My Exploding Waterheater Experience

Exploded Waterheater Mess

Explod­ed Water­heater Mess

Unless you’re a Myth­buster, I don’t think you com­mon­ly wake up in the morn­ing think­ing that you will see an explod­ing water­heater, espe­cial­ly your own.  In def­er­ence to real­i­ty, I sup­posed it was more prop­er­ly an “explod­ed” water­heater, but the shock (and sub­se­quent mess of pud­dle) is no less real.  The pic­ture here on the right is only part of the mess left on the floor (this is only about the fifth or sixth flood in our base­ment).  I think if the drain “cov­er” was flush, much less area would have been flood­ed — some­thing to think about for the future.

I was just prepar­ing to go to bed last night when I returned to my home office to check on a few of my bat­tery-pow­ered devices that were charg­ing.  On my way back to the kitchen for the last time, I heard a some­what strange noise from the base­ment that I could almost, but not quite, dis­miss as fan noise from the servers kept down there.  I decid­ed to inves­ti­gate and as I walked down­stairs it became increas­ing­ly clear that the noise was not from com­put­er fans; but rather the sound of quick­ly run­ning water.  I could almost at that point dis­miss the sound again as the sound of water rush­ing in pipes to fill a toi­let, but I pressed on think­ing it was just wrong: too loud or too constant.

The Exploded Waterheater

The Explod­ed Waterheater

I must admit that I saw the flood first, but a very close sec­ond was the very non-nor­mal state of the water­heater itself.  I even found this a lit­tle bit scary as I was at first unsure that it was fin­ished explod­ing.  On the one hand, I can admit that it obvi­ous­ly was­n’t a “dev­as­tat­ing” explo­sion that lev­eled some por­tion of the base­ment: it was sim­ply a com­plete fail­ure of the hot water heater’s abil­i­ty to con­tain water that includ­ed com­pro­mis­ing it’s casing.

It’s at this point that I quick­ly a) shut off the water sup­ply and b) shut off the gas sup­ply and then c) dis­con­nect the elec­tric sup­ply.  I was some­what wor­ried about the elect­tric sup­ply to be hon­est, too.  The water was emerg­ing from every new oraface — from the top of the tank; from the side of the take that you see here; and from some­where around the bot­tom of the tank.  The heater was not “on” that I could tell, but I still felt that pre­vent­ing it from try­ing to be on again was a “good thing™.”

Top Damage Detail

Top Dam­age Detail

I’m some­what curi­ous what actu­al­ly hap­pened that the water heater was so com­plete­ly com­pro­mised.  This last image is a dam­age detail of the top of the tank.  It seems to indi­cate some forces at work that were some­what vio­lent.  This is less vio­lent than the afore­men­tioned myth­buster’s myth about a hot water tank explod­ing like a rock­et through the house but more vio­lent than sim­ply fail­ing due to rust.  The tank was only 10 years old.

In-the-end it turned out good that it was a rental.  Both our water­heater and our air con­di­tion­er are rentals and both have cost the rental com­pa­ny quite a bit more than we have prob­a­bly paid.  This is the 4th repair for the water­heater (pre­vi­ous­ly the flame sen­sor has been replaced twice and the emer­gency pres­sure valve once) and the air con­di­tion­er had a design fault that required the con­denser to be replaced.  I’m not entire­ly a fan of the “rental” method of repair cost mit­i­ga­tion, but in this spe­cif­ic case the shod­dy work­man­ship of the giv­en items as worked in our favour.

The rental com­pa­ny (Green­Source … which has appar­ent­ly been bought? by Direct Ener­gy) send over repair­men this morn­ing that man­aged to get all the nec­es­sary per­mis­sion to replace the unit before I got home today.  I’m look­ing for­ward to a show­er rather than a sponge bath.  No more sur­pris­es for awhile, OK?

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1 Response to My Exploding Waterheater Experience

  1. DaD says:

    Where was the actu­al breach in the inner tank? (The white cas­ing is not what con­tains the water, of course.) How much water was actu­al­ly slosh­ing around in your basement?

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