If you were ever to have something in your home go as wrong as it could go wrong, you would not want it to be your water heater.
Of course wiring can go horribly wrong as can gas leaks.
But today I want to focus on your tank type water heater. Your water heater, whether gas or electric, has safety features that are designed to prevent the heater from becoming a rocket. Mythbusters has done several videos of what happens when you do lose these safety features; and, as the videos show, your house structure represents absolutely no resistance to your water heater propelling itself from your basement through your two story house and out through the roof pretty much instantaneously—and 400 feet into the air.
It could literally destroy much of your house. It would be a good time to not be at home—timing is everything most of the time.
At a recent inspection I found a newer water heater where the TPRV (Temperature/Pressure Relief Valve) was not located at the top of the tank where it is supposed to be. It is required to be located within the top 6” of the tank. The plug circled in the picture is where the valve should be.
Instead it was located more than three feet away from the tank---with its yellow instructions and warning label were still in place.
This will not be a difficult repair for someone who knows what they are doing, but is essential to keeping the water heater in the basement where it belongs--if things go horribly wrong.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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WA State, Home Inspector Advisory Licensing Board