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Can a Broken Water Heater Cause Carbon Monoxide?

Owning a home comes with many challenges. Taking care of your appliances that rely on natural gas is one of them. You may be wondering, can a broken water heater cause carbon monoxide? Yes, any of these appliances, especially your water heater, can be at risk of causing carbon monoxide to leak into your home. Carbon monoxide is hazardous and can easily go undetected. However, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your water heater is not at risk of causing carbon monoxide and tools you can use to detect a leak in the future. If you find that your water heater is broken or leaking carbon monoxide, it is best to contact a trusted plumber. At Goodbee Plumbing, we have the expertise to fix your water heater and ensure that your household is safe. 

Why Water Heaters are at Risk

Many home appliances use natural gas to function. These appliances must be regularly checked and maintained to ensure they are not leaking carbon monoxide. Without care, a break or leak in one of these appliances, especially your water heater, can cause serious health issues to the people in your household without them even knowing. 

A tank-style gas water heater is the most common water heater found in homes. Because of its affordable cost and low-maintenance requirements, it is usually the most popular among homeowners. However, it is crucial to understand the dangers of any gas appliances if not correctly maintained. 

How Does a Gas Water Heater Work?

A gas water heater comprises a cylindrical outer steel jacket and a coated, rust-resistant inner metal holding tank. Through the center of the tank is an exhaust flue that channels exhaust gasses from the burners at the bottom of the tank to the exhaust vent at the top. A metal baffle inside the flue is used to maximize the conversion of heat from the gasses to the water being heated in the tank. The water heater burns natural gas or propane to heat the water, and the reservoir within the tank holds the heated water until the appliances in the home need it. 

Is Your Water Heater Leaking Carbon Monoxide?

Carbon monoxide is entirely undetectable without the proper equipment. It is colorless and odorless and is incredibly dangerous when undetected. The only way to tell if your house has a carbon monoxide leak is with a carbon monoxide detector. Therefore, it is a necessity to have at least one carbon monoxide detector installed near your water heater, as well as on all floors of your home. 

In addition to installing a carbon monoxide detector, it is a good idea to ensure that your house and water heater are correctly ventilated. In case of a leak, the gas will escape instead of being trapped and causing health issues. Additionally, there are many signs that you may have a problem with the ventilation in your water heater. These may include moist air around the draft hood of the water heater. A venting or back-draft issue will cause a smooth surface, such as a piece of glass, to fog up when placed near the hood. Another tell-tale sign is condensation or corrosion on the top of the water heater caused by moist exhaust gasses escaping from the water heater. An additional sign of insufficient ventilation is slightly melted plastic due to hot gasses surrounding cold inlet and hot outlet pipes. 

Unfortunately, without a carbon monoxide detector, most individuals find the leak through health issues that carbon monoxide can cause. These may include headache, dizziness, weakness, upset stomach, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. Because carbon monoxide symptoms are considered “flu-like,” victims will often believe they have caught a virus. Long-term effects of carbon monoxide poisoning may include irreversible brain damage, cardiac conditions, and fatality. Sadly, many victims do not realize they have been poisoned until the most damaging effects have set in. If you or members of your household experience any symptoms like these without explanation, you must leave the house immediately until all of your gas appliances can be inspected by a professional. 

The Damaging Effects of Carbon Monoxide Exposure 

Understanding the severe consequences of carbon monoxide exposure is essential for homeowners, as it underscores the importance of proper gas appliance maintenance, such as your water heater. 

Health Impacts 

Health effects from carbon monoxide poisoning vary, but most often, they include flu-like symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, mental confusion, and body weakness. Symptoms vary from mild to severe, but due to their flu-life nature, many victims do not realize it’s poisoning until their situation gets more severe. 

Long-Term Health Consequences

Prolonged exposure can result in more severe health issues, such as brain damage, heart conditions, and in some cases, death. The risk is especially high for children, the elderly, and those who are medically compromised. 

Emotional and Psychological Effects

Survivors of carbon monoxide poisoning often experience emotional and psychological trauma. The fear and anxiety resulting from a near-fatal incident can have a lasting impact on mental health. 

Property Damage

In addition to harming residents, carbon monoxide can damage your home. For example, prolonged exposure to high levels can corrode metal in your appliances leading to costly repairs and replacements. 

Legal and Insurance Consequences

If a carbon monoxide leak is traced back to faulty gas appliances or negligence in maintenance, it can have legal and insurance complications. 

Understanding the damaging effects of carbon monoxide exposure underscores the importance of maintaining gas appliances like your water heater. Regular inspections, proper ventilation, and the installation of carbon monoxide detectors can help protect your home. Don’t wait until it’s too late; prioritize your safety and contact the team at Goodbee Plumbing! 

Causes of a Broken Water Heater

There are several ways a water heater can break and cause a carbon monoxide leak. Incorrect installation is one of them. It is possible that the technician that installed the water heater did not do a thorough job or inspection of their work. This improper installation can cause a variety of problems in addition to a carbon monoxide leak. Another cause of a broken water heater is improper maintenance. Ways in which you can maintain your water heater is by testing the TPR valve, checking the anode rod, draining the tank and washing out sediment, insulating the pipes, and insulating the water heater itself. It can be time-consuming to maintain your appliances in your home. Goodbee Plumbing is happy to inspect your water heater and educate you on ensuring its proper functioning in the future. 

Importance of Regular Maintenance

Regular maintenance is crucial for ensuring the safe and efficient operation of your water heater. Neglecting maintenance tasks can not only lead to potential carbon monoxide leaks but can impact the overall lifespan and efficiency of your water heater. 

One of the most critical maintenance tasks is checking the temperature and pressure relief (TRP) valve. This valve is designed to release excess pressure and prevent the tank from exploding. It’s essential to test the TPR valve annually to make sure it’s properly functioning. If you are unsure how to perform this task, it’s best to rely on the expertise of a professional plumber like the ones at Goodbee Plumbing! 

Another maintenance task is inspecting the anode rod. The anode rod is a sacrificial component that helps prevent the inside of the tank from corroding. Over time, the anode rod can deteriorate, and if not replaced, it can lead to tank corrosion and potential leaks. Regularly inspect and replace the anode rod as needed to extend the life of your water heater. 

Draining the tank and flushing out any sediment is another critical maintenance step. Sediment buildup at the bottom of the tank can reduce the efficiency of your water heater and lead to overheating. FLushing the tank annually or at the recommended cadence by the manufacturer helps maintain proper heating and prevents potential issues. 

Insulating the pipes and the water heater itself can also improve energy efficiency and reduce heat loss. Insulation helps keep the water in the tank hotter for longer, reducing the frequency of the heater turning on and off. 

Need Assistance? Call Goodbee

Goodbee Plumbing has been helping homeowners with their plumbing needs since 2007. We have the skills and expertise to aid you in any plumbing or drain issue you may have, water heater-related or not. Having a carbon monoxide leak is a dangerous situation that should be attended to immediately, so we offer same-day services for urgent needs like these. In addition to water heater repairs, we offer drain cleaning services, gas inspections, sewer services, any plumbing inspections or repairs, leak detection, and water treatments. Led by our Louisiana-certified Master Plumber, we are here to help you all days of the week. Contact us today to schedule a service appointment.

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