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Ticking time bombs: Telltale signs your water heater is about to explode

This article is Sponsored by Benjamin Franklin Plumbing

No matter where you live in the U.S., there is a good chance your neighborhood is full of potential ticking time bombs. There might even be one in your home.

No one has been invaded or infiltrated. The potential explosive devices were installed with the blessings of the homeowners.

Last year, we wrote an article about the danger posed by unmaintained water heaters. We even got an assist from the television program “Mythbusters” when it verified and demonstrated the explosive power of an ordinary household water heater.

If you read the earlier article or saw the videos, you might have thought about having your hot water system inspected by an experienced plumbing professional to make sure it was safe. But lots of people who thought about it, never got around to doing it.

Preventing a disastrous home water heater explosion is simple if you regularly take care of some basic maintenance. However, while homeowners have good intentions, few ever take the necessary action. That’s unfortunate because, with the proper maintenance, it is very rare for a water heater to explode.

Here are some of the signs your water heater might be trying to tell you.

Relief valve

This is the primary safety mechanism of any hot water tank and should be included in a yearly maintenance check. Simply lift the lever and let it snap back. You should hear a water gurgling sound as the valve allows a small amount of water to be released into the drain tube.

When testing the relief valve, it’s also important to know that if the lever doesn’t fit back correctly into the rubber seal, it is broken and needs replaced asap.

The lever should lift easily. If you lift it and don’t hear anything, that means the valve is bad. If it is corroded or rusted, it needs to be replaced. If leakage is visible, call a plumber immediately.

Water temperature dial

The temperature should be set at 130 to 140 degrees. Some people choose a lower setting to lessen the chance that someone could be scalded by hot water. Burns from water that is too hot are leading cause of water heater-related injuries. The problem with a temperature of 120 or lower, according to, is that some bacteria can survive those temps.

Drain valve

The drain valve looks just like a hose faucet. It should also be checked periodically to make sure it functions. If it is rusted or doesn’t turn easily, it should be replaced. To keep your water heater in the best condition, it should be turned off and flushed occasionally through the drain valve to remove sediments and minerals that accumulate over time.

Even if you consider yourself to be a handyman (or woman) most water heater repairs are best left to professionals. A few years ago, a faulty water heater destroyed a Phoenix home after the homeowner tried to repair the unit himself.

The lifespan of a water heater varies, depending on the correct home plumbing pressure and annual maintenance.

In general, most water heaters will last 8-12 years. Regular maintenance is especially important as units age. Regular maintenance can also extend the life of a water heater.

To make sure your family is safe and to get the most out of the water system in your home, call a local, experienced and reliable plumbing company to perform inspections and do maintenance on a regular basis.


About Linda Stanfield Linda_Stanfield-small-new-413-2 2

Linda Stanfield has been offering plumbing services across the Valley for 31 years. She is the only plumber in the state to have won the BBB Ethics Award three times. As a plumbing leader in the valley, she can also be found on TV and YouTube sharing and helping consumers with their plumbing needs.