Discover why a bulging water heater is a serious and potentially dangerous problem that can impact your home and safety. This article provides a guide on how to check for signs of a deformed tank caused by increased pressure in the tank, and what steps to take to resolve the issue. Additionally, you can learn about the common symptoms and causes of bulging and how to prevent it from happening in the future.
There are several reasons why a water heater may be bulging, and it's important to address the issue promptly to prevent potential hazards like leaks, fires, or explosions. Here are some common reasons:
A bulging water heater can be a serious and dangerous problem, caused by excessive pressure inside the tank. Common symptoms include dislocated flue pipes and pipe fittings, leaking, and permanent deformation. Signs of a bulging tank can be seen in the form of cockeyed nipples at the top and bulged or reversed bottoms of the heater's head.
Tank-type water heaters are designed and tested to withstand maximum internal pressures of 300 psi without any distortion. If there is a deformation of the tank, such as a bulged bottom, it means the heater was subjected to pressures above 300 psi. The maximum working pressure for which the heater is designed is 150 psi.
When cold water is heated in the tank, the volume and pressure increase due to the expansion of water. For each 10°F increase in temperature, water expands by 0.2%. If the temperature increase causes the maximum designed pressure to be exceeded, the water heater can bulge and deform.
To learn more about bulging water heaters and how to fix them, refer to the technical bulleting from the AO Smith manufacturer. If you suspect your water heater is bulging or deformed, contact a licensed plumber immediately to assess the situation and recommend the best course of action.
If your heating system is an open system, and if there are no obstructions to reverse the flow, the pressure in the tank will always be closed to the cold water supply. The hot water will expand back into the cold water supply, and there will be no damage to the plumbing system. In this case, the chances for a bulging water heater are minimal.
If there are obstructions, such as installing the checking valves, pressure reducing valves, shut-off valves in the cold water line, or water softeners, the system becomes a closed system. This will result in the rapid pressure increase of the heated water until something fails or ruptures.
This is why the expansion tank must be installed to accept additional water and pressure.
If the expansion tank is not installed, the pressure may become extremely high, resulting in the water heater bulging, even tank rupture. This is why a good quality and reliable product should be selected, such as this model from Rheem.
The correct size of the expansion tank should be used on every new installation so it can maintain a consistent and safe working pressure. Keep in mind that the warranty will be voided, so whatever happens to the unit, it will be at your expense.
One reason why your heater might be leaking is due to pressure buildup or a significant drop inside the tank. This is a simple DIY project that only requires a gauge. A leaking water heater can create a puddle on the floor, indicating a crack or hole in the tank or dislocated plumbing connections or unions. Follow the guide below to check and test hot water pressure:
The typical design of the tank features convex top heads and concave bottoms. Due to excessive pressure inside the tank, the concave bottom might flatten or change to a convex or bulged shape. This is particularly dangerous on gas models, as the movement of the bottom can result in deformation of the tank head as it connects to the rigid flue. This can cause restrictions in the venting of combustion products through the flue passage and chimney.
To ensure the safety of your home and family, it's crucial to take any signs of a bulging water heater tank seriously. If you notice any distortion in the tank's bottom when inspecting the combustion chamber, it's important to replace the tank immediately and identify and correct the root cause of the problem. Keep in mind that heaters with bulging conditions are typically not covered by warranty due to improper installation.
Experts agree that it's best to call the plumber as soon as possible to address the issue, rather than attempting a DIY repair. The real concern with a bulging water heater tank isn't the bulge itself, but rather the reason why the tank bulged in the first place. If the safety relief valve was unable to release pressure for any reason, the tank will inevitably fail, and potentially even explode, putting your home and loved ones in danger.
The recommended safe water temperature for home use is between 120°F and 140°F. Keeping the temperature within this range can help to prevent excessive pressure buildup. This temperature is hot enough to kill bacteria, but not so hot that it can cause scalding. If your water temperature is too high, you should adjust the thermostat on your water heater. It's important to make small adjustments and wait a few hours before checking the temperature again to avoid overshooting the desired temperature.
It depends on the extent of the damage. Small leaks or cracks can sometimes be repaired, but more severe damage may require replacing the entire unit.
To prevent pressure-related damage, ensure that the temperature and pressure relief valve is functioning properly and that the expansion tank is installed correctly. Also, avoid setting the thermostat temperature too high.
In most cases, a bulging water heater cannot be repaired and needs to be replaced immediately to avoid any potential danger.