Monday, 18 August 2014

Water Heater Danger

Gone are the days when we had to boil the kettle just to have a bath.Once the water is boiling, we gently pour a kettle full of hot water and mix with the cold in a bucket.It's widely considered as a mark of luxury in the past to enjoy a warm bath.

Nostalgia, bathtime not quite the same experience as today

Nowadays in a modern or contemporary home, all you have to do is when you turn water heater on and you will have almost instant hot water coming out of your shower head.

Electricity vastly improves your quality of life. Most of the time, water heaters do what you expect them to do, that is to heat your water but you have completely ignore the hidden dangers you need to look out for. One of the dangers with a water heater is when you did not installed properly.

Defective water heaters could be so lethal to bathers. While such incidents are rare, in the wake of a recent tragedy had raised safety concern on domestic water heaters.  The mishap involving a pharmacist due to be married next year was electrocuted while using the water heater at her Segamat home.

Just about a year ago, on Sep 20, 2013  a Japanese couple was electrocuted by a faulty water heater in their apartment in Mont Kiara, Kuala Lumpur. As reported from local paper..

City CID chief Senior Asst Comm Datuk Ku Chin Wah said the housekeeper found the bodies of the married couple, aged 38, at around 10am on the 13th floor apartment unit.

"We believe the husband was electrocuted while taking a shower.

"His wife heard the noise in the bathroom and came to his aid but was also electrocuted," he said.

The body of the man was in the nude while the woman was fully clothed.

It is believed the water heater unit short-circuited leading to the electrocution.

Tankless water heater, also known as instantaneous water heaters, are by far the most common type used in Malaysia.Unlike conventional water heaters, tankless water heater do not heat and store hot water, you do not need to prepare and wait for the tank to heat up. The compact instantaneous systems heat the water as it is used, they cannot run out of hot water.

One thing to keep in mind when selecting a Tankless Water Heater for a two story house is you need to choose one which fitted with booster pump as you may not have enough pressure flowing from a water tank storage. Built-in booster pump, let you have an enjoyable, powerful and uninterrupted water flow.

Those water heater without a booster pump is good only for water heater's inlet pipe directly connected to the mains drinking water supply (water high pressure) and not from water storage tank.

Most instance hot water for Malaysian market come with built-in GFCI or ELCB breaker.The water heater unit when install must be connected only to a properly grounded electrical supply by a properly trained qualified service personnel.

Water and Electricity don't mix. Water carries electricity efficiently. A fatal attraction when the two elements are mixed together, it can be deadly - you could easily be electrocuted.
That's why when it is going to be rain, the life guard would ask everyone to get of the water. If your in a pool of water and the lightning struck the water you will be electrocuted.

Hence the bathroom is possibly the most dangerous room in the house.

Wet skin significantly lower our human body resistance of electric shocks. The low resistance of wet skin allowing further increases current flow to pass into the body easily which increases shock severity.

In the past people take extra precautions by installing an external Earth Leakage Circuit Breaker (ELCB) or RCCB outside the bathroom but these days, many instant water heater comes with the latest technology built-in ELCB and ELSD(ground fault circuit interrupter) models.


There are several steps that can be taken to protect yourself and your loved ones over the usage of electric water heaters.

As we all know, 50 V AC or 120 V DC can deliver lethal electrocution to people.

Therefore, it is advisable to periodically inspection test to verify the functioning of the ELCB
self test on electric water heater.

1st:  Please ensure you have heater on/off switch outside the bathroom. The switch for the heater/aircon, the amperage is 20A. A 13A plug is not good enough. The wiring also has to be rated to handle 15A, or the cables will also burn/melt.

2nd:  The wiring also has to be rated to handle 15A, or the cables will also burn/melt.

3rd:  Before buying any instant water heater make sure your water heater is equipped with an inbuilt GFCI or ELCB breaker. ELCB is basically a life saving device will trip instantaneous when in the event of a short circuit.

4rd: Test the functions of ELCB beaker monthly at least four times a year to prevent electrocution.

Here’s how you should test the GFCI/ELCB breaker:

• The first thing to do is to switch on electricity at the main switch.

Usually, there will be a TEST button on the main body of water heater.All the ELCB's are provided with test buttons.

After starting the water heater (avoid getting contact from the water), press a button marked ‘Test’ button to check operation of the tripping device.

If the ELCB is operating correctly, the water heater should stop stopped working immediately. If not, please stop promptly, switch off the electric water heater and arrange an experienced technician to inspect it. Contact the vendor about a return due to failure of safety if doubtful. (provided it's still is covered under the warranty or else please get a new one)

If someone is still apprehensive after the water heater passes ELCB test, he can always install another external RCCB at the incoming mains for water heater to provide additional safety measures.  Don't attempt to repair ELCB, employ a registered electrical contractor to check.

Ugly looking but reliable safety devices installed in older homes

The Electricity Regulation 1994, it is mandatory for all consumers to install an external residual-current circuit breaker (RCCB) with a 10mA (milliampere) current leakage sensitivity for water heaters but many consumers fail to adhere to the regulation.

Most new water heaters have built-in ELCB that would cut off the power supply to the heater in the event of current leakage but still some people are not convince enough with the inbuilt ELCB water heater.

Many consumers assumed that the built-in 15mA circuit breaker was sufficient, when in fact it would not provide full protection against leakages.

The external RCCB, serves as an added protection.

The 10mA is the most sensitive RCCB that could detect even 0.01Amp of current, meaning it is able to detect current leakage speedily.

General knowledge of routine maintenance to enjoy an uninterrupted shower.

1. Just like your car, your instant water heater also needs regular tune-ups. Over time, mineral deposits can build up in your shower head. This can cause your shower head nozzles clogged and doesn't seem to be as powerful as it once. You can clean the thing by take it apart, soak it, scrub with a used toothbrush and screw the showerhead back on.

2. If low water pressure is affecting your shower head, you should look out for another obstruction in the shower hose. Most tankless water heaters have an inlet water filter. Keep cleaning inlet filter often by disconnect cold water valve then remove and clean filter. With a clean shower head filter can prevent low water volume.

Use a pair of needle-nose pliers to gently remove the screens for cleaning

3. Low or not constant water pressure can cause problem of hot and cold water out simultaneously, or unit does not work. This case water pressure should be adjusted.

4. For safety, please check and adjust water temperature before using to avoid scalding.

I didn't see it coming! Didn't see it coming!

Yes, you can be electrocuted in the shower or while on the phone if a lightning bolt strikes your house. The chances of it happening are awfully slim, but i guess - it's better to be safe than sorry. Water does does allow electricity to flow, especially a large current like lightning.

Your pipes in your house are grounded, and the lightning is looking for the fastest way to ground, to discharge. So, if it hit your house, it can go through the pipes and you could be part of the circuit for the electricity to travel.The basis of the claim is that a bolt of lightning that hits a house or building can travel through any metal wires or bars in concrete walls or flooring and shock anyone who comes into contact with a faucet or appliance.

 "Sorry, you have the wrong number," and  "zzzzttt-zzzzzzzt"

The odds of that happen  is very slim/are slim. I do take showers while ts thunderstorming, but only if I really have to.

One last thing to keep in mind... Just when you think you have all the safety precautions you should take.

Will touching a light switch with wet hands electrocute you?
 Silly use electrical switches when you have wet hands?

You guessed right, you'll know what's going to happen next

To guard against accidental shock, get one of this plastic shock protector

So don't let your guard down by not paying attention to safety even for a moment.... Stay alert and you won't get hurt. One of the precautions might use it to save your life someday. 


  1. Hi David, read your article with interest. I read an article in The Star previously that we should ensure that the water heaters are not more 10mA in sensitivity. How do we check that? What equipments is used and how is the procedures?

    1. I got what you mean , thanks for posting .Woh I am happy to find this website through google. hot water in floor heating Calgary

  2. Heating up water surely is more convenient now that we have tanks of water heaters available for installment in our homes. However, aside from their beneficial use, water heaters can be tricky and at times, dangerous. I just hope a lot of bloggers will get to read your warnings about possible electrocution, David. Thanks for sharing that! All the best to you! :)

    Shelley Coday @ C & C Heating & Air Conditioning

  3. He said they were from National Home Services, and were in the neighbourhood replacing outdated rented water heaters. hot water heater

  4. Really thoughtful concept. Thanks for the information. It is very useful and informative.
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  5. You are right that nowadays, most homes have water heaters installed. And they are often heavily used, especially during the winter season. So this news is really alarming. Anyway, thanks for the warnings and tips. I’ll keep this in mind. Good day!

    Rosa Nelson @ HVAC Philadelphia

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  7. Nice article. Yes safety precautions must be taken into consideration whenever we use water heater. Thanks for the article.

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  8. Really very useful tips are provided here.thank you so much.Keep up the good works.
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  9. Hi David, how about those built in water heater in condo? (Tankless water heater) we can't see the water heater, it was built and store inside the wall.. how can we check the elcb?

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