Is It Safe to Sleep Close to a Gas Water Heater?

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When it comes to bringing water heaters inside the house, the burner becomes a great concern. This is why most units installed indoors are electric. However, there are still other homeowners who prefer using natural gas at home. One of the perks of having heaters operating through natural gas is that they still work even when the power goes off during blackouts.

Is it safe to sleep close to a gas water heater? Sleeping close to a gas water heater may be okay, but only if you follow certain precautions. It is generally not considered safe due to the dangers that fuel combustion brings.

For houses without a garage or basement, the water heater must be installed somewhere inside the house instead. This is often placed in an area where it won’t be visible such as in a bedroom closet. However, this method of installation is allowed only once a permit has been issued to ensure that it is safe.

Gas Water Heater

Installing Water Heaters

Ideally, water heater units must be placed near an electric or gas service. It must also be located in an area where distribution lines for water supply can be set up easily. Placing the water heater on an exterior wall is best to achieve proper ventilation easily.

If preferred or when necessary, you can have water heaters installed in bathroom or bedroom closets but only if they are a direct vent, a sealed combustion chamber, or an electric unit. Fuel combustion-operated heaters are highly advised not to be installed in bathrooms, bedrooms, or any other closets and compartments that open into those places.

Although installing gas water heaters in permitted spaces in the house is quite easy, it might take a lot of work and a higher cost if you have it installed in an already finished home. This is because running a gas line is similar to that of a plumbing line, which means that wall surfaces might need to be demolished to set them up. A good option would be to install the gas line in the attic and bring it down only in the areas in the house where you need it. Gas lines are often used when homeowners consider going tankless.

Keeping Closet Doors Closed

If you prefer to keep your gas water heater in the closet, it must be kept shut at all times. It is a requirement that closets come with doors when a gas water heater is installed inside. These doors must not be left open and must automatically shut themselves when left unattended. Closet doors with features that allow them to be held open are not allowed.

Air Circulation

There is a required amount of clearance or air space where a gas water heater must be installed in order for it to function safely and properly. If you plan on owning a hot water heater, an air space of at least 12 inches is required. Air ducts measuring at least 3 inches wide must be installed for combustion. For proper ventilation, an amount of airflow is also required. There is no standard measurement, but the building code states that the required airflow must be provided depending on the specifications of each unit.

Dangers of Installing a Gas Water Heater Indoors

Oftentimes, the local news would show a house catching fire due to a gas water heater. This kind of incident generally starts when flammable materials such as paints, gasoline cans, and cleaners are left near the tank. If the tank is located near a storage room with papers, clothes, and other materials that easily catch fire, it could cause further damage.

There are several dangers involved by owning an indoor gas water heater, but these can be avoided by exercising proper caution and following the rules.

The most common ways a gas water heater can cause an explosion is due to a gas leak or water pressure. If the gas is leaking anywhere near the water heater, even the slightest ignition can start a fire or even cause it to explode.

Even water pressure from the heater can cause a fire. Pressure builds up when water in the tank is heated. Normally, the safety valve would function and the water heater turns off. However, there are instances when these safety mechanisms don’t do their work, and the tank eventually explodes.

Old gas water heaters have a high risk of causing an explosion because their bottoms have no seals and are virtually open, posing a greater chance of vapors turning into flames.

Health Effects

Death caused by carbon monoxide poisoning is one of the common risks of having gas water heaters inside the house. This often occurs when the gas unit is not properly vented. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, so you’ll only notice it once you start feeling the symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, confusion, headache, chest pain, nausea, and vomiting. This gas is often known as the silent killer because some people can die from poisoning while sleeping even before they notice the symptoms.


Carbon Monoxide Detector

Ensuring proper ventilation is one of the best ways to help prevent gas water heater-related accidents. To help prevent any such incidents from occurring, be sure that there are proper vents where the unit is located. It would also be best to install carbon monoxide detectors all around your house to keep you alert in case the gas levels become dangerous. Always keep the place where the heater is kept clean, and as much as possible, use water to do so. Cleaners may contain chemicals that could be dangerous when exposed to gas fumes from the heater. Also, avoid storing any combustible materials anywhere near it, even when the heater is off.

Other Tips to Avoid Gas Water Heater Explosions and Other Dangers:

  • Tuning-Up the Water Heater

Getting water heater tune-ups annually by a professional plumber will help prevent any gas leaks and ensure that your unit’s safety mechanisms are fully functional. Investing in getting your heater inspected is better than having to spend for the damages you’ll have to fix in case something goes wrong.

  • Cleaning the Gas Heater

Be sure to clean the heater when it is off and has cooled down. Cleaning helps reduce dust from building up in the ducts and air vents, ensuring that the heater functions perfectly.

  • Leaving it to the Professionals

You may consider installing or repairing your gas water heater yourself to reduce your expenses. However, this might cost other problems or worse, an explosion, if not done properly. So, it is best to just hire a trusted expert to prevent further risks.

  • Inspecting the Temperature and Pressure (T&P) Valve

Old, storage-tank style units have T&P valves that help regulate excess pressure and prevents the heater from exploding. So, be sure to check it up regularly. Flip the lever and see if the valve releases some water and then closes back into place.

  • Keeping Track of It

Never keep the gas water heater on while you are asleep or when no one is at home. Always make sure that someone is monitoring the unit while it is running.

  • Decreasing the Temperature

The standard temperature for water heaters should be at around 120-130° F. If you go higher than that, it could cause extreme burns and damage the heating unit.

  • Removing Exhaust Fans Near It

If you own an open flued or unflued gas water heater, make sure that you keep it somewhere far from exhaust fans. This is because it may cause the carbon monoxide to seep into your room. When having the heater installed, be sure to check for any possibilities of carbon monoxide leakage.

  • Keeping Away from Children

Do not allow children to get too close to the heater, let alone touch it. Although the unit has dress guards, they only protect against light, accidental clothing contact.

  • Installing Seismic Straps

Natural disasters such as earthquakes can cause the water heater to move, potentially causing damage and leakage. To prevent such incident, have bracing straps installed on every gas heater unit you own, especially if you live on a seismic zone. Two straps must be securely placed on the heater – one on the top third portion and the other on the bottom third.

  • Allotting Proper Trash Disposal

Some people think using the gas fire to burn some rubbish is an efficient and easy way to get rid of the trash. This is a big no-no since cotton buds, tissues, and other garbage, which you think are harmless, might produce dangerous pollutants.

Conclusion – Is It Safe to Sleep Close to a Gas Water Heater?

Having a gas water heater indoors is risky. If you want to prevent all the dangers it brings, be sure to follow all the necessary precautions. However, there are alternatives, so you won’t have to keep using a fuel combustion heaters. An electric water heater is a great alternative. As its name suggests, it powers up through electricity and releases no vapors, which could cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Solar water heaters are another safe option, which is energy efficient at the same time.

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