An exploding water heater seems like the stuff of legends, but it's a real danger and it can happen to any household that neglects its water heater. A water heater explosion can generate enough force to go through entire floors of your home, leaving massive damage in its wake.
What Leads to Water Heater Explosions
Runaway water temperatures caused by sediment build-up, faulty heating elements, and malfunctioning thermostats can cause pressures inside the water heater tank to build rapidly. When this happens, the temperature and pressure relief valve opens and releases the pressure buildup. A faulty relief valve can trap pressure inside the tank until it eventually ruptures, resulting in a BLEVE (boiling liquid expanding vapor explosion).
What Signs and Symptoms to Watch For
Fortunately, it's not too difficult to spot the signs of an impending water heater explosion. Here are a few signs to watch for:
- Popping and knocking noises - These noises typically signal sediment buildup, which could allow the water heater tank to overheat.
- Leaking relief valve - If water constantly leaks from the relief valve, then your water heater may be at risk of an explosion.
- Rust and corrosion - Rust and corrosion can structurally weaken the water heater tank, making it more likely to rupture under intense pressure.
Another simple red flag to watch for is old age. Like most other appliances, water heaters have a finite lifespan, after which their reliability and safety degrades quickly. The older your water heater tank, the more likely it'll suffer a catastrophic failure if it remains in use.
How to Defuse a Potentially Explosive Situation
Being proactive about your water heater's health can help prevent explosions and other catastrophic forms of failure. Here are a few tips you can use to keep your water heater in excellent shape:
- Drain your water heater tank biannually to control sediment and mineral buildup.
- Test the relief valve to ensure it is functioning correctly. Replace the relief valve if it fails the test or if there's severe corrosion or mineral buildup.
- Replace the relief valve every three years regardless of its condition. Doing so ensures your water heater remains safe to operate.
- Have your water heater inspected and serviced regularly. Frequent service can help prevent problems that could lead to catastrophic failures.
- Shut off your water heater and contact a trusted professional at the first sign of danger.
Replacing your water heater once it reaches the end of its life cycle can also help prevent catastrophic failures. Most manufacturers design their water heater tanks with an 8 to 12-year lifespan in mind. Others may design their water heaters with higher quality components for a longer lifespan. Once your water heater hits its 8th year of service, consider replacing it with a newer, safer and more efficient unit. Get in touch with a company like Barnetts Heating & Air Conditioning for more help.