Shielding Their Flames, Gas Water Heaters Get Makeover

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A new standard written to guard against water-heater fires fueled by vapors from spilled or improperly stored gasoline takes effect July 1.

March 01, 2003

 

Jim Bienias and Alan Cape of Rheem demonstrate improvements in January at the International Builders' Show.

A new standard written to guard against water-heater fires fueled by vapors from spilled or improperly stored gasoline takes effect July 1. Shortly thereafter, builders can expect a new generation of water heaters that look the same on the outside but perform much differently on the inside, industry officials say.

On a tour of Rheem Corp. production facilities in Montgomery, Ala., visitors are shown a new section of the production line that will produce re-engineered burner chambers that seal up tight and choke flames when temperatures exceed the normal range. The water heaters also include new air-intake systems designed to prevent deposits of lint, dust and oil from accumulating to dangerous levels that could fuel a fire. This meets a second requirement of reliability set forth by the new American National Standards Institute standard Z21.10.1-2001.

Outside the factory in a separate building, Rheem officials show off certified burn rooms built during a multiyear research-and-development stage for the new 30-, 40- and 50-gallon water heaters, which Rheem will market under the Guardian System name. It was an investment the company thought it needed to make to maintain or exceed existing quality levels, senior product manager Jim Bienias says.

"Our message is that existing water heaters are perfectly safe," says Bienias. "But the new standard takes them to a different level."

The new generation of water heaters is expected to come at new prices, perhaps 50-60% higher than they are today.

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