Leaks can happen to different parts of your home, not just the roof or your plumbing system. Did you know that it can also happen to your water heater? It doesn’t matter if you own a residential water heater or use one in your RV – all water heaters have a fair chance of leaking, especially when they are neglected.
No matter where the leak starts, either at the top or at the bottom, they both have a high chance of indicating that there is problem with your water heater. And if this is not immediately resolved, it will have disastrous consequences. Choose between these: an exploding water heater, a flooded basement, or worse, both.
This article is for you if you want to avoid one of the worst surprises of your life – being greeted by a flooded basement. With water heaters, this is a very real possibility in any household. More than the hassle at the thought of cleaning up, it also poses real dangers.
What to Do with a Flooded Basement
If you unfortunately fell victim to this, you need to remember this rule – safety first. This is why professionals should do it for you at the very first step; they know what to do and how to avoid the dangers involved in a flooded basement. As a result, potential hazards are greatly minimized.
So, how exactly do they do that? You can expect these to be done:
- For floods attributed to weather disturbances, such as snow or heavy rains, the plumber or technician will have to wait first until the floods have subsided before venturing into the basement.
- As soon as possible, any gas leaks and power lines that are downed must be checked. If present, he or she needs to report it to the city officials. Aside from that, the structural integrity of your house will also have to be inspected.
- Switch off the power supply for electrical units and gas for gas-powered ones before going down the basement. Due to the high risk of electrocution, the professional will likely use a wooden stick to open up the panel covering your water heater’s fuse box or circuit breaker. All available switches, including the main switch, will need to be switched to the ‘off’ position to cut off power to the entire house.
- If there are windows and other doors in your basement, they will be opened up for ventilation purposes. This will help dry up your basement and remove any additional moisture, as well as get rid of any odors or fumes trapped inside much faster.
- The plumber will now try and discover if there are other sources of floodwater, aside from the weather disturbance. This may also be caused by burst pipes, blocked sewage system, and your water heater unit.
- In some cases, a plumber alone will not be enough to completely resolve the issue. Water may have reached the sockets, electrical wirings, and appliances and it is important that an electrician come check out their condition before they can be used. If the plumber thinks there is a gas leak, the fire department may also have to be called. And in extreme cases, it may require the help of local authorities.
- Once safe to do so, cleaning up of the basement will start. However, cleaning up is not limited to removing all the water and drying up the entire area; it will also need sanitizing. This is done after removing all the water that flooded your basement and before drying it up.
While cleanup may seem easy, it would be safer for you to just let professionals do the job. This is especially true when the flood in your basement is not quickly receding or is murky or muddy. Cleanups of this type are usually very time consuming, so you should take that into consideration as well. Professionals already know what to do to speed up the entire process.
Also, it is best to get in touch with the insurance provider of your home in cases like this. Some providers cover flooding on basements on their insurance package, and you should check if your house is covered by it. They can also help you get in touch with professionals or companies that can help you with the cleanup.
Signs Your Water Heater is Failing and Going to Explode
Although it may seem impossible, water heaters can cause your basement to get flooded. However, this is not the only possible major catastrophe you need to watch out for. if you recall, we also mentioned the possibility of exploding water heaters. This may not only cause damage to your home or start fires, but it can also cost lives. In fact, reportedly 80 people died and 210 sustained injuries because of it in the country in 2010 alone.
Fortunately, only a very small percentage of water heaters are at risk for this. It will not happen to yours, as long as your water heater is well-maintained. Proper and regular maintenance is the key to prevent your unit from becoming a threat. Once your water heater shows signs of failing, it ups the risk.
You should also know that a water heater will not immediately explode anytime, as it has safety measures in place. It also has the ability to show warning signs before a possible explosion can take place, and these are the major signs you should watch out for:
- Noise – it is quite normal for water heaters to make some noise as it operates. But when you start hearing unusual sounds, particularly popping or rumbling, and you know you don’t have a popcorn machine running at home, have a professional check your unit asap. This might mean your unit is working double-time, which can cause problems later on.
- Gas smell – anytime you smell gas where your water heater is located, it can indicate a gas leak. An indicator of this is when you smell something reminiscent of rotten eggs or sulfur. You likely know that this is dangerous and it becomes even more so if your gas water heater is installed in the same location where there are flammables surrounding it.
- Leaks – more than an annoyance, leaks on a water heater should never be overlooked. Most leaks are minor issues, that’s why many homeowners put off repairs on their unit’s leaking hot water outlet, cold water inlet, drain valve, and overflow pipe, among others. What people don’t know is that procrastinating repairs on water heater leaks actually puts it at risk of exploding.
- Issues with the T&P valve – water heaters are equipped with temperature and pressure relief valves that act as the primary safeguards of water heaters. This is why it is important that they are always in perfect condition. It maintains the pressure within adequate levels, as too much pressure is the main cause of exploding water heaters.
- Wrong or improper installation – any appliance should be installed correctly to work properly, especially water heaters. If your unit’s installation has been compromised, expect to have parts that are melted up, fittings that are soldered, or worse, control systems that are inaccurate. Wrong readings can result to inaccurate pressure regulation.
- Water coming out of the hot water faucets is no longer clear – if you see the water coming out of the faucets as having flakes of rust or sediments, blurry, and smells metallic, it can signal a failing tank. If this is the case and you still continue using your water heater, it puts you all at risk because the pressure inside the tank is no longer regulated properly.
- Presence of rust – once your water heater starts showing signs of rust, you need to get it checked out. This will soon spread out and corrode your unit, increasing the chances of it malfunctioning and later exploding.
It doesn’t hurt if you contact a professional to check on your water heater once you see any of these signs. You need to immediately rectify any issues with your water heater, since they are 100% bound to get worse if left ignored. It may be an additional expense for you right now, but the amount you will pay to get it checked will pale in comparison to the total fees required if you have a burst water heater on your hands.
How the Overflows Happen
A water heater bursting is not the only reason for flooding to occur where your unit is installed, such as your basement. In fact, leaks can also be the cause of it. This is quite common for water heaters that are already old and corroded, or those that have issues with the heating element gasket or seals. But, how exactly does flooding occur?
If your water heater has leaks and are left unresolved, it will cause water to build up and result in flooding. Minor leaks would hardly result in this problem immediately, but if the leak is strong, steady, and constant, expect your basement to get flooded after some time.
Thermostat errors will also likely cause your unit to overflow. If this is malfunctioning, your water heater will not know when it should stop heating up the water because it can no longer accurately gauge the water temperature. This will result in the tank holding up pressure and if the excess pressure doesn’t get released, it will lead to your water heater bursting, or even exploding.
Once your unit falls apart, all the water inside the tank will go out of all the holes or gaps that resulted. If the water supply is not cut off, water will continuously flow out and cause the flooding. This often happens fast because the water coming from the cold water line of your unit flows uninterruptedly and if overlooked, the flooding can get worse and even reach other parts of your home.
You might not realize it but you’re in luck if only a burst water heater happens, not an explosion. Although both would require you to replace your unit immediately, the damage of a water heater bursting is not as devastating as the alternative.
The Dangers of Water Heater Problems
You might think that flooding is the worst that can happen to you, once your water heater overflows. Unfortunately, this is not the only possible after-effect, as the following may also happen:
- Burns and scalding – even when not in use, hot water will be stored in the tanks of traditional water heaters. And once it bursts open, this will put anyone at risk of injury, since the water that will first flow out is the hot water stored in the tank and anyone in close proximity when this happens can get scalded or get burns from it.
- Shocks and electrocution – plain old water is known as an electricity conductor, that’s why you can experience shocks when you touch water that is in contact with electricity. This is a possibility when you have a flooded basement, especially when there are exposed electrical wirings and sockets. In fact, the current in the water is usually strong enough to kill anyone that comes into contact with it. This is why safety precautions are important before anyone can venture in a flooded area of any house.
- Growth of mold and mildew – water heaters that experienced an overflow can promote the growth and rapid reproduction of mold and mildew, especially when it occurs in the basement or any dark location. This can trigger allergies and respiratory issues. But if the issue is not immediately addressed, it will result in toxic black mold that may cause cancer and various problems in the neurological system.
- It can cause fires – a gas leak is not the only possible cause of house fires starting that involves a water heater. Would you believe flooding also increases the chance of it happening? It may be hard to believe because water is involved, but flooding can cause short circuits on your electrical system and this can result in sparks that may trigger a fire to break out.
- Damage to your stuff and home – an immediate effect of a flood is water damage to your stuff it comes into contact with. If left exposed to the water for some time, not only can it damage your floorings and walls but it may also affect the structure itself of your house.
- Carbon monoxide poisoning – with or without flooding, it is possible to be poisoned if carbon monoxide leaks from a gas-powered water heater. What makes this very dangerous is the fact that it is impossible to detect the presence of carbon monoxide, as it is both odorless and colorless. Without a carbon dioxide detector, you will only know about the leak once you get exposed to it and experience the effects.
You might have noticed that many of these dangers we listed above are potentially fatal; this is how important it is to keep your water heater in tip-top shape all the time. Any issue with your unit needs to be checked out by a professional as soon as possible, as water heater problems will never go away by themselves.
Water Heater Maintenance and Its Importance
Just because a water heater is designed to run 24/7 does not mean you can just ignore it as soon as it has been installed. Yes, they are considered a low maintenance appliance, but they still need to undergo preventive maintenance works when necessary.
Ask any professional and they will tell you that issues with any water heater are preventable, as long as they are properly maintained. This is the reason why many water heaters work beyond their expected lifespan, reaching as much as 20 years of use or more when they actually are designed to last a decade or less on average.
If you’re wondering why it is important to regularly maintain your unit, despite changing it to a new one in a decade or so anyway, here are various reasons that should convince you:
- It improves the performance of your unit, allowing you to save on your household bills
- Costly repairs will be avoided
- Keeps your water heater working within safe limits
- Hot showers will remain hot, and you will not get surprised when the water suddenly turns cold
- You will get to use your water heater longer
Proper water heater maintenance is not just about keeping the outside of your water heater clean. It also involves keeping it clean on the inside and making sure that all of its settings are within the ideal ranges.
While you can do certain maintenance activities by yourself, the more intensive ones should ideally be done by professionals. Regular maintenance of water heaters involves the following:
- Using water softener when the water being supplied to your water heater is hard water
- Regularly checking and replacing the anode rod when it has badly corroded
- Flushing the water heater regularly
- Setting the thermostat to the ideal levels, namely below 120 ˚F and with the pressure at 60 psi at most
- Adding insulation or heat traps on certain parts of the water heater
- Getting it checked by a professional annually on average, or whenever you see any signs of trouble
- Immediately repairing and/or replacing all malfunctioning components
- Installing an expansion tank when necessary, in order to regulate the pressure
- Giving it breathing space by not blocking its ventilation systems and not crowding it with stuff, especially flammables
Any professional would know what needs to be done to water heaters to keep them working well and at an optimum condition, and it all starts with letting them taking the reins when it comes to doing maintenance. They will help keep your unit at its peak condition, determine what needs to be done, and check on the overall condition of your unit, catching potential issues early.
Signs When It’s Time to Replace Your Water Heater
Deciding when it’s the perfect time to replace your water heater is not as easy as it seems. If you find it easy to replace your television to upgrade to a new one, this is not the case for water heaters. Let’s face it – water heaters in general are pricey, which makes it hard for just anyone to get an upgrade whenever they feel like it.
They may last for a long time but water heaters will not last forever. Ultimately, they will have to be replaced when needed but more often than not, it will take years before you need to do so. This means you have time to save up for a new one when you finally need to get yours replaced.
Replacing water heaters are not limited to doing so when it no longer works. Certain conditions also make it more ideal for you to discard your old one in favor of a newer model, such as:
- It breaks down more often
- Hot water being produced is no longer clear but murky and rusty, as well as having traces of sediment flakes
- Your unit is already considered old – think 10 years and up
- No hot water is coming out or it is lukewarm at best
- The water is metallic, particularly in terms of the smell and taste
- It is working more than it should, because it is not enough for the needs of your entire household
- Its size is too much for your household’s requirements
- Leaks are becoming frequent
- It gets very noisy and makes unusual sounds
- You want to save up on your household bills, since newer models are much more economical
- It uses up more resources than usual, despite not changing your consumption
When water heater issues get too bad, no amount of flushing can remove the stuck sediments that caused the numerous issues on your unit. Even replacing the broken-down components of your unit would be useless, as it is already too late for any possible remedy a professional can do. The only solution in these cases is to get a new one, which will definitely put a dent on your budget.
Get Free Quotes from Restoration Companies
Back in the old days before the internet was born, homeowners would search through the pages of newspapers, magazines, and telephone directories to find a professional or two who can address issues related to their homes. They would also hop inside the car and look around for businesses involved in what they need to be done, if they cannot get recommendations through word-of-mouth. This can be very time-consuming and frustrating to many.
Fortunately, it is now easy to just do an internet search to gather information about qualified professionals and restoration companies in your area. Some websites even offer to get you in touch with a number of them to help you decide which one to hire. Gone are the days when you have to pick up the phone and call each and every one of them, just to inquire about their rates and get quotations.
Unlike in the past, these professionals and companies can now readily provide you with ballpark figures of how much their services would cost and for free. You just need to explain to them what the problem is and they will give you a rough estimate of how much you can expect to shell out.
Unfortunately, restoring a flooded basement is going to cost a lot, since you would likely need to replace your water heater and get a company to do the restoration of your basement as well, including cleanup, sanitation, and checking its structural integrity and overall condition.
This is why you need to negotiate fees. Get in touch with several companies and compare their rates and services. Inform them that you are also talking to and are interested in other companies, and they will immediately give you their best offers even without you asking. It’s now up to you to decide which one would provide you with what you feel is the best value.
Here’s a tip: it’s not always the cheapest. If one company offers the lowest charges, but the other offers some more services at an additional charge, such as replacement of malfunctioning components without needing to pay them by the hour, maybe it would be the wisest decision to go with the latter.
We have made the process easy for you when it comes to making sure there are no problems with your water heater, and ensuring your basement doesn’t get flooded – all you need to do is fill out the form on this page, and we’ll connect your request with the 4 most relevant contractors in your area that can then reach out to you you and bid on your project. It’s completely free for you!