Potential Hazards of Poorly Maintained Water Heaters

Posted by: Mas Broto
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Problems with water heaters can occur at any time of the day or night. If your water heater is not working properly, you must have it inspected as soon as possible to avoid and eliminate any potential damage or injury to a person or property.

Here are some of the worst possible issues resulting from a poorly maintained water heater.


water heater explode

Although less common, the most dramatic result of a poorly maintained water heater in desperate need of repair or service is an explosion. Because of this, we don’t like to recommend that you attempt any major repairs yourself unless you are confident and qualified. And if you’re going to replace your hot water system yourself, make sure you at least have the necessary residential permit.

Water heaters are sealed units, which is why they must have a properly functioning temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR) to release any build-up of pressure when water is heated.

However, if the TPR has been modified or fails to function correctly, water inside the tank can become super-heated. This occurs because water cannot boil when it is in a sealed environment.

As a result, pressure can continue to build until a rapture appears in the tank. The sudden and violent release of steam can cause the water tank to explode, as dramatically demonstrated in this video.

Leaking Water Heater Can Cause Water Damage

Damage caused by escaping water from a leaking water tank is the most common cause of damage in the home. Leaking water from a defective water heater can do significant damage to the areas near the tank, such as to the walls, floors, and any nearby personal property.

Persistent water leakage can also cause mold and mildew and can even cause damage to foundation work depending on the amount of water leakage and duration.

If you have or suspect a water heater leak, it’s important that you contain the leak as much as possible and identify the source. For help with a leaking water heater, check out our troubleshooting guide on water heater leaks.

If you are unable to find the cause of the leak to fix the problem quickly, call a qualified technician as soon as possible to minimize potentially more serious damage and repair costs.

Scalds and Electric shocks

If you have a suspected defective or modified TPR, the pressure build-up could cause the pressure relief valve to fail to release high-pressure steam. Many T/P Relief values are located at the top of the water heater, which may pose a potential risk of scolding the face and upper body.

Also, if you’re planning any repair work, it’s important that you first turn off the breaker to avoid inadvertently getting an electric shock.

Bad Water

A poorly serviced water tank that hasn’t been regularly flushed and cleaned can result in rust build-up in the pipework and tank. As the water gets exposed to rust, it can contaminate the water supply to your home and create an environment for further bacteria to grow, causing potential harm to health.

Avoid rust and bacteria contamination by regular annual servicing and flushing your water heating system.

An old water heater or poorly maintained water heaters can be potential time-bombs. Today, most water heaters have provided reliable, trouble-free hot water for many years. Some can last as long as 30 years. But on average, the life span you should expect is 10 years, although some are known to fail in as little as 7 years.

With the good reliability of most water heaters today, it’s not surprising that we often take them for granted. And most of us certainly don’t consider water heaters as presenting a potential threat to safety in our home.

However, the reality is that unless properly maintained, i.e., regularly serviced, cleaned, and maintained, they can present a risk and potential damage to property and, worse, injury to a person.

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Mas Broto
Have been in the heating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry for over 20 years. He is person that will grow and thrive to learn more about the HVAC industry throughout his career. Mas Broto is also a blogger, who's dedicated to bringing you the best knowledge to get ahead in the game of life.

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