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What Constitutes a Water Heater Emergency?


If you imagine what would lead you to call for an emergency plumber, you’re probably picturing broken pipes gushing like geysers. Sometimes, plumbing emergencies actually do look like that!

But sometimes an emergency can start out with more subtle signs. When it comes to your water heater, you may be able to prevent the worst disasters by knowing the first signs of an emergency. Here’s what to look for.


A leak at a fitting connected to your water heater may be able to be repaired. A leak that is caused by damage or deterioration to the water heater itself cannot be repaired. The pressure inside the tank means that any patch on the surface would always be a dangerous weak point, so once the tank is breached, you need a new water heater. And small leaks can get much bigger very quickly!

Water damage to your home can lead to massive repairs costing thousands of dollars, so don’t let it get to that point. When you spot any leakage, dripping, or puddles below your water heater, you need a plumber as quickly as possible. A qualified professional will be able to determine exactly where the leak is coming from, provide repair if possible, and make recommendations about replacement if that’s necessary.


Have you heard of a water heater bursting? It’s very rare, but it is indeed possible. The reason this happens is excessive pressure, which is caused by the temperature getting too high. And how does the temperature get too high? You should never set your aquastat—the watery version of a thermostat—higher than 125 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once the temperature reaches 140, the pressure will start to increase. If the pressure does build, the temperature relief valve should open to allow the pressure to dissipate. A stuck valve can prevent that release and allow the pressure to keep building.

From time to time, you should check on your water heater. Make sure that it’s set to 125 or lower, and that the temperature is not climbing above that. And ensure that the temperature relief valve is able to open. With close-toed shoes on, put a bucket below the valve, step back, and open the valve for about five seconds. If it doesn’t open, or if your temperature exceeds 125 and you can’t get it down, you have a water heater emergency in Woburn, MA. Get help right away.

There’s another issue that can occur with water heater temperature that might not show up when you check the aquastat. If the water temperature is uneven, and there are hot spots, certain areas can get much hotter than they should without affecting the overall temperature. How does this happen?

If sediment builds up inside the tank, it can trap water at the bottom, where it will get superheated without being able to rise to the top and mingle with the cooler water. You should have your water tank flushed regularly as part of routine water heater maintenance to make sure this doesn’t happen.

If you do end up with a lot of sediment, you may start to hear a sound like rumbling or boiling. It’s often referred to as kettling because it makes your water heater sound like an enormous teakettle. If you hear this, it’s definitely time to have your water heater flushed.

If you have other concerns, such as a lack of hot water pressure, an inability to get the water hot enough, an uncooperative pilot light, or discolored or smelly water, we’re happy to help with any of those as well.

Reach out to Cooling Unlimited, Inc. to speak with qualified plumbing experts.

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