Did you know that October is fire prevention month? It all started back in 1922 when National Fire Prevention Week was first established to remember the Great Chicago Fire. But then it was decided to extend it for the whole month. This is because fire safety is crucial, and a whopping 358,500 house fires happen every year in the United States, while about 5,400 of those fires can be traced back to water heaters! Now, don’t get us wrong, this does not mean water heaters are inherently dangerous. But it’s important to highlight that, as with all things, if you don’t take proper precautions and neglect your water heater, things can go south really quickly.  

Join your Gahanna Plumbing & Drain family as we guide you through everything you need to know about preventing water heater fires. 

What’s the deal with gas vs. electric water heaters?   

Before we dive into safety tips, let’s chat about gas and water heaters and what sets them apart. While their sources may differ, their operations and internal mechanics are pretty similar. So, does one take the lead in terms of safety? Well, that’s a debatable topic. But let’s focus on grasping their sources and how they operate first of all. 

  • Gas Water Heaters: Gas water heaters use natural or propane gas to heat water. This means that if there’s a gas leak and the flammable vapor comes into contact with the ignition flame, there’s a chance of a vapor-induced explosion. The good news is that newer water heater models are usually sealed at the bottom, so the ignition flame is protected and won’t come into contact with flammable vapors. To play it safe, it’s always 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 and natural gases like methane and propane. 
  • Electric Water Heaters: On the flip side, electric water heaters use electricity as their source, so you’ll want to keep an eye out for signs of overheating or electrical fires. There could be a few reasons why your water heater is overheating. (Click here to read more about this issue.) But if the temperature of your water heater is above 140ºF, try turning it down. If that doesn’t fix the problem, it’s time to call in a professional. It’s usually recommended to keep water heaters set between 120ºF and 140ºF. 

What are some safety tips to help prevent water heater fires?   

1. Make sure to keep flammable materials away from your water heater and its surroundings. Since many water heaters are in garages, it’s common to have these items nearby. This includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Empty gasoline containers   
  • Old rags 
  • Household chemicals or cleaning products   
  • Cardboard boxes, paper, or fabric (flammable materials)  
  • Plastic bottles   
  • Wood furniture 

*Also, if your water heater is in your garage, please be careful if you store things like your lawnmower there too. Even though it’s not an empty gasoline container, most lawnmowers need gas to run. So, having an appliance filled with any amount of gas near a water heater is a major fire hazard. 

2. It’s good to know how to turn off the water heater. You might not think about it until you’re in a pinch and need to act fast, but having the knowledge beforehand can be more valuable than you realize. 

3. Make sure to keep the space around your water heater free from clutter. We’ve already discussed the importance of not storing flammable items nearby, but in general, it’s not a good idea to have any stuff piled up around your water heater. Think of it as giving it some “breathing space.” You want your water heater to have enough room to breathe, allowing proper airflow. Stacked items or anything blocking the area can hinder airflow and pose a serious fire risk. 

4. Make sure to schedule your annual plumbing inspection. It’s super important for preventive care! Our expert plumbers at Gahanna Plumbing & Drain will thoroughly check all your plumbing equipment, including pipes, drainage systems, sinks, toilets, showers, water heaters, and other plumbing-related appliances. This inspection ensures everything’s working as intended and helps identify potential problems before they become big (and dangerous) issues later on.

Remember to prioritize safety and practice these preventative measures to care for your water heater. Our top concern is ensuring the safety of you and your loved ones! 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 Gahanna Plumbing & Drain for all your plumbing needs today at (614) 245-2256, or schedule an appointment online now by clicking here!