How Does Your Gas Water Heater Keep You Safe?
While water heaters are a necessary part of modern daily life, few people realize the design and engineering considerations that go into keeping them safe. A conventional water heater is effectively a large, heated pressure vessel. Adding heat to water will cause it to expand, potentially creating a hazardous situation.
Despite this, modern water heaters are incredibly safe appliances, so how does your gas water keep you safe? Keep reading to learn about three critical safety features found on any modern, tank-style water heater.
1. Temperature & Pressure (T&P) Relief Valve
Have you ever noticed a small valve on the side of your water heater? This valve is a common source of leaks, making it a frustrating component for many homeowners. However, the T&P valve is one of the most critical elements on your water heater, and it's crucial to understand how it works and what you should do to maintain it.
This valve protects your water heater from becoming too hot and overpressurizing. A leaky T&P valve may mean that the valve is faulty or indicate a problem with your water heater that could cause it to overheat. Whatever the case, you shouldn't ignore leaks from this essential safety element. If yours is leaking, contact a plumber immediately to diagnose the problem.
2. Exhaust Venting
A gas water heater burns natural gas and oxygen to create heat. A typical tank-style heater uses a combustion chamber at the bottom with a heat transfer surface or plate similar to your furnace's heat exchanger. The heat transfer surface extracts heat while keeping the exhaust gases contained.
The remaining exhaust travels through a flue in the center of the tank and out through an exhaust vent. Newer, high-efficiency models typically use PVC exhaust vents, while older models use a metal flue. These exhaust elements must remain in good condition to avoid releasing dangerous gases into your home.
3. Thermocouple or Flame Sensor
Depending on their design, modern gas water heaters also include a thermocouple or flame sensor. This component detects the presence of a flame in the combustion chamber to avoid dangerous natural gas releases. If the flame sensor doesn't detect a flame, it cuts off the gas supply to avoid creating a leak that can start a fire or cause an explosion.
If you schedule an annual inspection, your plumber will usually check this device to ensure that it's clean and in good condition. Problems with your flame sensor can stop your water heater from working, but it's never safe to bypass this device. If you experience problems with your thermocouple or flame sensor, you should always replace it with a new one.
Contact a plumber for more information about water heaters.