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How to clean & restart flooded water heating equipment or restore a flooded water heater to service:
This article describes procedures for inspection and if absolutely necessary, emergency repair and temporary use of of flooded water heating equipment, water heaters, calorifiers, geysers, or water heating cylinders.
Area flooding due to storms or building flooding due to a fire or burst water pipe can leave heating appliances inoperative as well as unsafe to use unless adequate inspection, cleaning, and repair or replacement of certain parts are made.
We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.
Flood Damaged Water Heaters: Checks & tests for restoring a flooded or storm damaged water heater to service
Different depths of flooding have different implications for inspection & repair of heating appliances after hurricanes, rising flood waters, burst pipe leaks, of sewer backups.
A water heater might be salvageable after area flooding if it was not submerged, or it might be necessary to make temporary emergency use of a water heater that was flooded.
Here we describe checks & tests for restoring a flooded or storm damaged water heater to service
Our page top photo shows a client pointing to the level reached by flood waters in a building basement - the heating boiler, water heater, and other basement appliances had been inundated with muddy water from area flooding.
Water heater sketch for an oil fired heater is provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates, a Toronto home inspection education, report writing and inspection firm.
Watch out: before draining the water heater, check DRINKING WATER EMERGENCY SOURCES where we discuss using the water in a water heater, calorifier, geyser as an emergency drinking water source after a disaster such as flooding, hurricane, earthquake.
Later when we want to get a salvageable water heater working after flood, hurricane, earthquake or other disaster damage the steps needed depend on the type of heater that you have installed.
The water heater might be salvageable, though if the heater was completely flooded as was its heat source such as a gas or oil burner, it may be beyond economical repair.
In that case I would attempt to clean and restore such a heater only as an emergency measure when it is absolutely necessary to try.
Most likely in all cases of tank type water heaters you'll want to drain and possibly sanitize the tank along with building water supply piping as well as flush and test (or replace) the pressure / temperature relief valve and discharge tube.
Watch out: Shut off power and fuel to the water heater if you have not already done so
Watch out: Do not allow contaminated water from an unsafe source such as flooded wells to enter the water heater - leave its water supply valve (on the heater's cold line inlet) OFF until you know that the water supply is safe
Watch out: simply shocking your well (WELL CHLORINATION SHOCKING PROCEDURE) is not enough to give safe drinking water after area flooding, even if you include disinfection of the well and building piping, water tank, and water heater tank.
But that well sanitizing procedure procedure will explain how to sanitize the well and building piping, including faucets and fixtures.
You can follow that procedure when either your own water tests or local authorities tell you that their tests show that your water supply is now considered safe to use.
Watch out: If necessary, sanitize the building water piping and other water tanks such as the well pressure tank by draining them and when clean water is available, disinfect all of the water system using a bleach solution. See
Clean the water heater exterior with a sanitizing or disinfecting solution
Removing water heater insulation is usually too-difficult and thus infeasible. Insulation that has been covered by flood waters is unsanitary and will remain a source of pathogens, mold, odors even if you can dry it out.
For emergency use of a water heater that has been flooded, once you've done all of the cleaning and sanitizing you may be forced to make temporary use of what is essentially a heater that needs to be replaced. See comments below about turning on the water heater.
Inspect the water heater's heat source for flooding and flood damage and make necessary repairs and replacements before powering the heater back on.
Do not try to re-use gas or oil fired heating equipment that has been flooded before it has been inspected and cleaned or repaired by an expert, since there are fire and explosion hazards from unsafe heating controls.
Even an all-electric water heater must be inspected for clean, safe, dry, secure electrical wiring connections and wiring before it can be turned back on.
Inspect & repair the combustion chamber & chamber liner if necessary. This is likely to be the case if an oil fired heater was submerged.
Turn on the water supply when it is safe to do so.
Check the water heater relief valve. Watch out: a leaky, corroded, or damaged relief valve is dangerous since if the device is not working and if the water heater overheats there is risk of BLEVE EXPLOSIONS.
Check the water heaters controls for visible damage, water damage, short circuits (on electrical controls), particularly temperature controls and flame sensors, thermocouples, pilot lights on gas fired equipment. Replace controls that are visibly damaged, mud-clogged, or suspect.
Check for other unsafe conditions that affect the water heater operation before turning it on. These include components such as the condition of the heater's vent connection and chimney (if it's not an electric heater)
Turn on the water heater when it is safe to do so: building power is restored, the building electrical wiring and other fuel supplies like natural or LP gas or heating oil is inspected, cleaned, and safe to use. Watch out: as you probably were unable to remove the water heater insulation, it's going to steam and smell as the water heater warms-up. That steam is unsanitary and unsafe and is to be avoided. Remember you are making only temporary, emergency use of a water heater that needs to be replaced if it was submerged.
Monitor the water heater for normal operation: the heater should come on, and might steam a bit if its jacket is still damp - see our insulation warnings above.
Watch out: turn off the heater and its fuel immediately if you see fire, smoke, sparks, fuel leaks, gas odors, or anything that makes you nervous.
Otherwise let the heater warm up. The heater should heat up to somewhere around 120 degF. if its temperature thermostsatic control is working properly.
Run hot water to a nearby faucet or tap when the heater is seen to be working normally.
For gas or oil fired heater burners and other controls, see additional fuel supply and oil or gas burner inspection and restoration procedures listed in HEATING EQUIPMENT, FLOOD DAMAGE REPAIR .
For other types of hot water equipment see WATER HEATERS - home or see these articles:
Here Carson Dunlop Associates' sketch shows the location of the sacrificial anode on an electric water heater. If your hot water smells like rotten eggs, you should definitely check the condition of the sacrificial anode on the hot water heater, no matter what kind of water tank you've got installed.
For details of how to inspect or replace the sacrificial anode or dip-tube on a water heater, please see WATER HEATER ANODES & DIP TUBES or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.
This article series on oil hot water heat will answer most questions about oil-fired water heaters
as well as many other building plumbing system inspection or defect topics.
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Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
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The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones