Can a boiler explode?

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A boiler explosion is a catastrophic failure of a boiler.

There can be many different causes, such as failure of the safety valve, corrosion of critical parts of the boiler, or low water level. Corrosion along the edges of lap joints was a common cause of early boiler explosions.

Boiler explosions are very rare but do happen, and can be devastating. Do not wait for a this to happen. Here are a some important signs your boiler will give before going burst.

Leaking pressure relief valve
The pressure relief valve is usually located at the top of heater, on the side. It opens when the pressure inside the tank reaches extremely high levels, letting out water and lowering the pressure inside.

If the valve is leaking, it means there is too much heat or pressure inside the tank. Either is dangerous as it could lead to an explosion.

In addition, if the valve is worn out or repeatedly being replaced, it means it cannot handle the pressure or heat in the tank and could possibly fail, trapping extremely high pressure in the tank.

Smells Like Rotten Egg
If you detect a sulfur, rotten-egg-type smell near the water heater, it could be because there is a gas leak inside that could ignite when the light is on.

If you smell gas around your heater, turn the gas off immediately and call a licensed plumber to check the heater.

Popping and Knocking Noise
If your heater keeps making a popping or knocking noise, similar to that made by a popcorn machine, it could fail.

Over time, sediment from water builds up at the bottom of the heating tank, insulating water from the burner. This forces the burner to run longer to heat water, increasing the heat inside the tank. The popping noise is water trapped under the sediment heating and bubbling as it escapes the sediment layer.

Faulty Installations
Poorly installed heaters, heater controls and gas connections can cause explosions. If the heater is electric, water corrosion can cause an electrical short.

Some Tips to Avoid Explosions

Ensure your heater’s pressure relief valve is fully functional, replace if faulty
Always keep your heater’s temperature at 120-125 degrees. Anything higher increases internal heat and releases scalding hot water
Ensure your heater is serviced and cleaned out once every year
Always ensure your plumber is a licensed professional

There is also this useful video guide:

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