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Can Water Heaters Explode?

Posted on: February 3rd, 2017 by huntingtonbeachplumber No Comments

Based on the statistics of Insurance for Business and Home Safety (IBHS), exploding water heaters is one of the five leading reasons of water damage in residences. The average cost of damage is roughly about $4,000 per incident. This is a scary scenario that you cannot readily dismiss. The possibility is real for all types of water heaters, so what can you do to prevent or at least minimize the likelihood of an exploding water heater.

Cause of Explosion

The good news is that under normal circumstances, there are only a few instances wherein an ordinary water heater can become dangerous and quite possibly explode. What are these?

  • Gas leaks – obviously, just like anything else where gas is involved, everything becomes volatile and explosive. So if gas is possibly leaking around or within the water heater, all that is lacking is a small ignition that will serve as a catalyst for the explosion.
  • Rust corroded tank – the steel material used for the water heater is susceptible to rust over time. This is why water heating systems are designed with an internal rust protection in the form of an anode rod element. The rod is about 3 to 5 feet and placed in the tank to attract the rust.  The drawback is that the rod can deteriorate, which is why it is necessary to regularly replace it.  The telltale sign of rust is when the hot water coming from the faucet is rusty in color.
  • Water pressure – when water is subjected to heating, the pressure will begin to build up within the tank. Under normal operation the water heater should shutoff or release the pressure with its built-in safety pressure valve.  When the safety mechanism fails, the pressure will continue to build up to the point where the tank cannot contain it and simply give in.
  • Sediment build up – sediment comes from the minerals found in hard water. Inside the water heater tank it usually settles at the bottom. As time goes by the sediment forms a mineral layer that will serve as an insulation from the burner.  This results in the burner running longer than necessary causing overheating and eventual deterioration of the tank. You will normally hear a popping or knocking sound coming from the water heater when there is sediment build up in the tank.  This is caused by the bubbling of the sediment as it attempts to push towards the top.

Avoiding Explosion

For an average home, even the slightest explosion can be very devastating and result in thousands of dollars’ worth in damages. The good news is that there are some steps that can be taken to prevent these explosions from happening with a few maintenance tips. What are the things that you must do?

  • Annual tune-up – making sure that your water is always in optimal functioning condition is one of the best ways to ensure that it does not explode. This can be done with the help of a licensed professional plumber who can go over every safety mechanism.
  • Professional installation and repair – tempting as it may seem, always leave the installation and repair to the experts. The few dollars you save is not worth risking an exploding water heater.
  • Temperature and pressure valves – these help monitor the temperature and pressure to ensure that optimum operating values are never exceeded. Test them regularly to catch any potential problems early on.
  • Thermostat – never set the temperature too high. Make sure that the thermostat is set anywhere from 120 to 130 degrees, this also protects you from scalding.
  • Draining the tank – make sure that you flush and drain the water heater tank at least once a year to prevent sediment from building up.
  • Anode rod – inspect the anode rod at least once a year and make sure to note that it needs replacement every 4 to 5 years. Replacement can be required sooner if you have a water softener installed.

Now that you know why water heater explode, these easy to follow tips can help you prevent it.  For a sure fire solution, schedule regular maintenance with a licensed plumbing professional.

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