can a water heater explode if turned off

It’s easy to forget about your water heater as long as it works as it should. However, if you haven’t scheduled professional maintenance in a few years, your water heater may have hidden damage that could lead to an explosion. 

If you think your water heater could explode, you may think the best course of action is to cut the power. But can a water heater explode if turned off?

While turning off the water heater may work as a short-term solution, the safest thing to do is to call Iron Mountain Plumbing to schedule professional water heater services in St. George, Utah.


What Causes a Water Heater to Explode?

If you have an electric water heater, you may think you’re safe from an explosion, but that isn’t true. Gas leaks can cause explosions, but that’s not the only reason a water heater could explode.

The two main factors of a hot water heater explosion are excessive heat and internal pressure. Those factors, combined with malfunctioning safety components, can create an explosive force that destroys your home and injures your family.

As water heats up, thermal expansion increases pressure inside your water heater. Sediment inside the tank caused by rust or excess minerals acts as unwanted insulation, raising the temperature even more.


The Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve

Known in the industry as the T&P valve, the temperature and pressure relief valve monitors changes within your water heater. If the temperature or internal pressure climbs to dangerous levels, the T&P valve opens, and cool water enters the tank to prevent an explosion.

There are two ways the T&P valve can malfunction. If it doesn’t open at all, pressure will continue to build until you have a disaster on your hands. If the valve stays open at all times, the water heater can’t maintain a consistent temperature and pressure level and could explode.


Signs of a Dangerous Water Heater

Water heater explosions are not as common as they once were, thanks to modern safety measures. Even with these measures in place, though, water heaters do explode sometimes. 

Can a water heater explode if turned off? If you suspect your water heater is about to explode, it’s safe to turn it off and call for emergency service. However, you shouldn’t plan to turn your water heater off as a form of maintenance. 

Call a qualified professional as soon as you notice any of the following signs.


Crackling or Popping Sounds 

Naturally occurring minerals in your water supply, like calcium and magnesium, build up inside your water heater tank over time. Air and water can end up trapped beneath the sediment layer, causing pressure to build up. High pressure creates the cracking and popping sounds.

Mysterious noises are often some of the early warning signs of water heater trouble. Hiring a professional to flush the tank and remove the sediment can restore a safe level of pressure inside the water heater.


Discolored Water

Orange or brown water could let you know you have too much sediment in your water heater before it starts to make popping sounds. Discolored water is an indication that your hot water heater could explode and that the water is not safe to drink. Don’t consume any water until a professional services your water heater and deems the water supply safe.


High Water Pressure

Everyone knows about the inconvenience of low water pressure, but did you know high water pressure is an even bigger problem? Your hot water heater has a safety feature called a pressure valve. It prevents too much pressure from building up as the tank heats water. If the pressure valve malfunctions, excessive pressure could build up inside the tank and create unusually high water pressure.


Shaking Water Tank

If the tank of your hot water heater starts shaking or vibrating, the pressure is dangerously high, and it could explode at any moment. Don’t hesitate to call for emergency service to avoid serious injury.


Extremely Hot Water

Your hot water heater has a thermostat to ensure it heats the water enough to kill bacteria but not so much that scalding hot water comes out of the faucet. A faulty thermostat could lead to dangerously hot water. The combination of high temperature and pressure could cause an explosion.


Rotten Egg Smell

If you have a gas water heater, stay alert for a rotten egg smell. Natural gas doesn’t have an odor, so the gas company adds a smell similar to sulfur. If you smell rotten eggs in your home or near your hot water heater, you could have a gas leak. Turn off the gas valve immediately and evacuate your home before calling 9-1-1 to report the gas leak.


How to Keep Your Water Heater From Exploding

You know your water heater could explode if it has too much sediment, a gas leak, or damaged safety components. The best way to know your water heater is safe is by scheduling regular maintenance. A qualified professional can check for corrosion and damaged parts that could make your water tank unsafe. Replacing damaged parts can help prevent your water heater from exploding. 

Regular maintenance can keep you safe and lower your monthly bills. The longer a water heater operates with too much corrosion or damaged parts, the less efficient it is at providing hot water. A well-maintained water heater works more efficiently by using less energy to provide hot water for you and your family.


Stay Safe With Regular Water Heater Service

When your water heater creates too much pressure and the water temperature climbs to an unsafe level, your water heater could explode. Scheduling professional maintenance can help avoid serious problems by correcting small issues along the way. 

Can a water heater explode if turned off? No, but you don’t want to think of turning your water heater off as a safety measure in place of professional water heater repair. To schedule service with Iron Mountain Plumbing, call 435-990-4418 or book online through our contact form.

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