Do Water Heater Cause House Fires? Fire up Your Knowledge

When it comes to home safety, there are many potential hazards to be aware of. From carbon monoxide leaks to electrical fires, it’s important to understand the risks and take steps to prevent them.

One common concern for homeowners is the safety of their water heaters. While these appliances are a necessary part of daily life, they can also pose a risk if not properly maintained or installed.

In this blog post, we will explore the topic of water heaters and house fires, providing information and insights to help you keep your home safe.

What is Water Heater?

A water heater is a household appliance that heats and supplies hot water for domestic use, such as for showering, washing dishes, and doing laundry.

It typically consists of a tank, heating elements or a burner, and a thermostat to regulate the temperature of the water.

The tank is insulated to keep the water hot and is connected to the water supply through an inlet pipe, while the hot water is distributed throughout the house through a network of pipes.

There are several types of water heaters, including electric, gas, propane, and solar-powered, and they come in various sizes to meet the hot water needs of different households.

Do Water Heater Cause House Fires

The short answer is yes, they can. In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration reports that water heater malfunctions and failures result in an average of 11% of all residential fires annually.

This is a startling statistic that is often overlooked by homeowners.

One of the most common causes of water heater-related fires is a malfunctioning temperature and pressure relief valve. This valve is designed to release excess pressure and temperature buildup within the water heater tank.

If this valve fails or is blocked, the pressure and temperature within the tank can become too high, resulting in an explosion or fire.

Another common cause of water heater fires is the buildup of flammable materials around the unit, such as dust and debris. This can happen if the water heater is in an area with poor ventilation or is not cleaned regularly.

Do Water Heater Cause House Fires

Flammable materials can ignite if they come into contact with the heat generated by the water heater, causing a fire to start.

Older water heaters are also more prone to causing fires. Over time, the tank can corrode and weaken, making it more susceptible to leaks and ruptures.

This can lead to the release of flammable gases, such as propane or natural gas, which can ignite and cause a fire.

So, what can homeowners do to prevent water heater-related fires? The first step is to ensure that the unit is properly installed and maintained.

This includes having it installed by a licensed professional and having it inspected and serviced regularly.

Homeowners should also ensure that the area around the water heater is free of flammable materials and that the unit is clean and free of debris.

It is also important to check the temperature and pressure relief valve regularly to ensure it functions properly.

Finally, homeowners should consider replacing older water heaters with newer, more efficient models. Newer models have safety features that can help prevent fires and other hazards.

How to Prevent Water Heater Fires

Preventing water heater fires is important to protect your home and ensure your safety. Here are some tips to prevent water heater fires:

Proper installation: Ensure your water heater is installed and meets all local building codes. Hire a licensed plumber or contractor to install your water heater.

Regular maintenance: Regularly inspect your water heater for any signs of damage, leaks, or corrosion, and have it serviced annually by a licensed professional.

Proper storage: Do not store any flammable materials, such as gasoline, chemicals, or paint, near the water heater.

Temperature control: Set the water heater temperature to 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent overheating and potential fires.

Safe electrical connections: Ensure that all electrical connections to the water heater are safe and up to code. If you notice any frayed or damaged wires, have them repaired immediately.

Proper ventilation: Ensure your water heater is properly ventilated and the vent pipes are not blocked or obstructed.

Automatic shut-off valves: Install automatic shut-off valves on the water heater and the gas supply line to the water heater to prevent overflows and gas leaks.

By following these tips, you can minimize the risk of water heater fires and ensure the safety of your home and family.

If you notice any signs of a potential water heater problem, such as strange noises, leaks, or gas smell, immediately turn off the water heater and call a licensed professional for repair or maintenance.

Cause Of Water Heater Fires

Water heater fires are rare, but they can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

Overheating: When the water temperature in the tank becomes too hot, it can cause the tank to rupture and start a fire.

Flammable materials: If flammable materials, such as gasoline, paint, or cleaning chemicals, are stored near the water heater, they can ignite and cause a fire.

Electrical issues: Faulty wiring or loose electrical connections can cause a short circuit, leading to a fire.

Gas leaks: A gas leak in the gas supply line or in the water heater itself can cause a fire or explosion.

Lack of maintenance: Neglecting regular maintenance, such as flushing the tank or replacing faulty components, can cause a buildup of sediment or damage that can lead to a fire.

It is important to regularly inspect and maintain your water heater to prevent these issues from occurring.

If you notice any signs of a potential problem, such as strange noises, leaks, or the smell of gas, immediately turn off the water heater and call a licensed professional for repair or maintenance.

Percentage Of House Fires Caused By Water Heater

According to the National Fire Protection Association, a significant percentage of house fires are caused by water heaters. So, what percentage of house fires are caused by water heaters?

The answer may surprise you. The NFPA reports that water heaters are responsible for 11% of all home structure fires.

That’s a significant number, considering that there are more than 350,000 home fires each year in the United States alone.

Water heaters can be a fire hazard mainly due to their use of natural gas or propane.

If there is a gas leak or malfunction, it can cause an explosion or fire.

The risk is even higher for older water heaters without updated safety features.

Electric water heaters can also be a fire risk if faulty wiring or improper installation causes an electrical fire.

However, you can take steps to reduce the risk of a water heater fire in your home.

One of the most important things to do is to have your water heater inspected and maintained regularly by a licensed professional.

They can check for gas leaks, ensure proper ventilation, and replace faulty parts that could lead to a fire.

It’s also important to make sure your water heater is installed in a safe location.

It should be placed away from flammable materials and have enough space around it for proper ventilation. Additionally, you should never store flammable materials near your water heater.

Another way to reduce the risk of a water heater fire is to replace older models with newer, more energy-efficient models.

Newer water heaters have updated safety features and are less likely to malfunction or cause a fire.

What To Do If Your Water Heater Catches Fire

If your water heater catches fire, follow these steps:

Evacuate the area: If the fire is small, use a fire extinguisher to try to put it out. If the fire is too large or spreading quickly, evacuate the area immediately and call 911.

Turn off the power or gas supply: If it is safe, turn off the power supply to the water heater or shut off the gas valve to stop the fuel supply to the water heater.

Don’t use water: Do not attempt to extinguish an electrical fire with water. Instead, use a fire extinguisher designed for electrical fires or call the fire department.

Stay away: Keep a safe distance from the water heater, and do not attempt to move it or touch any electrical components.

Wait for the fire department: Wait for the fire department to arrive and follow their instructions. Do not attempt to enter the area until it is deemed safe by the fire department.

Contact a professional: After the fire has been extinguished and the area is safe, contact a licensed professional to inspect and repair the water heater or replace it if necessary.

Remember always to prioritize your safety in the event of a fire. Evacuate the area immediately and call 911 for assistance.

How Does A Water Heater Actually Cause A Fire?

One of the main causes of water heater fires is a malfunctioning thermostat.

The thermostat controls the water temperature in the tank and regulates the heating element.

If the thermostat fails, it can cause the heating element to heat the water beyond the safe temperature continuously. This can result in overheating and, eventually, a fire.

Another common cause of water heater fires is a faulty pressure relief valve.

The pressure relief valve releases excess pressure if the temperature or pressure inside the tank becomes too high.

If the valve is damaged or malfunctions, it can cause the tank to overheat and potentially cause a fire.

Additionally, sediment buildup is a common issue leading to water heater fires. Over time, minerals and other substances can accumulate at the bottom of the tank.

This buildup can create a layer of insulation that prevents heat from properly dissipating, causing the tank to overheat and potentially ignite.

Improper installation and maintenance are also factors that can contribute to water heater fires.

Suppose the water heater is not installed according to the manufacturer’s instructions or is improperly maintained. In that case, it can result in leaks, electrical shorts, and other issues that can cause a fire.

To prevent water heater fires, homeowners should have their water heaters regularly inspected and serviced by a professional.

They should also ensure that the pressure relief valve is working correctly and monitor the thermostat to ensure it is functioning properly.


Water heaters can be a potential fire hazard, but the risk can be minimized with proper installation, regular maintenance, and taking necessary precautions.

Various factors, including overheating, flammable materials near the water heater, electrical issues, gas leaks, and lack of maintenance, can cause water heater fires.

It is important to have a licensed professional install and regularly maintain your water heater, keep flammable materials away from it, and be aware of any signs of potential problems.

In the event of a water heater fire, evacuate the area immediately, turn off the power or gas supply if it is safe, and call 911 for assistance.