Can An Electric Water Heater Explode? – 6 Warning Sign For Users

The use of water heaters has become so widespread, and the demand for them has never been on a decrease, especially during the cold winter months. However, many people believe that this household appliance can contain hidden dangers. So, can an electric water heater explode, and what can you do to prevent this worst scenario from happening. All will be revealed in this post.

Let’s dive right in!

Can An Electric Water Heater Explode? 

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Almost every new water heater comes with factory-installed safety measures. However, if you do not use it properly or make mistakes during the installation process, water heaters may be at risk of electric leakage, even explosion.

Can An Electric Water Heater Explode?
The water heater can explode

Although safety technology is improving all the time to minimize the risk of fire and explosions, this does not mean that you should be subjective since explosions still can occur mainly due to the user’s carelessness. 

Pay attention to these warning indicators we are about to list below, take necessary action, and you’ll be fine.

What Are The Causes Of Water Heater Explosions?

1. Sediment Build up

There are always numerous types of pollutants in the water we use, such as metals and minerals. No one can remove these contaminants entirely, even specialists at the water treatment plant.

After a long period of use, this metal residue will form and stick to the interior sections of the water heater, including the burner. As a result, the water will take longer to heat up than usual, causing the pressure and temperature to rise too quickly and potentially producing an explosion.

Furthermore, due to the prolonged heating procedure, the heat exchanger temperature will rise. This results in the material within it even more and the deposit cracking. Eventually, the insulation of the resistor bar will crack, causing water leakage in the electrical system and probably even electric fire. 

water heater sediment
Image source: Bradford White

2. Rust Corrosion

Ever since high school days, in basic chemistry, everyone knows that corrosion and rust will happen to any metal. And materials for making water heaters are no exception.

The Sacrificial Rod is a component inside the device that acts as a protective covering. After a few years of use, rust on the rod will form due to metal combining with oxygen in the presence of water or moist air. On the surface of rusted metal, tiny scales grow, which are usually brown, reddish-brown, or red.

This is where the risk of fire and explosion peaks, similar to the sediment discussed before. This rust coating will prevent water from touching the heating rod, which can easily cause overheating and explosion.

3. Too Much Internal Water Pressure

In particular, manufacturers have designed the water tank to withstand the high pressure and temperature change of the water and the heated steam. In the event that either the pressure or the temperature exceeds the legal standards, the water heater will easily explode.

When an overload occurs, the steam inside will be compressed, putting pressure on the tank’s walls. This creates cracks, and water leaks out as a result.

Normally, water heaters will have a Pressure Temperature Relief Valve. When the pressure in the tank becomes too high, this safety valve releases steam and water, protecting the tank from exploding. However, if you don’t do regular maintenance or if this part fails, your home’s water heater will become a ticking time bomb. (1)

4. High Temperature

As we said above, the phenomenon of the heater exploding can happen by the malfunctioning of the temperature control sensor, the thermal relay, and the safety valve. This will result in a temperature and pressure overrun in the vessel.

High Temperature
Heat is one of the main causes of the explosion

Normally, when the tank temperature reaches the manufacturer’s standard temperature, the thermal relay will disconnect and stop powering the heating rod. 

However, if the sensor and temperature controller fails to operate properly, the water will continue to boil and produce more steam, increasing the pressure. Consequently, explosions will be inevitable.

Water Heater Explosion Statistics

Humans are trying to enhance the quality of life every day. That’s why the number of individuals utilizing water heaters is growing. As a result, fires can occur everywhere in the world.

Our data shows that there were more than five explosions in Alaska, Illinois, California, and Russia in February 2020 alone. These terrible blasts have caused a lot of damage and became a nightmare for many people.

These explosions still occur, and the cause is mainly due to the user’s carelessness. Therefore, to avoid possible unfortunate consequences, we would like to offer a few safety solutions that every family should apply.

How To Detect An Electric Water Heater May Explode?

1. Unusual Popping or Banging noises

When the water in the tank is heated, the sediment collides with the tank’s walls and bottom, creating a popping sound similar to popcorn. Depending on the size of the sediment array, they might be loud, banging noise, or low. You should pay attention to this noise and check it as soon as possible to avoid overheating and pressure overload.

2. Water leaking from the tank

We discussed rust and its repercussions in the last section. Early detection of cracks and water leaks can save your life from a water heater explosion.

At this time, the pressure relief valve is malfunctioning, preventing steam from escaping and increasing pressure on the tank walls. Cracks will emerge gradually, allowing water to leak.

3. Unusual smell

Oxidation and rust formation can produce odorous gases such as sulfur. Although this is not too much of a problem because metal objects will usually rust after a while, it would be best to contact a maintenance specialist to check and keep the unfortunate consequences away in case the smell is stronger.

Smelly water
Smelly water is something you should concern

4. Brown sediment in your water

Metal deposits and rust can come off as a result of heat and water pressure, in addition to odors and noises. In case you notice that the water in your home has changed color or has dirt in it, it’s time to have your water heater examined once more. Chances are the pipe is clogged and prone to fire due to overpressure. 

5. Leaking T&P valve 

In the water heater tank, the T&P valve controls temperature and pressure. When the valve leaks, it is a dangerous warning that the tank’s internal pressure is reaching its limit. If this situation goes on for a long time, the T&P valve will be damaged and pose a serious risk of explosion.

6. Improper installation of the heater connection

Indeed, failures are common when there is difficulty during the installation stage if, for whatever reason, the technical team does not abide by the manufacturer’s standards. To protect your own safety, carefully inspecting the installation process is what all users need to do.

How to Get Rid of the Electric Water Heater Exploding?

You may do various things to guarantee safety for your heater and your home. These are some of our suggestions.

1. Check the pressure and temperature valve.

By this part of the article, you must have understood the importance of the T&P valve.

Of all the departments, this is the one that needs the most attention. To ensure that everything is under control, check the pressure and temperature limit following the manufacturer’s guidelines.

2. Set water temperature at a lower level

Many manufacturers encourage consumers to only maintain the water heater’s temperature in the range of 120 -130 degrees F. Beyond this limit,  you may face the risk of burns, blisters, or even fire.

Set water temperature
Adjust the temperature to protect your water heater

3. Annual Maintenance

Periodic inspection of household electrical appliances in the home is very important, especially with water heaters due to frequent operation in water and humid environments.

Annual Maintenance
You should do an annual check-up

A periodic inspection will help detect problems with the water heater as soon as possible and quickly fix it.

4. Always call for professionals.

In the current difficult economic situation, many people choose to self-maintain at home. We highly recommend it if you’re just going to do simple things like cleaning. However, for more difficult tasks like dealing with pressure or temperature, it would be best to contact professional repairmen and let them take care of it.

Otherwise, your problem will become much more serious, and you are also prone to burns if done incorrectly.

What Should You Avoid To Prevent Water Heater Explodes? 

In addition to the above notes, we also recommend that you do not make the following mistakes to avoid harming the water heater:

  • When you find a hole in the tank, do not try to glue or cover it with any material.
  • Using the water heater for too long without maintenance. You should do this at least once a year.
  • Buy products from unreliable sources and have unlicensed technicians repair your water tank.

Final Thoughts

In the end, can an electric water heater explode

The answer is still yes. Very rarely, but once an explosion occurs, it can cause significant property damage, injury, and even death. So, please refer to our suggestions as a way to protect you and your family.

Thank you for reading, and we hope to see you soon.

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