Anyone who has ever endured an early morning cold shower knows the value of a properly functioning water heater. If you’re in the market for a new home, be sure not to overlook the importance of having this critical piece of equipment checked by a professional home inspector for functionality and safety as part of a complete foundation-to-roof assessment.
A certified inspector will use their ears and nose as well as their eyes to check the water heater. For example, something as simple as unusual noises when operating can indicate harmful sludge buildup or internal corrosion. An unpleasant smell, similar to rotten eggs, may indicate the presence of sediment, which can force the unit work harder and cost you more in utility bills. In this case, your home inspector may recommend draining and flushing the tank to improve efficiency and avoid significant damage to the unit.
Along with a visual, sensory, and operational check of the water heater, the home inspector will note the expected lifespan of the system. As one of the busiest—and often taken-for-granted—appliances in a home, there are numerous things that can go wrong with it. Here are some common problems that will be noted in a home inspection report:
- No Hot Water: In a gas water heater, this could mean a number of problems, including a bad thermocouple, faulty gas valve, blocked vent, or a burner that is rusted due to a water leak. With an electric water heater, the culprit is most often a busted heating element.
- Visible Damage to Tank
- Tank Too Close to Combustibles
- Excess Noise When Operated
- Corrosion: This is a possible sign that there may be internal tank leakage.Corrosion can be coming from a leak inside of the tank or from high moisture content in the area. The inspector will visually assess water tank pipes for corrosion.
- Water leaks: A good inspector will make sure that water underneath a tank is being caused by an actual leak rather than condensation. A leaky drain valve and corroded tank are common concerns.
- Insufficient capacity and recovery rate
- Blackened areas near the burner:This often indicates poor combustion or back drafting.
- Use of insulation blankets on gas water heaters:A fire hazard that may supersede any possible advantage.
- Gas leaks: Your inspector will also note if improper gas lines are being used, such as flex line, which may or may not be allowed depending on local codes.
- Non-centered, wobbly draft hoods
- Trouble with the temperature and pressure relief valve
- Too much of a rise in the vent stack
- Gas valve frozen in the off position
- Potentially dangerous back drafting:When exhaust gases spill out into the room instead of leaving the house through a vent.
- Decreased efficiency due to reversed hot or cold piping: The inspector will note if the hot pipe is actually hot and the cold pipe is cold.
- Water heaters in garages that do not meet safety guidelines for crash barriers and proper elevation off the floor
For electrical water heaters, your inspector will report on damaged wiring, loose connections, wiring that is not on a dedicated circuit or properly secured, color-coding issues, open slices, and other observations.
A water heater inspection is just one part of an A-Pro 500-point inspection. To schedule a home inspection, call 406-426-2766 or visit the link below.