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This article lists significant residential & light commercial water heater defects, definitions, and home inspection education topics. This article series, beginning at BUILDING DEFECTS LISTS, provides lists of common building defects and basic defect knowledge that also outline recommended curriculum content for home inspector education. The building defects and inspection points listed in these articles also guide homeowners and home buyers to building areas that merit careful attention and often point areas of safety concern or important maintenance and repair tasks.

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Home Inspection Education Curriculum - Water Heaters

Schematic of a sacrificial anode on a hot water tank (C) Carson Dunlop AssociatesReaders should see WATER HEATERS for our complete list of articles on this topic. Also see HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS. Use the Search Box at the top or bottom of these pages to find in-depth information about building, energy savings, and indoor environment inspection, diagnosis and repair at this website.

Watch out: these inspection lists do not list all possible defects for the systems discussed, and not all home or building inspectors will examine all of the items listed here. CONTACT us to suggest corrections or additions to articles at this website.

Also see MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES and see OIL TANKS INSPECT LEAK TEST ABANDON REGS and OIL & GAS PIPING and GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS.

The sketch shown at left was provided provided courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates

These curriculae and building defect lists are based on smilar curriculum documents first prepared by Joe Scaduto, an ASHI member who prepared course material for Northeastern University's Building Inspection Certificate program in 1988, subsequently by DF, InspectApedia's editor, for New York University ca 1988 and later, with others, recommended to ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. ASHI did not adopt this material though currently that association as well as others offer extensive HOME INSPECTOR EDUCATION material. The curriculum and lists of defects are informed by additional analysis of the process of home inspection that was developed beginning Calgary, AB for Canadian and U.S. home inspector education and certification examinations in 1997. Other early contributors to home inspection education in the U.S. and Canada include Dr. Jess Aronstein, Alan Carson, Mike Casey, Mark Cramer, John Cox, Dwight Barnett, Douglas Hansen, Rick Heyl, Larry Hoytt, Bill Merrill, Kevin O'Malley, Dennis Robitalille, Keith Peddie, Pat Porzio, Roger Robinson.

6.2   Water Heaters: home inspection recommendations, typical defects list

6.2.1 Knowledge Base for Inspecting Water Heaters

1.    Describe the function of residential water heaters.

2.    Describe the three most common fuels used in water heaters.

3.    List the materials and components of gas, oil, electric water heaters.

4.    Describe the features of  adequate installation and repair technique for water heaters.

5.    Define the following terms as they relate to water heaters:

      pressure relief valve, temperature/pressure relief valve, sacrificial anode, recirculating system, single pass, dip tube, recovery rate, glass lined tanks, vacuum relief valve, burner, heat exchanger, baffle (turbulator), draft hood, vent connector, external (floating) tank, refractory, thermostat, isolating valve, drain valve, superheated water, discharge tube, temperature cut-outs, energy cut-out (ECO), high efficiency water heater, direct vent system, combination system, tempering (mixing) valve, tankless coil, instantaneous water heater, fan-assisted (power vented) water heater.

6.    Outline the typical life expectancy of domestic water heaters.

7.    Identify the codes or standards which apply to water heaters in your area (gas, oil and electric).


6.2.2 Inspection skills for Inspecting Water Heaters

1.    Describe the inspection procedures for domestic water heaters.

2.    Identify the common defects listed on the next page.

3.    Describe the implications of each defect.

4.    Identify the safety issues for the inspector and the occupant of the house (gas explosion, oil fire, steam explosion, electric shock).

5.    Communicate findings to client verbally and in writing, recommending corrective actions where needed.


WATER HEATER TYPICAL DEFECTS

ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS, Typical Defects

See ELECTRIC WATER HEATERS

GAS Fired Water Heaters, Typical Defects

Also see GAS FIRED WATER HEATERS

GAS BURNERS AND VENTING, Typical Defects

GAS METERS, Typical Defects

      • Gas shut off and locked 

      • Ice

      • Leak              

      • Mechanical damage

      • Poor access

      • Poor location    

      • Rust

      • Undersized                                                      

GAS BURNERS on Water Heaters, Typical Defects

      • Delayed ignition

      • Dirt or soot

      • Gas odor or leak

      • Inoperative

      • Poor flame color or pattern

      • Rust

      • Scorching

      • Short cycling

Gas Water Heater COMBUSTION AIR, Typical Defects

  • Inadequate combustion air

  • Inadequate combustion air when utility room door shut

  • CO alarms sounding, sooting, odors

 

Water Heater GAS PIPING , Typical Defects  

      • Copper tubing not properly labeled   

      • Improper connections

      • Inadequate support

      • Inappropriate materials

      • Leak

      • Missing shut off valves   

      • No drip leg        

      • Piping in chimney or duct system    

      • Plastic pipe exposed above-grade

      • Rust

Gas Water Heater Heat Shields, Typical Defects

      • Loose

      • Rusted

      • Missing

      • Scorched

Gas Water Heater VENTING SYSTEMS, Typical Defects  

      • Improper material

      • Inadequate combustible clearance

      • Poor support

      • Poor connections

      • Poor manifolding

      • Poor slope

      • Rust, dirty, obstructed

      • Spillage or backdrafting at the draft hood

      • Too long

      • Vent connector extends too far into chimney

      • Vent connector too small, too big for water heater


OIL BURNER AND VENTING, Typical Defects

Also see OIL FIRED WATER HEATERS

OIL STORAGE TANKS             OIL BURNERS AND REFRACTORIES, Typical Defects


      • Empty                             • Dirt or soot

      • Leak                              • Excess noise or vibration

      • Not suitable for outdoor use      • Incomplete combustion

      • Poor location                     • Inoperative

      • Rust                              • Leak

      • Underground                       • Poor flame color pattern

                                          • Refractory problems

                                          • Rust

      FILL AND VENT PIPES, Typical Defects 

 

                                          • Scorching

      • Abandoned                         • Too close to combustibles

      •                                   • OIL BURNER NOISE SMOKE ODORS


      • Damaged or corroded

      • Leak                             PRIMARY CONTROLLER, Typical Defects

      • Missing caps

                                          • Inoperative

                                          • Missing

                                          • Tripped

 

 

      OIL SUPPLY LINES, Typical Defects   

      • Corrosion, mechanical damage,     BAROMETRIC DAMPERS/DRAFT REGULATORS, Typical Defects 

      crimped    

      • Leak

      • Undersized                        • Improper location

      • Unprotected                       • Inadequate draft air

                                          • Inoperative

      OIL FILTERS                         • Misadjusted

                                          • Missing (often not needed)

      • Dirty                             • Rust

      • Leak                              • Spillage

      • Missing


      COMBUSTION AIR, Typical Defects

      • Inadequate                        VENTING SYSTEMS, Typical Defects      

                                          • Improper material

                                          • Inadequate combustible clearance

                                          • Loose connections

                                          • Poor support

                                          • Poor slope

                                          • Poor insertion into chimney

                                          • Poor manifolding

                                          • Rust, dirty, obstructed   

                                          • Too small or too big

                                          • Too long


CONVENTIONAL TANK TYPE WATER HEATERS, Typical Defects    

      • Baffle collapsed or missing (gas or oil)

      • Damaged tank                            

      • Drain valve problems     

      • Gas burner cover or roll out shield  

      missing, damaged, rust       

      • Hot and cold piping reversed

      • Inadequate combustible clearance

      • Inadequate capacity or recovery rate

      • Inoperative

      • Insulation obstructing combustion air

      or draft hood (gas or oil)  

      • Leak

      • Low water pressure and flow

      • No isolating valve

      • Noisy water heater

      • Poor location –

             – Bedrooms

             – Bathrooms

             – Closets

      • Propane water heater in low area

      • Rust

      • Tank wobbly or not stable

      • Temperature/pressure relief valve problems

      • Not raised if in garage

CIRCULATING PUMPS - hot water circulating systems for instant hot water, Typical Defects 

      • Improper arrangement

      • Inoperative

      • Leak

      • Overheating or excess noise or vibration

COMBINATION HEATING SYSTEMS, Typical Defects 

Also see WATER HEATERS for HOME HEATING USE?

      • No hot water or inadequate hot water

      • Tempering valve missing, set improperly

      • Water too hot


TANKLESS COILS, Typical Defects 

Also see TANKLESS COILS

      • Leak

      • Poor hot water pressure or flow (clogged?)

      • Rust

      • Tempering valve —

             – Defective

             – Missing

             – Set wrong

Demand Water Heaters = Instant Water Heaters = Tankless Water Heaters, Typical Defects 

See TANKLESS WATER HEATERS

Readers should see WATER HEATERS for our complete list of articles on this topic. Also see HOME & BUILDING INSPECTORS & INSPECTION METHODS. Use the Search Box at the top or bottom of these pages to find in-depth information about building, energy savings, and indoor environment inspection, diagnosis and repair at this website. Watch out: these inspection lists do not list all possible defects for the systems discussed, and not all home or building inspectors will examine all of the items listed here. CONTACT us to suggest corrections or additions to articles at this website.

Also see MIXING / ANTI-SCALD VALVES and see OIL TANKS INSPECT LEAK TEST ABANDON REGS and OIL & GAS PIPING and GAS PIPING, VALVES, CONTROLS.

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