What is Gas Water Heater Flame Roll-Out?

Which appliance do you use every day and can’t live without but never think about it until breaks? Your water heater. The stove, fridge, and dishwasher live glamorous lives on display in the kitchen.  Meanwhile, your water heater toils day and night all alone in a dark closet, laundry room or attic. Until one day when it has had enough, quits, and you’re left with a cold shower. You should show your water heater some love and check on it every few months. 

Flame Roll-Out


This is especially true if you have a gas water heater.  One of the things you would want to look for “flame roll-out”. As the name suggests, this is when the flame from a water heater’s gas burner area escapes or “rolls-out” of its intended area.  This condition is evidenced by scorch marks on the front of the water heater around the burning area (usually at the lower area of the tank near the controls).  

The flame from a water heater can escape its intended location for a variety of reasons, all of which require some repair or replacement of the appliance and an evaluation of all aspects of its venting.  

Causes of Water Heater Flame Roll-Out


Here are some of the causes of water heater flame roll-out:

  • A clogged or damaged burner
  • A lack of combustion air
  • Incorrect vent pipe sizing, routing or termination
  • A blockage in the vent pipe

Water heaters manufactured in approximately the last 10 years have a sealed burner compartment so the flame roll-out condition should be less common.  Even with this new manufacturing method it is still a good idea to occasionally inspect the lower areas of your water heater to be sure there are no signs of excess heat or scorching. As you can imagine, anytime a flame from a gas burner escapes its intended location, a safety hazard exists, and should be addressed immediately. 

Show some love


Another way to show your hot water heater that you care is by taking some time to listen to it. Of course, asking questions won’t work, so we suggest raising the thermostat a bit. Then listen to it turn on. If it makes any unusual sounds or worse doesn’t click on, then call a maintenance technician immediately. 

Water Heater needs space


Finally, even though your water heater is all alone, it needs its space. Be sure to keep the area around the bottom of the tank clear of stored items. Also avoid allowing dust or debris to build up because that will restrict airflow into the burner compartment. 

Show your water heater some love, and it will love you back with hot showers every morning.