Is Your Water Heater A Ticking Time Bomb?

October 16, 2013

Get ready to have your mind blown (pun intended).

Your water heater can possibly explode and rocket through your home’s roof, causing hundreds—maybe thousands— of dollars in damage to your home.

MythBusters showed us it’s possible. But this isn’t just TV showmanship at work.

In Australia, a water heater exploded on a factory rooftop, launching the water heater 437 yards. The back of the factory was “pretty well destroyed,” Country Fire Authority operations officer Bernie Fradd said.

In Phoenix, Arizona a water heater exploded, hurtling it 135 yards, and causing catastrophic damage to the home where the explosion happened.

So, what causes these crazy water heater explosions?

What causes a water heater to explode?

Thermostat failure—With the above Australian story, the water heater’s thermostat failed, causing the water heater to heat continuously until it exploded. A water heater exceeding 212°F can result in a catastrophic explosion.

Safety valve failure—The pressure relief valve (typically found at the top of the water heater) is like the radiator cap in your car: it relieves excessive temperature of pressure build-up. So, if it’s shut or restricted in some way, pressure builds until the tank explodes, as it did with the above Phoenix story.

Gas leak—If you have a gas furnace, a gas leak can turn into a fiery explosion from just a small ignition flame.

How to keep your water heater from exploding

  • Leave it to the professionals—I know you want to save a few bucks, but please leave water heater repair and installations to a trained, professional plumber. Improper installation or repairs can cause some of the problems we’ve listed above.
  • Get professional water heater maintenance annually—Speaking of professionals, your water heater could use some love from a professional at least once a year. A typical maintenance visit from a professional plumber will include checking your water heater for gas leaks and making sure its safety mechanisms work so that pressure can escape.
  • Test your pressure relief valve—To see if your water heater’s pressure relief valve works properly, lift up the handle slightly (it’s typically found on the top of the tank) and hot water should come out of the overflow pipe. Here’s an article with a picture of the valve handle.
  • Keep the temperature low—Your water heater’s temperature should be set between 120-130°F. Anything higher can cause scalding burns and damage your water heater. Your water heater's temperature setting should never go over 180°F.

Get professional water heater maintenance in Florida

In this article, you’ve learned that water heater explosions happen because of safety failures and annual water heater maintenance can prevent these safety failures from happening.

If you need water heater maintenance ASAP, contact Plumbing Today online, or call us at (800) 226-2636.

Plumbing Today provides plumbing service throughout Florida from locations in Sarasota, Tampa, Orlando, and Naples.

Posted in: Tips

Related Reading