New Technology In Gas Water Heaters Can Save LivesCPSC, GAMA Say New Heaters Will Prevent Fires from Flammable Vapors

July 8, 2003
Release Number: 03-158

 A voluntary standard developed by industry and the Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association (the national trade association of the manufacturers of water heating and space heating equipment and components), in cooperation with CPSC, calls for conventional tank-type gas water heaters manufactured after July 1, 2003, to be equipped with new safety technology. This technology, often referred to as a flame arrestor, prevents flashback fires by trapping and burning dangerous gas vapors inside of the heater, while preventing ignition of the vapors in the room.

But a new, safer era in gas water heater technology begins in July, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and Gas Appliance Manufacturers Association, the national trade association of the manufacturers of water heating and space heating equipment and components. A voluntary standard developed by industry, in cooperation with the commission, calls for conventional tank-type gas water heaters manufactured after July 1, 2003, to be equipped with new safety technology. This technology, often referred to as a flame arrestor, prevents flashback fires by trapping and burning dangerous gas vapors inside of the heater, while preventing ignition of the vapors in the room.

Gas water heater ignition of flammable vapors is involved in nearly 800 residential fires, resulting in an average of five deaths and 130 injuries annually, according to commission estimates. The fires typically occur when consumers use flammable liquids, usually gasoline, for cleaning purposes, or when a flammable liquid leaks or is spilled near the water heater. When the vapors come in contact with the appliance's burner or pilot light, the vapors ignite, causing a severe flashback fire.

"The new water heaters will save lives and property and reduce the number of terrible burn injuries that are caused by these fires," said CPSC Chairman Hal Stratton. "The redesigned gas water heaters, which are already on the market, show that industry can solve difficult problems to build the safest products possible."

"The introduction of new residential gas storage water heaters that will meet the new safety standard is the culmination of an unprecedented effort by U.S. and Canadian water heater manufacturers," said Evan R. Gaddis, President of GAMA. "This activity is a great example of the CPSC and manufacturers working in harmony, using the national voluntary standards system, to make a safe and efficient product even better. It was a great challenge to the industry to develop design solutions to this new safety requirement without compromising other efficiency or safety characteristics of gas storage water heaters. This is a testament to the commitment, ingenuity and quality of North American water heater manufacturers. The ultimate beneficiary will be U.S. consumers."

The new American National Standard Institute standard (ANSI Z21.10.1a) was approved in two parts: The first requirement, for flammable vapors-ignition-resistance, was approved in February 2000; and the second requirement, for the heater to be resistant to lint, dust and oil accumulation, was approved in November 2002. The final standard, incorporating both parts, became effective on July 1, 2003. All 30, 40, and 50-gallon gas storage type water heaters manufactured after this date are expected to comply with the national safety standard.

Because millions of gas water heaters manufactured before the new standard took effect remain in homes across the country, Chairman Stratton warned that gasoline should never be stored or used indoors (in a basement or garage) where vapors can ignite. Gasoline should be stored in tightly-closed, properly-labeled, non-glass safety containers away from ignition sources and out of reach of children.

The water heater standard follows another voluntary industry standard that calls for child-resistant packaging for gasoline cans. In addition, "spill-proof" packaging being designed into many newer gas cans will also reduce the risk of ignition of gasoline fumes by water heaters.