How safe is your water heater?

Water heaters can be a potential hazard in your house. (Dennis B. Mallari)

Did you know that a water heater could heat up to such extend that it explodes? Or, that if the valves are not correctly placed on the cylincer the heat can reach temperatures that scald a person? These are only two hazards of the equipment that almost all of us have in the house.

 For most residents, the water heater is just one of the many items installed in a household when moving in. We have little to do with the selection, installment or maintenance of the equipment. Tucked away above a celing or behind a wall, we may even never have observed the giant cylinder.

These are frightening conclusions knowing that hazardous water heaters are prevalent among the UAE households. Low-quality water heaters from dodgy manufacturers or water heaters that are not installed according to the safety standards have been noted by inspectors over the years.

Since a couple of years the Emirates Standardisation and Meteorology Authority (Esma) regulates the import, manufacturing and distribution of water heaters in the country. However, this may not be enough, as previously installed heaters easily go unnoticed.

It is really up to the resident to notice a potential risk in the house. This is not easy, agree the experts. Technical mistakes are difficult to notice without the technical know-how. Here are some tips that can help spot a potentially hazardous water heater.

Product check

Since every water heater present in the UAE should comply with the standards set by ESMA, a simple product check can be carried out. Each product has a product code or number. To be sure that the water heater in your house is approved by ESMA, the number can be verified through the different channels of ESMA.

Country of origin

Although this is not a rule of thumb, many of the faulty products come from Asia, and from China in particular.  If the product has been made to an international standard it should be stated on the product somewhere usually on a metal plate or a label. But beware if it’s from China; it could very well have fake information on it.

A leaking ceiling

A leaking ceiling can be a sign of trouble if this is where your water heater is installed. Small leaks can occur in the heater or the connecting pipe-work. These leaks can lead to water damage in the house. Take a torch and see where the water is coming from.

Product components

There is a risk of fire, if its components are not fire and heat resistant. Plastic elements or other flammable material are a warning sign.

If the wire size is not correct, or insulations not properly in place electrocution or fire can occur.

The water heater could burst or explode if an appropriate pressure valve and the appropriate strength of the pressure vessel are not in place, and when an appropriate heating element and thermostat are lacking the water heater could overheat.

Although these product elements may be difficult to check for the regular resident, an expert can be consulted upon doubt, and these are the focus points that should be taken in consideration.

Maintenance

Even when a proper water heater has been installed in your house, errors can occur over time due to a lack of maintenance. Eventually, it is advised to replace the water heater with a new one, ideally around every ten year. If nobody ever came to check out your water heater, it might be an idea to have this done soon.

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