Water Heater Explosion

The Tank Water Heater Explosion

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    Hi All,

    I’m not sure why, but lately I have been overcome with this intense fear that our water heater is going to explode..like on that Mythbusters episode where they prove it can happen. Here is a little bit about our water heater:

    For one thing, we rent, so it isn’t technically ours (so I understand I personally can’t make any repairs on it), but it is a 40 Gallon Richmond Natural Gas Water Heater. I don’t think my landlord has ever had it professionally cleaned or inspected. When I look at the flame(which seems to be half orange half blue by the way), as it’s reheating the water, I can see a TON of soot buildup on the burner. We also have soot on top of the water heater that I don’t know if it’s ever been cleaned off. I am aware of the carbon monoxide dangers of improper combustion and we do have a couple detectors installed.

    Here is the kicker – I know I can (and should) test the TPR valve to make sure it’s working properly – but he has the red tube the water would come out of installed into the ground! It literally goes from the valve into the floor where it’s sealed in there; so even if I test the valve, how would I know if it’s working? I have no way to see the water coming out and I have no idea where this hose goes too. I checked behind the house and can’t see anything that would indicate it flows out there.

    Finally, I’m pretty sure our state is a closed water system and we do not have a pressure relief tank, or pressure expansion tank whichever it’s called. Which only makes me worry more!

    So here is my question: Yes I know I need to talk to him about the concerns we see, however….just to ease my worries….is it a bad idea to turn the water heater to “off” every day and turn it back “on” only before taking a shower to get hot water? I really onlt want the hot water for a shower….I can do cold for everything else. Would that even protect against an explosion? Or is it a bad idea to have the pilot light turn on and off every single day and could result in a gas buildup or anything else? I’m just looking for something to relieve this fear! Any advice welcome!

    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: The relief valve is the third line of defense in preventing a water heater from exploding. First is the thermostat, which should maintain temperature. Next is the high limit, built into the control. It should shut the gas off if water gets too hot. Finally is the relief valve. Tuning the control off regularly, seems to me, not to help. Controls aren’t designed for daily operation.

    As you don’t know where the discharge leads, the relief valve should simply be replaced. That way you should not need to worry for years. I’ll add that modern controls seem to work quite well in doing their job, but should debris get into the valve itself, it could prevent the valve from shutting off. That’s why most plumbers (and many inspectors ask for) add a “dirt leg” to the gas line for junk in the line to fall into, before getting to the valve.

    From Watts, who makes T&P valves, “Following installation, the valve lever MUST be operated AT LEAST ONCE A YEAR to ensure that waterways are clear.” Here is the link: http://media.wattswater.com/PG-TP-ASME.pdf That’s something to share with your landlord. 😉

    Yours, Larry

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Water Heater Rescue

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