How safe is your water heater?


Fireside, electrocution or an explosion might happen in time, in case your electrical water heater has been wrongly put in. The programme Talking Degree finds out what you’ll be able to do to keep up protected.

When Thakshnamurthy’s family moved proper right into a seven-year-old resale flat in 2021, he did minor renovations nevertheless left {{the electrical}} system and water heater in place as all of the items appeared “mannequin new”.

Then ultimate November, hearth broke out within the bathroom when his son was showering. His partner immediately went out to vary off {the electrical} vitality on the mains whereas he acquired all people else to depart the flat. No person was hurt.

The fireplace was due to improper arrange of the connecting wires between the water heater and the circuit breaker, which lastly melted the wire insulation.

After that, Thakshnamurthy spent greater than S$2,000 getting a licensed electrician to rewire his full dwelling and arrange a model new water heater.

“It was very scary,” he instructed Speaking Degree as he confirmed programme host Steven Chia footage of the charred bathroom.

Furthermore hearth, water heaters have been involved in explosions and even deaths from electrocution. How does one forestall such accidents? Chia spoke to 4 specialists and found seven problems with observe.

    There are two important varieties {of electrical} water heaters.

On the spot, or tankless, water heaters, as a result of the title implies, present scorching water instantly on account of the water flows by a heating ingredient powered by electrical vitality. They’re largely put in in Housing and Enchancment Board (HDB) flats as they take up little space.

Storage water heaters, then once more, take up additional area nevertheless current a gradual flow into of scorching water at elevated pressures — easiest for rain showers. Water is heated and saved in these water heaters and reheated when needed.

No matter which one you buy, look out for the safety mark, prompt service engineer Peck Choon Heng from Homeone Water Heater.

To be registered and acquired in Singapore, all water heaters — as managed objects — ought to have the mark. “These with out (the) safety mark aren’t allowed to be put in,” he warned.

    Since 1985, all new homes ought to have a residual current circuit breaker (RCCB) put in. This machine can reduce off the ability present when it detects a leakage {of electrical} vitality from an gear or from wiring.

It is estimated — from a sample survey of about 1,800 HDB flats constructed sooner than 1985 — that fewer than one per cent of such flats do not have an RCCB defending your whole unit.

Nonetheless the mere presence of the RCCB does not basically suggest a water heater is protected to utilize. As an example, the RCCB is perhaps faulty or improperly put in.

“Test (to see) if the RCCB is working, then … check out (to see) if the heater’s circuit is linked to this RCCB,” Peck prompt.

    To verify safety at any residential premises, electrical work must be achieved by licensed electrical staff, whereas water service and sanitary plumbing must be achieved by licensed plumbers. Nonetheless 9 events out of 10, believes Peck, this does not happen.

“Merely google ‘water heater Singapore’. Lots of the commercials are (positioned by) unlicensed (staff),” he charged, together with that retailers selling heaters also can recommend unlicensed staff for arrange work.

To amass his licence, talked about Confucius Teo from Competent Electrician, he wanted to full a course provided by the teaching arm of Singapore Power, go for an interview and sit a check out given by the Vitality Market Authority (EMA).

Collectively together with his time at polytechnic and on-the-job finding out, it took about seven years. “Some can’t even get it after 16 years,” he talked about. “It’s very stringent.

“(The EMA is) handing you a licence (whereby) you presumably can kill someone merely once you make a mistake.”

Shoppers can affirm a licence on the EMA website online, as with a plumber’s licence by means of the usage of nationwide water firm PUB’s search gadget.

The arrange of storage water heaters, as an illustration, ought to be carried out or supervised by a licensed plumber, who ought to submit a pre-installation plan to the PUB for approval.

This paperwork is the rationale plumber Steven Tang charges about 10 per cent larger than his unlicensed counterparts.

Teo, within the meantime, may cost a little double the amount quoted by unlicensed electricians for the same job, counting on how the water heater was wired beforehand. “We now have quite a few points to look at,” he talked about.

A handyman or one other unlicensed (electricians) … might not bear a 100 per cent study.”
He lamented that many people choose unlicensed staff owing to the notion that “it’s a straightforward job — it merely (entails) connecting wires”.

    With reference to quick water heaters, the most common strategy by means of which electrical vitality leaks is through use of a three-pin plug, talked about electrical engineer Wang Gucheng.

“Throughout the present deaths related to water heaters,” he cited, “the shoppers used a three-pin plug.”

In December 2020, three relations in a Jurong flat died from electrocution after the cables inside the three-pin plug that offered vitality to their quick water heater had fused collectively.

A 3-pin plug carries electrical currents of 13 amperes, whereas “quite a lot of the water heaters (draw) about 14 to twenty amperes”, talked about Wang, the highest of Temasek Polytechnic’s Clear Vitality Evaluation Centre.

He ran a check out to indicate what would happen when there could also be an overload: When the temperature elevated to 180 ranges Celsius, the insulator melted and the cables fused.

“If the earth (wire) melts with the reside wire, then doubtlessly the whole casing of the water heater will develop into reside. That’s pretty dangerous,” he talked about.

With common utilization, it often takes a few years sooner than overheating occurs, he added. Nonetheless solely a leakage of spherical 0.1 ampere — enough to mild a bulb — passing by a human physique is perhaps deadly.

“It’s adequate to kill one particular person,” he talked about. “The problem is, once you’re using a water heater, you’re moist. … Water is an environment friendly conductor {of electrical} vitality.”

As Peck stated: “For quick heaters, the one contact stage is (between) your hand and the heater, so there’s no totally different strategy for the current to flow into in any course aside out of your hand.

Between 2014 and 2021, all 5 electrocution deaths in HDB flats had been linked to water heaters.

Prospects ought to hitch their water heaters to a double-pole swap as a substitute, Wang prompt. “This (swap) can take currents of as a lot as 20 amperes, which is adequate for a water heater.”

Moreover, wires in a three-pin plug “are very shut to at least one one other”, nevertheless a double-pole swap permits for “far” between cables, which is safer.

    Compared with a direct heater, a storage heater’s pipework is joined to a mixer, so the potential of being electrocuted might be very small, Peck talked about.

“It’s already linked to the underside, so if one factor happens, it’s very extra prone to merely journey the (circuit breaker).”

Nonetheless storage heaters is not going to be with out risk. In 2017, a storage heater in a Marine Parade condominium ruptured. The explosion was so sturdy that it shattered glass doorways and residential home windows.

Storage heaters are additional elaborate on account of they’re linked to various elements, such as a result of the bathe areas and basins, not like typical single-point quick heaters, talked about Tang, who may be secretary of the Singapore Plumbing Society.

A storage heater has safety choices harking back to a pressure help valve, which releases pressure when the water tank is overheated. “(Nonetheless) if this doesn’t carry out, the water tank may be very dangerous,” he talked about. “It’ll set off (an) explosion.”

Few unlicensed plumbers understand the importance of the valve, he added, so just a few of them may not even arrange it.

One different important half is a drainpipe. “When a drainpipe in a wall is obstructed, it doesn’t allow the pressure to be launched,” talked about Peck. “The pressure will proceed to assemble up … and (the heater) will explode when it’s too extreme.”

As with the help valve, he talked about unqualified staff may not even arrange a drainpipe.

    Every sorts of water heaters usually is a hearth risk owing to their extreme electrical current draw, which is about 3,000 watts, or 25 amperes, Peck talked about. In 2021, there have been 17 circumstances of fires involving water heaters in homes.

When Chia had his storage heater checked, Peck found that the wires linked to it had been too skinny. As an alternative of measuring 2.5 millimetres sq., the prevailing wires had been 1.5 mm thick.

“When the current is extreme, (the wires) will overheat and may start to burn,” talked about Peck, who thought-about it a “hearth hazard”.

    On a day-to-day basis, clients — notably those who have a storage heater — should swap on their heater 10 minutes sooner than use, prompt Peck. After use, they should swap it off to keep away from losing electrical vitality.

He moreover prompt having heaters checked by someone licensed as quickly as every three years.

And now that Chia can do his private major checks, he plans to “take a sniff spherical”. He talked about: “If you happen to occur to odor burning plastic, it’d suggest the wiring is overheating. And that’s not good.”


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