Learning About the Common Culprits of House Explosions

The Columbus paint plant explosion might have been the most high-profile explosion in Ohio this year. However, several homes have also suffered similar fates. Middletown and Smithville lost two homes to explosions, leaving one person injured and 2 families homeless. Home explosions are fairly rare, and the underlying reasons are limited.

Gas Leaks

The Middletown explosion was determined to be a gas leak. A suspected pipe leak filled the home with natural gas, with a spark eventually causing an explosion. The owner of the house accidentally turned on the gas, thinking it was the waterline. He then fell asleep and woke up to the explosion.

Gas leaks are the most common causes of explosions. An unlit and open furnace or stove can fill up a house with methane, the main component of natural gas. Methane is odorless, colorless, and highly flammable. Most natural gas providers use an additive (usually mercaptan) to add distinct odors of sulfur or rotten eggs into the mix. Gas leaks are hazardous. Once you detect the foul smell of sulfur or rotten eggs, leave the house immediately. Open a few windows if you can, but don’t turn on the lights or any other electrical appliances.

Sewer Line Problems

Blocked sewer lines often lead to messy explosions instead of the usual boom. However, methane can build up in unattended basements and eventually cause a house to explode from the ground up. Blockage from kitchen grease, waste disposal, and improper flushing can leave sewer lines blocked, potentially sending refuse into your home. Backflow valves or standpipes can prevent messy problems.

sewer line

However, make it a point to get your sewer lines cleaned and inspected every two years. Tree roots can also drill into your sewer lines, especially if your lateral pipes use older cast-iron or clay pipes. Replacing your pipes with PVC pipes should solve the issue without harming any trees. You can also avoid blockage by limiting the use of your waste disposer, avoiding pouring grease into your kitchen sink, and flushing nothing more than toilet paper when you go to the bathroom.

Septic Tank Leaks

Exploding septic tanks may not be so common in Ohio, but they are in Florida. Septic tanks break down organic matter, releasing methane in the process. A blocked or full septic tank can lead to overflows that go into your home. The build-up of methane also makes a septic tank a fire hazard, especially if there is a nearby heat source. Septic tanks require cleaning or pumping every three to five years. If your home uses alternative systems that use float switches and pumps, it may need yearly inspections.

Exploding Boilers

In 2016, a boiler explosion in a church left five men injured in Hamilton County. While modern boilers have safety features that eliminate the risk of pressure build-ups and explosions, older boilers might not have the same features. Boilers are typically stored in the basement, but they have been known to fly off the roof of a two-story house when they explode. Check if your boiler meets updated safety standards and have it replaced if it is older than 20 years.

Dust Clouds

Not more than a few bakers have loft their kitchen aflame by mishandling flour. The same goes for garage woodworkers and sawdust. Dust clouds are extremely flammable. Dust particles have large surface areas, allowing them to utilize oxygen more efficiently. A single spark can send a whole cloud afire, causing an explosion that can light up an entire room.

Stay away from open flames when preparing to bake. Handle flour carefully, and keep it in sealed containers, preferably away from kids and pets. If you’re using a table saw, use a dust funnel or a vacuum system to avoid filling the room with dust. Flour and sawdust explosions might not be destructive, but they can leave you burned in a few spots and your house a bit singed.

Flammable Materials

Pressurized flammable materials often cause small explosions that can lead to fires. Aerosols, whether cooking spray, bug spray, or spray paint, are extremely flammable. The pressurized air inside aerosol cans can explode when heated, which is why most cans have warnings to store them in cool locations. Store your aerosols in well-ventilated places, and keep them away from heat sources or sunlight. Try not to use dented aerosol cans. These cans could have weakened seals that could cause the canister to explode.

Explosions in your home can be hazardous. Note the circumstances that increase their risk and take steps to avoid them.

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