Thursday, August 6, 2009

Water Heater Explosion Prevention

Water heaters can blow up! In the picture above is a home that was destroyed by a water heater that malfunctioned and exploded. While this is rare, it can and has happened. There are some precautions that you can take to prevent this from happening. Either on the top or side of your water heater there is a Temperature & Pressure relief valve. It detects if there is too much pressure building within the water heater and it will relieve the pressure as it becomes too great. It's important to know that water turns to steam at approximately 200 F degrees depending on pressure and steam expands to 1600 times it's original water volume. That's what actually creates the explosion.

Here's what you can do to test your T&P relief valve:

There is a small handle that lifts a pin in the center of the valve. Before testing make sure you are in a safe position where you will not be struck by the hot water discharge and that you know how to shut off the water supply to the water heater. You don’t have to turn it off but you need to know how to do it as the valve, when tested, may not reseat properly causing water to leak. If this occurs you will need to be able to shut off the water until the valve can be replaced. All you need to do for the test is lift the handle so the valve opens then release it so it closes. If the valve is frozen (it does not open or close), it should be replaced ASAP. Sometimes the valve may not set properly after testing. Open it and allow it to slam shut several times. If this works the valve is okay. If it doesn’t it needs to be replaced. This test does not ruin a valve. If the valve fails the test it was already bad and was not offering the protection you need. Regular testing may actually increase the life of the valve. Test the valve a minimum of once a year.

Note: The T&P valve should never leak on its' own. If you notice water coming out of it, it is a sign of something wrong within the plumbing system. Too much pressure is building up within the water heater or the T&P valve is broken. Contact a plumbing professional to address the problem.

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