Water Heater Safety

There are a few things to consider when addressing water heater safety, including the temperature, proper operation and choosing the correct size. People who use a lot of hot water but do not have a large enough unit may try to make a unit operate beyond its capacity, creating an unsafe situation.


The right size unit depends upon the power source. Gas, whether natural or propane, heats water a lot faster than electricity and is not as demanding as large a burner or capacity tank. A family of 5 who uses lots of water—daily showers for all, dishwashing, laundry—should use a gas-powered water heater with a minimum capacity of 75 gallons. Large families should even consider a commercial water heater with extra large burners that heat water fast. Smaller families can buy a smaller tank capacity, like 50 gallons.

if you choose an electric heater, remember that this power source will take much longer to heat water than gas does. A family of 5 with high demands for water will need a 120 gallon unit. An 80 gallon tank electric heater would work for a smaller family.


Although all water heaters have external temperature controls, using extremely hot water may produce two adverse effects.

  1. Constantly heating water to keep more on-hand will not solve the problem of a lack of hot water. This is a capacity issue, so increasing the tank water temperature will only increase your energy bill. You need a larger tank.
  2. Higher temperatures present a safety hazard, especially for young children in the home. Within seconds, a child exposed to water set at 150 degrees will suffer third-degree burns. With water at 140 degrees, even an adult can be burned within 6 seconds.

Most safety experts recommend water temperatures no higher than 125 degrees. Granted, small children should always be supervised when using hot water, but children are curious and can not always be watched. Don’t set such a high water temperature creating a household hazard for your children.

Bad Water

If you hear your water heater making strange sounds like bubbling or whining, it may be that mineral sediments have accumulated at the base of the tank. If water appears rusty, you may be contaminating your household water supply from improper tank maintenance.

The best way to maintain your tank is to  flush it monthly. Shut off the inlet supply and drain the tank. Then attach a water hose to the drain and turn the inlet back on, running water through the tank for about 10 minutes.

If the water supply in your area is fairly and loaded with minerals, consider periodically cleaning with a good CLR (calcium, lime and rust) solution.

However, constant cleaning can cause the material of the tank to corrode. If water remains persistently off-colored and sediment is present, you need to replace the tank.