Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education Kaplan University School of Professional and Continuing Education

How to Properly Inspect a Water Heater

Published by: Kaplan Real Estate Education

Updated: September 2, 2018

How to Properly Inspect a Water Heater

The size and design of water piping running to and from the water heater is extremely important and can affect aspects like water pressure and water leaks. Our expert home inspection instructor will teach you how to inspect the different elements of the water heater and advise you on what requirements are non-negotiable. Discover the most important safety component of a water heater and how it can save an entire home. Also, learn about the different pipe sizes, pipe connections, required valves, gas controls, and more in this video segment.

Video Transcript
It's very common after you finish stuff with the heating system to find the water heater very close to it. Not all the time, but probably most of the time. There's certain things that you need to look for in the water heater just like you would have looked for in the heating system. If it doesn't have the right components that's a problem. The second thing that we'll do then is to make sure that those components  are doing what they're designed to do.

What we finished up also a few moments ago was the water system. So as we begin to assess the water system it continues over here at the water heater.

If you'll notice over at the water meter there's  a nice one inch pipe coming in from the city supply water, but after the water meter it reduces to a three quarter inch pipe, very common. You don't want to see it any less than a three quarter inch pipe, otherwise we're going to have marginal to low water pressure in most instances. The only exception to that might possibly be a very small home with very few plumbing fixtures in it. 

When you've come over to from the water meter to supply the hot water heater with it's supply of water we would never reduce that three quarter inch pipe. We'd bring it in a full three quarter inch pipe, and then as we go out of the water heater we would also continue going out with a three quarter inch pipe.

As we begin to tee-off from these mains, eventually we'll tee-off in some half inch piping, and in some instances maybe even a three eighths inch pipe. But nonetheless, the size, and the design of these pipes is huge to whether, or not we're going to have a lot of leaking going on, or possibly reductions in water pressure, either today, or in the future.

Don't forget that as you look at water piping many times you're going to run into valves. Here's an example of a cold water valve for the water heater. When you dump your cold water supply into the water heater we do, or the building codes do require that you have a cold water shut-off. The purpose of that is to isolate the fixture if we ever need to replace it.

So as  we look at the water heater, this happens to be a gas one, but our electric water heaters, but this pipe becomes a very important part of the water heater. It has to slope right, it has to be the right size, it has to have the right connections. If you'll recall in the classroom, we said each connection has to have three screws. It is that important. This is a part of the system that can harm the occupants if it's not done right. So it's one of those non-negotiables. We want to make sure that it's right.

As we move around the water heater, you'll also notice that there's going to be some gas controls. Good home inspectors will turn that thermostat up, remember what the original setting was, and let the system run. Sit back and listen for a little while, remember we use our ears too, because after a little bit, maybe 10-15-20 seconds you want to listen for any noise in the water heater tank. Noise would indicate a build-up of corrosion in the tank, if you find that noise on a particular inspection, it's usually telling us that the water heater is reaching the end of it's useful life. So certainly that would be something you'd want to mark into your inspection report.

Also a very important component of the water heater from a safety perspective is over here, it's the temperature relief valve. Hot water expands, if there's no faucet calling for water, and the burner system is mis-operating, you'll continue to heat water, and you'll not be draining any of it out of the tank.

The purpose of the temperature pressure relief valve is to release that pressure so that the tank wouldn't explode. Doesn't happened often, but there's been examples where this, our hot water heater has exploded, and taken off, because of a faulty, or maybe even not having a temperature  pressure relief valve. Quite frankly it has  the capability of destroying the entire home.  Tell your people, test it once a year, so that they make sure that it's always in operating condition.

Once you've looked at the water heater, you've sized it, that's on the manufacturer's data tag, and once you've determined its age, we'll show you how to do that in class. I neglected to mention on the furnaces, we do the same thing with furnaces. Although that's above, and beyond  what normal industry standards require of us, we at Capital like to recommend that you do it, because quite frankly if I told you your water heater is 15 years old, even if it's operating right, that tells the people something. It certainly tells them that it's on the downside of it's useful life.