How Do You Know If Your Water Heater Is Going To Explode?

is water heater is going to explode

It may not be a common occurrence, but water heaters do explode sometimes. Although it might never happen to you, it is good to be prepared anyway. There are some telltale hints that you can keep a lookout for to know when your water heater may be more likely to explode.

You can tell that your water heater might explode if you can smell rotten eggs near it. Inspect the pressure relief valve on top for leaks that will indicate it may explode. Brown and rust-colored water can also tell you that your water heater might burst.  

While all of these may be a sign of a pending water heater explosion, it is never a sure thing, just like there is no guarantee that it is not going to explode. In most cases, you will have no warning when it’s going to happen.

But, if your water heater is old and leaking, has a funny smell, or is making noises, you may want to think about getting a new one.

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Any Water Heater Can Explode

Many people may think that only gas water heaters can explode. But electric water heaters can blow up too. They are both equally likely to become a ticking time bomb. Especially if you have not been properly maintaining your water heater. Maintenance is the number one way to prevent water heater explosions.

Here are some of the signs of possible explosion in detail.

Not Getting as Much Hot Water?

Does it seem like you are running out of hot water more often than usual? Or maybe it is taking longer for the water to get hot. When your water heats up, the minerals in the water sink to the bottom of the water tank.

After a while, the minerals start blocking the heating element under the water heater, meaning the water cannot get hot quick enough. The more minerals at the bottom of the tank, the higher the risk that your tank will explode due to the overheating of the heating element.

If the Pressure Release Valve is Open or Leaking

Your water heater’s pressure release valve is located at the top of the unit, on the side. It will open when the pressure inside of the tank reaches incredibly high levels, allowing water to exit and decrease the pressure. If you have a leak in the pressure release valve, this means that there is either too much pressure or heat inside of the tank. Either is extremely dangerous and can result in an explosion.

Once a year, you should test your pressure release valve at the top of the water heater. If no water comes out when you open it or if there are leaks around the area, you need to get someone to take a look at it right away. That pressure release valve is what stops your tank from exploding.

If it is not working, you have no failsafe to protect you from a possible catastrophe.

If Your Tank is Leaking

If your water heater tank is leaking from any spot, it could be a problem. But first, check the drain hole in the bottom of the tank to make sure that is not the cause of the leak. If not, you will need a new water heater because you cannot fix a leaky tank.

Rotten Smell Coming from the Tank or Water

Does your water heater stink? Some who have had water heater explosions mention smelling a sulfur or rotten egg smell by the tank before it happened. Others say that their water was starting to smell strange. It could be a gas leak, or it may be silt or dirt at the bottom of the tank. Regardless, any of these means you likely need to get a new water heater.

If there is a gas leak, the gas inside could ignite when the light is on. Therefore, if you smell gas around your water heater, shut off the gas immediately and contact a licensed plumber to have a look.

Do You Have Brown or Gritty Water?

There is a thing called an anode rod in water heaters that protect the tank. If your anode rod is not working, your water will likely start to look or taste bad. It may turn brown or orange, have a gritty feel to it, or taste metallic. If your water starts looking or tasting funny, you need a new anode or maybe even a new water heater.

You should replace the anode rod every three to five years anyway.

Important Tip: If you have hard water, consider getting a water softener of you will be replacing your water heater more often.

If Your Heater is Making Noises

all. So, if you start hearing strange noises from the area where the water heater is, it may be cause for concern.

Some say popping or ticking noises were heard just days before their water heater exploded. If your water heater sounds like it is making popcorn, it could fail. Over time, water sediment collects at the base of the heating tank, insulating the water from the burner. As a result, the burner has to run longer to properly heat water, which increases the heat in the tank.

This popping noise you are hearing is coming from water that is trapped underneath the built-up sediment. As it escapes the layer of sediment it is heating and bubbling, producing the strange noise. If you find yourself in this situation, you should shut off your water heater and call a professional right away.

Improper Installation or User Error

Another reason that hot water heaters explode is user error. If you had your hot water heater installed by someone who is not licensed or did it yourself, it may not be hooked up correctly. The water pressure may be improperly adjusted, the temperature may be too high, or you may have a gas leak.

Even if it may save you money to have someone cheaper hook up your hot water heater, it can be dangerous. Unless they are a licensed professional, you should not try cutting corners there. Just hire an expert to do it. You do not want your hot water to explode or you will have to pay for more than just a water heater.

Flushing Your Hot Water Heater Tank

It is important to have the water in the tank flushed once a year to keep the minerals and sediment from building up at the bottom of the tank. You can do it yourself in just a little while with no special training or tools. Just a few steps done in order will flush the water tank and give you clean fresh water again.

Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Turn the hot water heater off.
  2. If you have a gas water heater, turn the pipe off that goes to the heater.
  3. Turn the cold water to the hot water heater off.
  4. Turn on the hot water in your bathtub or a sink.
  5. Open up the pressure relief valve.
  6. Hook up a hose to the drainage spout on the tank.
  7. Turn the drainage spout on to drain the tank.
  8. After the water starts to run clear, turn your cold-water spout back on. Keep letting it run for about a half an hour and then turn the cold-water spout off again.
  9. Turn off the drainage spout and unhook the hose.
  10. Close the pressure relief valve.
  11. Turn the cold-water back on again.
  12. After the tank is full, open the pressure relief valve to let the air out.
  13. Turn the faucet off.
  14. Turn the gas back on.
  15. Relight the pilot light.
  16. Turn the hot water heater back on.

Some Things to Remember

No matter how long you have had the water heater, if it is producing any of these warning signs, turn it off and call a licensed professional.

  • No hot water
  • Faulty pressure release valve
  • The tank is leaking
  • There is a weird smell coming from the tank or water
  • Your water is brown or gritty
  • The tank is making strange noises

Keep your water heater maintained, flush the tank every year, and check the water relief valve at the same time. Change the anode rod once every three to five years as well. Your water heater should last about 10 to 12 years if you take care of it properly. You may also want to think about switching to a tankless water heater, which typically lasts about twice as long.

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Final Thoughts

A water heater explosion in the home can be absolutely devastating. This extensive system failure can result in massive damage to your home and plumbing system. Not to mention, the sheer force of an exploding hot water heater tank has the potential to injure or even kill occupants. In fact, thousands of children every year are injured from scalding hot water from water heaters.

Keep a close eye out for indications that your water heater may be on the verge of exploding, and contact a licensed plumber at the first sign.

Patricia Oelze

I am a DIYer who loves writing about anything home-related. When I am not writing, you can find me studying for my PhD in Psychology, photographing nature, and swimming at the lake with my grandkids.

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