Expert Plumbers in Plano, TX
Can Water Heaters Burst?

Can Water Heaters Burst?

As a homeowner, it's important to be aware that water heaters sometimes burst. We at D-N-A Plumbing know the value of being informed about your home's plumbing systems, and so the purpose of this blog is to explain everything you need to know about your water heater. Specifically, we will go over how water heaters are built, what causes them to burst and what to do in the event of a burst.

Water Heaters: How Do They Work?


The basic water heater design is a cylindrical tank filled with water and fixed with some type of heating mechanism. Most water heaters are either electrical, in which case the heat is applied within the tank, or gas-powered, in which case the heat is applied externally using a burner and a chimney. A pipe on the top of the tank sends heated water through your home's pipes up to your faucets. The heater is also equipped with a pressure relief valve, which prevents excess pressure from building up and causing an explosion. There are also tankless water heaters, which heat and pump water on-demand rather than storing water in a tank, but we'll discuss those in a bit.

What Causes Water Heaters to Burst?


There are several possible causes of water heater bursts. One of the most common causes is the buildup of sediment inside the tank. As sediment from mineral-containing 'hard' water builds settles on the bottom of the tank, it insulates the water against heat. This means the heating mechanism has to run longer to heat the water, which can cause damage to your tank thanks to overheating.

If your water tank is made of steel, rust buildup can also cause a burst. To protect against rust, water heaters have something called a "sacrificial anode" which is a metal rod that gathers rust in place of the tank. When significant rust buildup occurs, it's time to replace the rod--usually once every four years or so.

One final cause of a burst water heater is an explosion caused by excess pressure. Although pressure release valves in the tank are designed to prevent this, they can wear down over time. To reduce wear, test the valve twice a year to make sure it can release water, and also remember not to run your water heater above 125 degrees or so.

What about Tankless Heaters?


We have some good news: tankless water heaters don't burst. There is no tank, so there's no need to worry about pressure buildup. Because tankless water heaters tend to be gas-powered, there is technically a risk of a carbon monoxide leak, but this is easily avoided so long as you schedule regular maintenance.

What to Do if Your Water Heater Bursts


The first thing to do if your water heater bursts is to locate the heater's water intake pipe and turn the valve clockwise to stop further water flow. Next, go to your breaker box, find the breaker for your water heater and turn it off, or shut off the gas line if you have a gas-powered heater. Leaving the heating mechanism running after the tank bursts pose a fire hazard.

Once you've taken care of these preliminaries, the next thing to do is contact an experienced plumbing company such as D-N-A Plumbing. We will send a professional to your home to assess the damage, assist with cleanup and help you figure out repair or replacement of your water heater. No matter what happens, don't panic--professionals like us will make sure everything turns out ok.

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