Water Heater Leaking? Here's What to Do - Bill Howe

Water Heater Leaking? Here’s What to Do


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Water Heaters perform vital functions in the home, providing families with hot water for cooking, bathing, cleaning, and more. They are designed to be long lasting, but even the best can show signs of a leak. If you suspect your water heater is leaking, the best way to protect your home from serious damage is to follow these simple steps from Bill Howe Plumbing. These steps will help you navigate the stresses of a leaky water heater, and provide insight on when to call a professional from Bill Howe Plumbing.

A Quick Overview

  • Determine Leak Source
  • Turn Off Power
  • Turn Off Water Supply
  • Determine Leak Location
  • Repair & Replace

Determine the Leak Source

A puddle at the base of your hot water heater is not necessarily an indication of your water heater leaking. Condensation can form around the hot water heater which with enough time drips and creates a puddle. Furnace drain lines, water softener discharge lines, and other plumbing that are connected to your water heater could be leaking instead of the water heater itself. First step is determining the source of the leak.

  • Dry the area and look for any obvious signs of leakage.
  • Remember the law of gravity. If unable to find the leak at first glance, look up. The water may be coming from a part or area directly above the puddle.
  • Check the pooled area periodically for signs of the leak. Paper towels or a rag should be placed to catch the drips.
  • If the problem does not reappear in the next couple days then there is nothing to be concerned about.
  • If water is continuing to pool then a leak is most likely the culprit.

Turn Off the Power

Before performing any maintenance, turn off the power to your water heater. If you have an electric water heater, locate the circuit breaker and switch off the breaker associated with your water heater. Water and electricity are a deadly combination together so turning off the power is critical. A gas water heater, on the other hand, has an on/off switch or a dial on the exterior of the tank. Make sure it is turned off before proceeding. Avoid closing the gas shut-off valve if possible. These valves can be finicky and susceptible to failure over time.

Turn Off the Water Supply

For leaks that are obvious and significant, turn off the water supply at the cold water shut-off valve. Most water heaters will have the valve located at the top. The cold water shut-off valve will either have a handle or pull down, or a gate valve. DO NOT close the valve if you can not reach it safely without coming in contact with water. Larger leaks that disable you from reaching the shut-off valve safely will require you to locate your main shut-off valve to your home. You may need to turn this back on later though if you have difficulty locating the leak. Shutting off the water to your entire home should stop the leak entirely or at least slow it down.

Determine the Location of the Leak

Leaks can be caused by numerous problems. Inspecting and determining the origin is not always readily obvious. Some of these repairs are reasonable and can be performed on your own but we do not recommend it. A professional from Bill Howe can relieve you of the stress and uncertainty with a quick consultation. Here are the areas your plumber will check during inspection:

The Cold Water Inlet and Hot Water Outlet Connections

Examine where the inlet and outlet pipes connect to the hot water heater at the top of the unit. If the leak is coming from this location the solution could be as easy as tightening a few loose connections with a pipe wrench or replacing the faulty pipeline.

Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve

The temperature & pressure relief valve (T&P valve) does exactly what you think it does.  When the water within the tank becomes too hot, or an excessive amount of pressure builds within the tank, this mechanism will release some water out of the tank to relieve the stress. To locate the temperature & pressure relief valve look for a pipe running down to the floor. The valve should be located on either the side or the top of the water heater. First, inspect the point where the T&P valve enters the tank for signs of a leak. Then inspect the relief valve itself. If the relief valve is in the closed position but water is still flowing from the attached pipe, the valve is defective and needs to be replaced. If the valve is in the open position, it may be releasing too much pressure from the tank. This is a relative easy fix but it is always recommended that a professional handles the maintenance. Call today 1-800-BILL-HOWE.

The Drain Valve

Check the drain valve for any signs of moisture. The valve is located near the bottom of the tank. It should be watertight when completely closed.

The Internal Tank

Inside a hot water heater’s outer shell is an internal tank wrapped in insulation. You won’t be able to visibly see if the internal tank is leaking. A good indicator though is water escaping from the bottom of the water heater.  Unfortunately, there is no fix for an internal tank leak. You will have to replace the entire unit. A leaking internal tank is a fairly common issue. It is usually caused by ordinary age and deterioration.

Do I Need to Drain Your Water Heater?

Your Bill Howe plumber will happily drain your water heater before beginning maintenance. However, if your leak is severe you may want to drain it immediately to prevent water damage to your home. If the scenario becomes that dire, follow these easy steps to drain your hot water heater. ALWAYS TURN OFF THE POWER AND WATER BEFORE PERFORMING MAINTENANCE.

  • Attach a long hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank. Run the other said of said hose to a proper location such as a drain gutter or sink. Do not drain the water onto your lawn or driveway. Sediments and rust within the water will damage your lawn or driveway.
  • Release the valve where the hose is attached.
  • Open the pressure relief valve on the top of the tank.
  • Allow the water to drain from the tank

Repair or Replace

Your hot water heater leaking is no trifling matter, and living with no hot water is not an ideal option for long periods of time. Action needs to be taken as quickly as possible when it comes to repairing a water heater. No matter what kind of maintenance you are doing on your water heater it is always a smart idea to call the professionals at Bill Howe. They are highly trained, highly skilled plumbers, and will explain what they are doing so you can make informed decisions. If replacement is the only viable option consider moving to a tankless water heater system. There are a few differences between tankless and conventional. Your technician would be happy to help explain the difference in water heater options. We will even haul the old water heater away for you!

When to Call A Plumber

If your leak has already caused significant damage to your home, Bill Howe can assist you with that as well. Please visit our Restoration & Flood page for more information or call 1-800-BILL-HOWE.

Thank you for staying tuned, and staying informed.. Now YOU KNOW HOWE! Keep an eye out for our next blog coming soon. Remember to call the professionals at Bill Howe for all your plumbing, HVAC, and restoration needs. 1-800-BILL-HOWE.

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