You’d probably be pretty freaked out if I told you that inside your home is a live bomb with the potential for destroying your house and injuring or even killing all occupants. The bad news is I wouldn’t be lying.
But relax. The good news is that this bomb is extremely unlikely to go off, especially if you take some simple precautions.
I’m referring to the common storage tank water heater that is installed in most homes. Pressure builds up as water gets heated inside the tank and the combination of superheated water and pressure that can exceed 200 pounds per square inch can send a water heater through the roof as much as 500 feet in the air and land hundreds of yards away. Here’s a 4-minute video from the TV show “Mythbusters” showing how this happens.
Fortunately, it doesn’t happen very often. The reason is that all water heaters come equipped with temperature and pressure (T & P) relief valves that, as their name suggests, prevent temperatures and pressures from building up to the point where an explosion occurs. Although T & P valves almost never fail, on occasion a T & P valve doesn’t do its job and then you get stories like this one in Arizona a few years ago and this one in Australia.
When incidents like this happen, more often than not the cause is found to be human error rather than mechanical failure. Many do-it-yourselfers tackle jobs beyond their capability, and installing your own water heater is one of the riskiest projects around. A professional plumber is trained and typically installs dozens of water heaters every year. A homeowner probably has the opportunity to do this no more than once or twice in a lifetime. A water heater installation is not a job you want to botch.
Even if installed correctly, like any man-made object, T & P valves suffer wear and tear over time. The best way to guard against this is to sign up for one of our Family Plan service agreements. This entitles you to an annual inspection and maintenance visit that will include water heater maintenance among various other services. Checking the T & P valve on all water heaters is one of the most crucial tasks our technicians perform on these visits.
Also, if you’re tempted to save a few bucks by installing a new water heater yourself, please think that through carefully. There are many simpler projects around the home that many of you are capable of handling, but if you’ve never installed a water heater or haven’t done so for many years, you really are much better off giving us a call. Your life and that of your loved ones are worth a lot more than saving a few dollars.