There’s another problem associated with a leaking hot water heater. As a matter of fact, “problem” is too weak a word—a leak in your hot water heater might indicate life-threatening danger.
Yes, although safety measures have been taken to insure that hot water heater explosions are very rare today, they are possible, and when they occur, are sometimes deadly. The amount of pressure that can build up in a hot water heater is enormous and can send one shooting off the ground like a rocket, crashing through flooring and roofs, and traveling hundreds of feet.
There is a component on every hot water heater designed to prevent this catastrophe. It’s a valve called the temperature pressure release valve (TPR valve) and it’s designed to prevent explosion if either the temperature or the pressure in the tank gets too high. It’s located near the top of the tank, with a long pipe running down from it. Every homeowner should check at least annually to make sure the TPR valve is working. You do this by lifting the handle of the valve up—water should flow out freely. Be careful not to get burned by the hot water! If it does flow out freely, good; the valve is doing its crucial job. Furthermore, you should visually check your TPR valve regularly. If, when you perform the safety check of lifting up the handle on the TPR, and no water comes out, or if when you do your visual inspection of the TPR valve and see that it’s leaking, dripping, or hissing, you need to take some immediate action to prevent a possible explosion.
First, turn off the house’s water supply at the main valve. Then turn on some hot water faucets to relieve the pressure in the hot water heater’s tank. If you have a gas hot water heater, shut off the gas supply line to the heater and turn off the pilot light valve controller. If you have an electric hot water heater, shut off the circuit breaker that leads to it. Then, call your local licensed plumbing contractors as soon as possible!
Because it is such a crucial part of your hot water heater, you should never let a handyman or do-it-yourself, helpful neighbor tinker with the TPR valve. Only hire licensed plumbing contractors for the potentially lifesaving job of repairing or replacing a faulty TPR valve.
Your hot water heater works hard for you. Make sure to take some time and pay a little attention to keep it in top working order and the safest condition. Remember, when it comes to hot water heaters, you need a licensed plumbing professional that you trust in your corner too, because when this vital appliance needs repair or replacement, you can’t afford to take risks.
(Flickr Photo by JJ)