water heater explosion warning signs

Water Heater Explosion Warning Signs You Should Never Overlook

If you’ve ever experienced a water heater explosion, you know it can cause major damage to your home and potentially harm anyone nearby. As a retired plumber with over 30 years of experience, I’ve seen my fair share of water heater explosions over the years. In this post, I’ll share the warning signs to watch for, what causes these dangerous explosions, and most importantly – how to help prevent your water heater from exploding.

A water heater explosion is something you’ll want to avoid at all costs. The scalding hot water, steam, and metal shards flying through the air can cause severe burns and injuries. An explosion can also lead to flooding and major water damage in your home when the tank ruptures. Knowing water heater explosion warning signs and heading off problems early can literally save your home and protect your family.

What Are The Most Common Causes Of Water Heater Explosions?

There are a few key things that can cause your water heater to explode:

  • Excessive Pressure – The temperature and pressure inside the tank builds up over time. Sediment buildup and issues with the temperature regulating devices can lead to excess pressure. This added strain can cause explosions.
  • Corrosion – Inside the tank, corrosion can weaken metal components. Eventually failiure leads to leaks, and water mixing with electricity or flames ignites the gases.
  • Flammable Vapor Ignition – In fuel-fired water heaters, leaks allow flammable gases like natural gas to escape. If these ignite near the flame or electrical source, it can cause an explosion.
  • Sediment Buildup – Buildup puts extra strain on the unit. It can lead to overheating failures or corrosion that causes weak spots prone to rupture.

10 Warning Signs To Watch Out For

Watch for these common early signs that your water heater might be in danger of exploding:

1. Discolored Or Rusty Water

Seeing brown, dirty water come from your faucets and appliances is a warning sign. It indicates rusting and sediment buildup inside the tank.

2. Leaking Tanks

Small leaks around the base of your water heater or anywhere on the tank could mean corrosive damage. Have these inspected right away to prevent catastrophic failure.

3. Strange Sounds

If you hear odd gurgling, popping, or rumbling sounds coming from the unit, it could signal excess pressure buildup. Have it checked out immediately.

4. Faulty Temperature Controls

If your water is coming out scalding hot even on lower settings, the control valves likely need repair to avoid dangerous overheating.

5. Gas Smells

In gas water heater systems, the smell of rotten eggs or sulphur indicates a serious gas leak near the unit. This can lead to deadly ignition and explosion.

6. Loose Parts

Loose pipes, fittings, valves and other components can allow leaks. Have any loose parts tightened or replaced right away.

7. Rust Spots

While surface rust may seem harmless, it can indicate interior corrosion you can’t see that leads to ruptures. Don’t ignore rust.

8. Old Age

The average life span of a water heater is only 8-12 years. If your unit is older, proactively replace it even if no issues are apparent yet.

9. High Utility Bills

A spike in your gas or electric bills when you haven’t changed usage habits could mean your unit is working overtime and at risk of overheating.

10. Lack of Maintenance

Don’t skip regular maintenance like flushing and anode rod replacement. This leads to sediment accumulation, corrosion, and failure over time.

How Can You Prevent A Water Heater Explosion?

The best way to avoid a catastrophic water heater failure is prevention. Follow these crucial maintenance practices:

  • Drain sediment – Flushing the tank yearly removes mineral buildup. Install catch pans to notice debris coming out.
  • Inspect anode rods – These rods attract corrosion instead of the tank. Replace them every 3-5 years.
  • Check pressure valve – Make sure it’s rated for the temperature and pressure your unit reaches. Test the valve annually.
  • Monitor leaks – Watch for any damp spots or drips and repair immediately before major issues occur.
  • Replace old units – Once a water heater is 5+ years old, start budgeting for a replacement. Newer models have more safety features.
  • Consider tankless design – Tankless water heaters heat on demand instead of storing hot water, removing explosion risk.
  • Hire professionals – If any issues are over your head, call a licensed plumber to inspect and fix them promptly.
  • Install safety devices – Thermometers, pressure valves, and flammable vapor sensors provide warnings and prevent disaster.

What Should You Do If An Explosion Occurs?

If you notice the early signs of pending failure and an explosion still occurs, follow these steps:

  • Evacuate the area immediately and get to a safe location.
  • Call 911 and report the explosion so first responders can assist.
  • Only return home when officials say it’s safe to avoid injury.
  • Contact your insurance company to report damage and request help with repairs and replacing belongings.
  • Hire qualified professionals to fully repair damages and install a new, safe unit.
  • Document the incident fully with photos/video and hold onto evidence in case of disputes over coverage.

While terrifying, a water heater explosion doesn’t need to result in catastrophe if you watch for the warning signs. With preventative care and quick response when issues arise, you can avoid disaster and keep your family safe. As a plumber who has seen the aftermath, take these precautions seriously to protect your home.