Your water heater may be located alone in your basement or stuffed in a utility closet where it remains basically invisible, but it still needs regular repair and maintenance. If you’ve ever wondered can a water heater explode, or is that just a myth? Unfortunately, it’s a fact and it’s mainly due to poor maintenance.
Let’s begin by going in-depth regarding the common causes that can turn your water heater into a ticking time bomb.
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Can An Electric Water Heater Explode?
Before we cover some of the most common causes that can lead to your water heater exploding, we’ll first touch on how they work.
There are two main types of water heaters: electric and gas. Every model operates in a slightly different way, however, all water heaters function using the same basic principles. The basic process involves using some form of combustion to heat up the water inside the tank.
A gas heater will use a burner to heat up the water in the tank. With an electric water heater, you’ll find several coils designed to heat up the water. Once the water reaches the set temperature, the burners will shut off. The temperature in which the coils or gas burner heats up the water will depend on the temperature you set it at.
Some of the top reasons your water heater can explode include improper adjustment of temperature and pressure, lack of routine inspections and maintenance, or a lack of proper controls and safety devices, or a gas leak.
Water pressure and gas leaks are the two leading causes.
If gas is leaking around or in the water heater, the ignition flame can ignite the gas, causing a dangerous explosion.
With water pressure, as the water is heated pressure will begin to build up inside the tank. Usually, the water heater will switch off, or it can release the built-up pressure via a safety valve. However, if this safety features malfunctions, the pressure will mount until the tank eventually explodes.
Obviously, even a small explosion can lead to thousands of dollars in serious damage. But this type of dangerous situation can be prevented easily with some basic maintenance.
Here are some important tips you should follow in order to prevent a water heater explosion:
• Tune-up: A licensed plumber can inspect a water heater to check for gas leaks and ensure that the water heater’s safety features are working.
• Avoid doing the repairs yourself: Even though it may seem like a simple fix, avoid making the repairs at all costs if your water heater starts acting up. Improper repairs or installation can lead to a number of costly issues. Instead, hire a trusted professional.
• T and P Valve inspection: If you have a traditional water heater, then it should be equipped with a temperature and pressure valve. The valve releases any excess pressure, which will prevent your water heater from becoming a water bomb. The valve should be tested regularly, and it should release a small amount of water when the lever is flipped. You should manually lift the valve every two months and ensure it’s able to open freely. After you inspect it, if you notice that the valve is unable to close tightly or open quickly then it should be replaced. Regardless of the condition of the valve after you’ve had the tank for a few years it should be replaced.
• Temperature: The temperature should be set between one hundred degrees to one hundred and thirty degrees. If the temp is set any higher, it can damage the water heater or cause serious burns.
• The hot water heater should be flushed through the drain valve annually in order to eliminate sediment buildup. When you do this, make sure there is a drain line that’s placed outside, about six or seven inches from the floor. This can prevent burns.
Handling Common Water Heater Issues
As we have briefly touched on, sediment buildup can cause serious issues in performance and can even cause the water heater to explode. Over time, sediment settles at the bottom of the tank. This can be a serious problem if you have hard water. This layer of sediment insulates the water from the burner, causing it to run longer to heat up the water. This results in the tank overheating and causing the tank to deteriorate.
You may have this problem if you notice your water heater making a knocking or popping noise. These noises are caused by the trapped water under the sediment bubbling up and attempting to escape the thick layer of built up minerals.
This issue can easily be prevented if you flush and drain the tank annually.
Water heaters are mainly made out of steel, which consists mostly of iron. So, over time the constant contact with water will lead to tank rust. Fortunately, water heaters come equipped with a type of internal rust protection known as an anode rod. This rod rusts in place of the tank. However, once the rod deteriorates the water heater tank will begin to rust shortly after. To avoid this issue and keep your tank in great running order, inspect the rod yearly, especially after the warranty has expired. You will need to change the rod every three or four years, possibly sooner if you use a water softener.
As you can see there are quite a few issues that can cause your water heater to explode, malfunction, or even deteriorate and most of these problems are totally preventable, just as long as you follow the included information and perform routine maintenance.
While routine maintenance on your water heater seems simple enough, it can be easy to keep putting off these duties until something goes wrong. The best way to prevent your water heater from exploding is to hire a plumber annually to perform a thorough inspection if you’re unsure how to get the job done yourself. This way, you can watch how the plumber tests out the water heater and check certain components, so you can do it on your own, correctly, the following year.
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