Safety Tips – Hot Water Heaters and Your Tenants

I had the opportunity to be out in the field with Wayne McGinnis the other day and as we were talking through a rental house I noticed that he was examining the hot water heater.

I asked him to explain to me (while I filmed him) what he looks for when it comes to hot water heaters and why it’s so important.

Here’s the video and below you’ll find the transcript of our conversation.


Transcript:

Interviewer: Okay, I’m here with Wayne McGuiness. And I asked Wayne to tell me what he looks for when he looks at a hot water heater just to make sure that it’s safe for a tenant to move in a house. And so Wayne’s going to tell us all a little bit about hot water heaters, and the potential hazard or danger with them.

Wayne: All right. Today we’re looking at an electric hot water heater that has been installed properly. We’ve got a connection here at the junction box that can’t be pulled out.

We also have a connection here at the junction in the top of the water heater that cannot be pulled out, which is good, because a lot of times, maintenance guys would just run a regular wire down through here with no coax or anything. Which is fine, as long as it’s clamped on both ends. But a lot of times, you will see that they’ll run it through the hole in this plate, and it’ll just be loose.

Well, the problem there is that if a kid comes in or somebody else, and they jiggle that line and it pops loose, this whole water heater can split down the middle and be electrically charged.

So just imagine throwing a hairdryer in this much water. So we’ve got roughly 55 gallons of water to 60 gallons of water that would be charged with electricity. So if the child happened to be touching this and pulled that, that would be the end of it. There would be no recovery from that kind of electrical shock.

That would be almost be the equivalent of reaching up and grabbing a power line.

I know, particularly, of a maintenance man who was working on one that was smaller. And he touched the wire like that and pulled on it just a little bit, and it flashed, and the whole thing charged and split the water heater all the way down the middle, and blew him back.

And he could have been seriously hurt had he been touching the water heater at the same time. We also want to make sure that, especially on electric hot water heaters, we have these plates with screws in them.

A lot of times, guys will try to get away with just putting one and leaving the bottom one open. Well, inside each and every one of these compartments are live electrical wires. So if a child happens to be playing and he just swivels that out and sticks his hand in it, then, again, we’ve got live wires that they can grab hold of.

The third thing that we look for is a discharge line. This is a temperature and pressure release valve. What this is used for is that if this tank gets too hot and this water boils too hot, before this explodes, it will discharge water out through this line. Or if there’s too much water pressure on this hot water heater, this will pop. And when it pops, it will drain through here before it explodes, basically.

We’d like this to be run down six inches from the floor. The best practice is what this owner has done, which is perfect, and he has run it through the floor. Because, again, if it does pop off, which happens often, you don’t really want your whole floor covered in water. If you can get it outside of the unit or into the crawl space, that’s the best thing for you.