Your Water Heater Can EXPLODE! Mythbusters, Revisited

Mythbusters confirmed it. Everything you need to know about exploding water heaters!

Hot water is as simple as turning on a faucet—it’s a basic part of living as a human being in the developed world. It hasn’t always been that easy though. Before the modern standard of water heating units in every building and home, hot water was considered a luxury; it was not a necessity, nor a standard. Happily for us modern folk, hot water is readily available and no longer a luxury.

Please take a moment of silence and thank your water heater for all it does.

Moving on…

What most people don’t know is that their water heater has a dark side—when it’s not properly cared for, it can be a hazard. Potentially a life-threatening, explosive hazard. It’s true: water heaters can explode, causing massive damage and even death.

Always Hire Trained Water Heater Professionals

exploding water heater
Image “Water Heater” courtesy of Flickr user jasonwoodhead23 licensed under CC by 2.0.

Water heaters are 100% necessary these days, but very dangerous when not properly maintained. If you’re concerned about the state of your residential or commercial water heater, ALWAYS contact a trained water heater technician.

We’re not suggesting your business is sitting on top of a ticking time bomb. Water heaters are generally very safe, especially when properly maintained. Just like your car or even electricity, water heaters are usually pretty safe and predictable when treated with the proper care and respect. Think about it this way: People drive, use electricity and use water heaters every day—but you only notice how dangerous these things can be when there’s a problem.

So please, trust our expert advice—leave your water heater maintenance services to the professionals. Your water heating unit has a lot of monitoring sensors and alarms that aid in preventing things like fires and carbon monoxide leaks; professionals know exactly how to work with these, keeping your unit working optimally and safely at all times.

MythBusters, Revisited: Explosions are Real

Made popular by the television series MythBusters, the water heater explosion is an entertaining, yet undeniable reality of your water heating unit. Damage to the internal machinery due to improper maintenance can cause a water heater to literally explode.

Generally, an explosion can occur when the T&P (temperature and pressure relief) valve is damaged, plugged or blocked. When the unit is running, the T&P valve allows your water heater to release steam, relieving pressure and managing rising temperatures—pressure can build up if this valve stops functioning properly, and given enough pressure, the water heater will explode.

NEVER block your water heater’s T&P valve. If you notice water on the floor, this is likely a normal function of your water heater. (Unless it’s a LOT of water—then your water heater may need replacement.) Again, if you’re concerned about your water heating unit, do not touch the unit—call a trained water heater professional.

If pressure builds up inside your water heater, it’ll act just like a rocket, blasting straight up, spraying super-heated water in its wake, while destroying whatever it blasts through. The force from the explosion can even crack a foundation!

An Additional Potential Hazard to be Aware of…

Carbon Monoxide

Improper ventilation is the most common cause of this deadly problem. If sections of the flue become misaligned, separated or damaged, carbon monoxide can begin leaking into the building. Being an odorless, invisible gas, carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Common symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include: dizziness, headache, nausea, weakness, vomiting, chest pain and confusion.

To avoid this problem: Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your establishment. If you suspect a problem or a leak or carbon monoxide, contact a trained professional immediately. If you smell natural gas, call your gas company immediately – they have methods in place to detect and identify the source of gas leaks and can safely shut off the gas until the problem gets fixed.

Water Heater Safety Facts:

  • Pressure Rating:
    Burn Safety Chart - The myth of the exploding water heater is TRUE. Mythbusters confirmed it can happen to YOU. Learn how to prevent an explosion before it happens.
    Burn Safety Temperature Chart
    • 2x above the pressure rating will turn your water heater into a rocket.
  • Do not turn up the maximum heating temperature beyond 180˚F.
    • Higher temps can easily burn people, so unless you need 180˚F for sanitation purposes, even that is much too high to be safe for general use.
    • Water temperature should NEVER exceed 212˚F. Any higher can result in pressure levels exceeding the unit’s safety limits. This can cause a catastrophic explosion.
  • Do not store anything near or around your water heating unit, especially flammable materials.
  • Install carbon monoxide detectors near the unit as an added safety measure.

Want to see more water heaters exploding? Click here.

Again, we cannot stress this enough: Always rely on a trained water heater professional! Water heaters are not a DIY project unless you have proper training. Be safe, everyone!

Smart Rental Plans

Reliable Water Services provides affordable rental & service options on a variety of commercial equipment – water heaters, boilers, water softeners & more – throughout Wisconsin, Indiana & surrounding portions of the Upper Midwest. As a B2B company, our specialty is helping businesses where no hot water is not an option – and we’re available for service 24/7 because that’s when our customers need us.


No upfront equipment costs – it’s all part of the package!


Our plumber or yours? Either way, the installation cost is covered!

Service Calls

Call 1-800-356-1444 for emergency water heater service, day or night.


Whenever your water heater fails, we replace it—fast.

Learn More

See all plans and services, or get a free quote.

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