Really dangerous water heater failure (True Story)

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Nukedaddy

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I read and commented on the exploded heater element thread below and it reminded me of one of my personal combat stories. About 30 years ago
I went on a service call for a home that had been subject to a near lightning strike. Electricians had already been there for a couple of hours replacing the meter and some breakers. The water heater was a plain-jane Rheem 40 electric. There were smoke marks coming up from both element covers. I turned off the newly replaced breaker and tested the bottom element first. It was open (burned out) so I shut off the inlet valve, connected a hose to the drain and opened it to drain the tank. Water came flying out like the supply valve was wide open! So I went to shut off the main. While I was across the basement at the main stop I heard a POW and hiss! The drain hose had blown apart and live steam was shooting all about the basement!
How many times I have set down in front of a heater while it drained! If I had, my eggs would have been steam boiled!
Here is what happened: Apparently the heater was energized to the upper element when lightning struck. The high limit and the upper thermostat were welded shut by the surge before the breaker failed. The lower event blew as they are always energized on one side only. When the electricians restored power the heater started with no thermostat or high limit. By the time I got there there was a big steam bubble in the top of the heater. There was a double check on the meter. No expansion tank, just one of the ballcocks with a relief valve. And the kicker? The relief valve on the tank was pressure only, not temp and pressure.
close call!
 

breplum

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Damn fine story.
Thanks for sharing.
check out plumbing zone.com where professional plumbers waste their off hours.
 
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