A hot water heater is an important part of your home’s plumbing system. It provides hot water to all the fixtures and appliances connected to it. But if your hot water heater is under too much pressure, it can cause problems like leaks and even explosions. So what causes too much pressure in a hot water heater, and how can you avoid it? Let’s take a closer look.

How a Hot Water Heater Works

A hot water heater works by using electricity, gas, or both to heat water that is stored in a tank. The tank is typically made of steel and is insulated with either fiberglass or foam insulation to help keep the heat in. Inside the tank is a heating element that uses the energy source (electricity, gas) to heat up the cold water in the tank until it reaches a preset temperature. A thermostat monitors the temperature of the water and signals the heating element when it needs to be turned on or off.

When heated, warmer water rises to the top of the tank while cooler water drops to the bottom, allowing for consistent temperatures throughout—this process is known as convection. As warm water is drawn from the tap, more cold water enters at the bottom of the tank and is heated up by the heating element. At any given time, there will be a mix of hot and cold water inside of the tank until all of it reaches its desired temperature.

Common Causes of High Pressure In A Hot Water Heater

High pressure in a hot water heater can be caused by several factors, including:

Excessive Pressure Buildup

The most common cause of high pressure in a hot water heater is the excessive buildup of steam or air within the tank. This can happen when the heat exchanger inside the tank becomes blocked with sediment or mineral deposits, preventing the heated water from properly releasing steam or air. The result is increased pressure and temperature levels within the tank which can lead to dangerous situations like leaks, bursts, or even explosions.

If your home has inadequate ventilation, this could also contribute to higher-than-normal pressure levels in your hot water heater as well.

Mineral Deposits                

Minerals like calcium and magnesium are naturally found in tap water, and over time, they can build up on the walls of your hot water tank which can reduce its efficiency and lead to pressure buildup over time.

To prevent this from happening, make sure you regularly flush out your tank to get rid of any sediment or mineral deposits that have built up over time. This will help keep your tank running efficiently and without any issues due to excessive pressure buildup.

You may want to consider installing a whole-house filter system for your home since this will help reduce the amount of minerals that are present in your water supply.

Temperature Settings

Another factor that can cause too much pressure in a hot water heater is incorrect temperature settings on the thermostat dial inside the tank itself. If you set it too high (above 120°F), then this could result in an increase in internal pressure levels within the tank. Eventually, this leads to leaks or other issues, as mentioned previously.

To avoid this issue, make sure you adjust your thermostat dial accordingly so that it’s not set at temperatures above 120°F, which should help keep internal pressures at safe levels regardless of how long the unit has been running.

Signs of High Pressure In A Hot Water Heater

Signs of high pressure in a hot water heater can be dangerous, and it’s important to recognize them before any serious issues arise. One of the most common signs is an increase in temperature. If your water heater’s temperature is rising higher than normal, it could be a sign that the pressure inside is also increasing.

You may notice a loud noise coming from your water heater. This could indicate that there is too much pressure trapped inside, and the release valve needs to be released. Other signs of high pressure include:

  • uneven heating
  • leaking or corrosion around the tank
  • hissing or bubbling noises
  • rust-colored water coming from the faucet or showerhead

Consequences of High Pressure

The potential dangers of operating a hot water heater with too much pressure are considerable.

  • Burst pipes/water damage. The high pressure can cause pipes to burst and water to enter areas where it would not normally be found, such as walls, ceilings, and floors resulting in costly repairs. In extreme cases, these types of events can sometimes result in the flooding of an entire home or building.
  • Worsen issues in connected systems. High pressure will worsen any existing faults or weaknesses in pipes and valves by forcing them open when they should have stayed closed or vice versa.
  • Damage to the tank.  High pressure can cause damage to the heating elements within a hot water heater as well as its tank. High pressure increases the temperature of the water, which can damage temperature-sensitive materials within the heater.
  • High water bills. Excessive pressure can lead to expensive water bills due to wastage from leaks caused by faulty parts struggling under force from unbalanced plumbing systems.
  • Environmental hazard. Not only are these issues costly from a financial standpoint, but they are also an environmental hazard. If not addressed, they can lead to dirty runoff entering natural waterways and ecosystems that could have been avoided through proper maintenance practices.
  • Risk of physical injury. Ignoring high pressure can have severe consequences for people’s safety due to a potential lack of hot water supply or sudden scalding during showering. A faulty valve could result in a dangerous buildup of pressurized steam that could lead to an explosion or a similar type of incident.

What to Do if You Suspect High Pressure

If you suspect high pressure in your hot water heater, it is important to take safety precautions and take action immediately.

First, turn off the power source to the hot water heater. This will help prevent any further damage or risk of an explosion due to high pressure. If you are unable to locate the power source, contact a licensed electrician or plumber who can assist you with this task.

Next, inspect the temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P) on the side of the tank. If it appears to be open or leaking, this is a sign that there is too much pressure inside of the tank and needs attention. In this case, it is important to shut off the cold water supply valve that feeds into the hot water tank as well as turn off any appliances connected to hot water lines.

If, after releasing some of the built-up steam and water pressure from your hot water heater, there is still high pressure present, then you may need to adjust your thermostat setting. You should turn down your thermostat setting until it stabilizes at a lower temperature level; typically, somewhere between 120 – 140 degrees Fahrenheit is sufficient enough for most household needs.

As always, be sure to exercise caution when changing settings near electrical components, as you don’t want to put yourself or others at risk of electrocution or injury due to improper use of electrical appliances. It is also recommended that you contact a certified plumber who can assess the situation and determine how best to address it. 

Proper Maintenance to Prevent High Pressure

To prevent any possible danger from developing due to high pressure and an overheating hot water heater, regular maintenance should always be performed. This includes checking all pipes for leaks or cracks every few months, as well as flushing out sediment buildup from the tank annually.

If anything seems wrong during either of these checkups, then you should have a professional look into it right away. It’s also important to make sure that you are using the proper size expansion tank with your unit so that the system isn’t overloaded with too much pressure – this can lead to an eventual failure of the system if left unchecked and can cause great harm if not addressed promptly.

At Intown Plumbing, our licensed plumbers are experienced in diagnosing and fixing hot water heater issues, including those related to high pressure.

Don’t risk the safety of your home and family by ignoring the signs of high pressure in your hot water heater.