Seattle Home Inspector's Blog


Is that a rocket in your basement or are you just glad to see me?

If you were ever to have something in your home go as wrong as it could go wrong, you would not want it to be your water heater.

Of course wiring can go horribly wrong as can gas leaks.

But today I want to focus on your tank type water heater. Your water heater, whether gas or electric, has safety features that are designed to prevent the heater from becoming a rocket. Mythbusters has done several videos of what happens when you do lose these safety features; and, as the videos show, your house structure represents absolutely no resistance to your water heater propelling itself from your basement through your two story house and out through the roof pretty much instantaneously—and 400 feet into the air.

It could literally destroy much of your house. It would be a good time to not be at home—timing is everything most of the time.

At a recent inspection I found a newer water heater where the TPRV (Temperature/Pressure Relief Valve) was not located at the top of the tank where it is supposed to be. It is required to be located within the top 6” of the tank. The plug circled in the picture is where the valve should be.

Missing TPRV

Instead it was located more than three feet away from the tank---with its yellow instructions and warning label were still in place.

TPRV at wrong location

This will not be a difficult repair for someone who knows what they are doing, but is essential to keeping the water heater in the basement where it belongs--if things go horribly wrong.


Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle 

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Comment balloon 9 commentsCharles Buell • March 14 2016 02:30PM


Charels over the years our inspector has found many hot water heaters that don't have a proper TPRV - always an important item that needs to be fixed for the new buyers.

Posted by Anna Banana Kruchten CRB, CRS 602-380-4886, Arizona's Top Banana! (Phoenix Property Shoppe) about 3 years ago

Hi Charles - I never thought of one of those turning into a rocket - now I have something new for my nightmares.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) about 3 years ago

If that was done by a licensed plumber they should be reported for it.

Posted by Joe Pryor, REALTOR® - Oklahoma Investment Properties (The Virtual Real Estate Team) about 3 years ago

Not good! I've seen one of those episodes of Mythbusters when they showed the water heaters exploding. It's pretty crazy!

Posted by Nicole Doty - Gilbert Real Estate Expert, Broker/Owner of Zion Realty (Zion Realty) about 3 years ago

Yikes! My HWH is located just under my bed in the basement Charles Buell . Now you've got me worried about going Bang, Zoom, to the Moon Alice.

Posted by Bob "RealMan" Timm, Owner of Ward Co. Notary Services, retired Realtor (Ward County Notary Services) about 3 years ago

There was a TV commercial where the water heater blasted through a roof and into the street, but in talking with people nobody believes that!

I had a water rocket as a kid where I built up pressure with a pump and it worked great!  A pressurized water heater is just a larger version!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) about 3 years ago

Ok, Best title EVER...I remember the original saying and just heard it the other day...another story :-0

Posted by Kristin Johnston - REALTOR®, Giving Back With Each Home Sold! (RE/MAX Realty Center ) about 3 years ago

Ready for launch in 3.... 2..... 1....

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) about 3 years ago

This has to be one of the most clever post titles I've seen!  

What a frightening story though.

Posted by Sharon Tara, New Hampshire Home Stager (Sharon Tara Transformations) about 3 years ago