water heater. The inspector should note any parts that are still not working properly after cleaning or adjusting them. They may recommend repair (or replacement) of the unit.

Although the water heater may not be as complex as the electrical system or HVAC of a home, it is still an important piece of equipment for maintaining the comfort of a home. Be sure to check it out thoroughly!

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