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Can a Hot Water System Explode?

Can a Hot Water System Explode

Should You Be Worried About Your Water Heater?

Water heater explosions may be rare but they are dangerous. The force released can break through walls and cause serious injury. Scalding hot water can seriously burn. There are even reported cases of death due to an exploding hot water system.

However, there are modern safety systems preventing serious damage. That means you really don’t need to sit there worrying about your hot water tank every minute of every day.

But… there’s always a chance. A small risk. A chain of events or specific conditions which equal a big, big boom.

The outcome may not be a devastating explosion. It could be a minor leak releasing pressure. Who knows. Either way, the team at Mr Emergency has professional advice on how to minimise risk and avoid a water heater explosion.

Under Pressure: The Pressure Relief Valve

In terms of risk, the temperature and pressure relief valve is going to cause the most issues. A malfunctioning pressure relief valve is what leads to many explosions.

The pressure inside of a hot water system builds up as a result of the natural heating process. Both gas or electric burners create a level of pressure in a storage tank. When that pressure increases too much, the pressure relief valve steps in and a safe amount of boiling hot water is released.

The internal build-up reduces to a safe level. Relief valves can also be operated manually and it’s good to test your valve at least every 6 months.

Look out for a leaking temperature pressure relief valve as that’s a key sign of increased pressure. Your hot water system could be ready to burst. A quick release is an easy way to prevent major damage.

However, if a relief valve is faulty or has malfunctioned, then the internal pressure increases. Think of it like a balloon that’s slowly being inflated. Eventually, it has to pop.

Releasing the pressure yourself may be a major risk. And if you do have any doubts, it’s best to contact a licensed plumber who’s experienced with water heaters and minimising danger.

Avoid the Risks of DIY Repairs or Installation

While there are some DIYers who believe a common hot water fault isn’t enough of a reason to contact their local plumber, it’s not something to tackle on your own.

An unsuspecting person can be caught off guard by a faulty valve, gas leak, or worse. And a literal explosion may not even be the biggest risk. Severe scalding and burns should never be underestimated. A pressure relief valve can send bursts of hot water out at temperatures around 60ºC-70ºC.

Replacing any temperature and pressure valves yourself is not recommended. Follow the advice of a professional and leave the job to a plumber. Plus, if anything does go wrong, they’ll ensure no warranty is voided.

When water heaters are poorly installed, you can expect long term problems, too. Hence why licensed plumbing specialists are the ones entrusted with the task.

Dangers of Poor Safety Maintenance

A term floating around on the internet is failure cascade. It’s what happens when mistake after mistake happens, like a downward spiral to the point of no return. And it’s essentially what has to happen to cause a water heater explosion.

The potential is always there but rarely does one cause lead to a disaster on its own. Several likely causes have to combine for everything to go sour. And poor long term maintenance is often the blame.

Mineral and sediment build-up is a serious risk inside a storage tank hot water heater. The sediment settles at the bottom of the tank, forming a crusty layer. Water can become trapped underneath, while the sediment also impacts heating.

The additional layer of solids forces heating elements to work harder. As a result, the water heater’s temperature increases beyond the recommended level just to heat water. The burner element runs longer and internal pressure increases.

Typically the best prevention is flushing the tank, a job best done by licensed plumbers. It can get messy and is not a simple task at the best of times.

The Warning Signs to Watch Out For

Regular maintenance is the best protection when it comes to preventing a hot water heater explosion. Your local plumber will ensure all parts are replaced on time, including any valve or sacrificial anode.

In the meantime, check on your tank’s performance and integrity regularly. The key signs that something is wrong include:

  • A leaking pressure relief valve (or other valves)
  • Abnormal noises such as popping or knocking
  • Extra heat around the water heater
  • Corrosion

And in reality, if you have any doubts at all about the condition or safety of a water heater, call in a licensed expert from Mr Emergency. We’ll provide a steady hand at all times to reduce the dangers of a water heater explosion.

Otherwise, things may not end well. And trust us, it’s better to be safe than sorry when something is at risk of exploding.

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