Why Is Your Water Heater Leaking and How to Stop It | Bill Howe

Why Is Your Water Heater Leaking and How to Stop It


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Discovering a large puddle of water near your water heater is never fun. It usually means that your water heater is leaking, which means you’ve got water waste and a mess on your hands. When this happens, there’s no need to panic. But you’re probably asking yourself, why is my water heater leaking, and how can I stop it from wasting water?

In this article, we’ll discuss water heaters leaking. We’ll also cover some causes and what to do when you’ve got a leaking water heater.

Water Heaters perform a vital function 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 water heaters can leak. A leaking water heater isn’t just wasting water, it’s wasting money and creating a potential hazard, and damage to your home.

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. Sometimes, a water heater leaking isn’t that big of a problem. For example, water could be coming from hoses that need to be replaced. But it can become a big problem and damage your home if the tank itself is leaking and you don’t act quickly.

If you’re unsure or don’t feel comfortable getting up close and personal with the water heater, the best thing you can do is to call Bill Howe. Our technicians are trained experts. As the #1 plumber in San Diego, you can always count on us for all your plumbing needs, including figuring out and repairing a leaking water heater.

We’ll cover the dangers of leaking water and its causes before we dig into what you should do when your water heater leaks.

Is a Leaking Water Heater Dangerous?

Smaller leaks might seem harmless, but they can signal underlying issues. Act quickly, regardless of the leak size, to avoid potential dangers.

Flooding: If you’ve noticed your water heater leaking, that small leak can quickly turn into a big one. Some houses have water heaters in the garage, and a leak can damage your old photos on the garage floor. But if you come home to your water heater leaking and don’t realize it, you could slip and get hurt. Some water heaters are in closets inside a home. If that leak has turned into a puddle or flood, you might be looking at major damage to your belongings and property.

Piping Hot Water: Water heaters are hot. After all, they’re filled with scalding hot water. Do not touch the tank or water when your water heater is leaking. Scalding water can cause severe burns, so you’ll want to wear closed-toe shoes with thick soles if you are inspecting the water leak. Again, if you don’t feel comfortable, contact a professional for further assistance.

Possible Gas Leak or Fire Hazard: A water heater leak might be more than just water—it could be gas, too. Gas leaks can be extremely dangerous due to fire risk or explosions. When you see your water heater leaking and smell gas, too, you’ll want to contact your local gas company so that they can shut off your gas. You’ll want to do this before your local plumber arrives for repairs.

What Causes a Water Heater to Leak?

Several things can cause water heater leaks. A damaged relief valve is one of the most common reasons for a water heater leak. The relief valve keeps the water pressure from building up inside the tank. If the relief valve is broken, the water will start leaking. Of course, it’s not always the relief valve that is causing a leaking water heater.

The following can also cause water heater leaking problems:

  • Corroded or Cracked Tank: The water heater tank itself may be compromised.
  • Loose Pipe Connections: Connections may be inadequately secured.
  • Excessive Water Pressure: High water pressure can strain the system.
  • Incorrectly Installed Relief Valves: Improper installation may cause leaks.
  • Worn Out Anode Rod: The rod designed to prevent tank corrosion may need replacement.
  • Sediment Buildup: Accumulation within the tank can lead to leaks.
  • Cracked Water Storage Tank: The tank may have structural issues, causing it to leak.
  • Age of the Water Heater: Over time, aging tanks may develop leaks.

What to Do If You Discover a Water Heater Leak?

A Quick Overview

  • Determine Leak Source
  • Turn Off Power
  • Turn Off Water Supply
  • Determine Leak Location
  • Call a Professional

1. 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. The 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.

2. 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.

3. Turn Off the Water Supply

Can you still use water if the water heater is leaking? The answer depends on whether it’s a large or small leak. If it’s a small leak, you should only use it temporarily until a professional plumber arrives. 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 don’t allow you to reach 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 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.

4. Determine the Location of the Leak

Leaks can be caused by numerous problems, and the origin is not always obvious. Some of these repairs are reasonable and can be performed on your own but we don’t 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 your inspection:

The Cold Water Inlet and Hot Water Outlet Connections: Examine where the inlet and outlet pipes connect to the 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 relatively 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.

5. Call a Professional

Prompt and secure action is vital when dealing with water leaks. While you can manage minor issues temporarily, seeking professional help is crucial for a thorough assessment and lasting repairs. A quick call to Bill Howe ensures expert insight, comprehensive solutions, minimal damage, and swift restoration of your home. Contact us for immediate assistance and peace of mind.

What to Do If the Water Heater is Leaking from the Bottom? What About the Top?

There’s an issue with your water heater, no matter where the leak is coming from. But some simple solutions can help. A water heater leaking from the bottom may signal an issue with the drain valve. The drain valve does exactly what you think it does; it empties the water tank. A professional plumber will empty the water tank when they’re performing maintenance. A water flush is an excellent way to rid the tank of sediment and mineral buildup.

If you’re up for it, here’s what to do when your water heater leaks from the bottom. First, you’ll need to check the drain valve for corrosion. If there is corrosion, you’ll need to replace it. If you don’t notice any corrosion, you’ll want to tighten the valve, but not too much, or it can cause damage.

What if it’s not a water heater leaking from the bottom? What if the leak is coming from the top? If you notice the water heater leaking from the top, it could be a loose pipe connection. The pipes at the top of the water heater are the cold and hot water inlet and outlet pipes (which we discussed earlier).

Do I Need to Drain My Water Heater If There Is a Leak?

Your Bill Howe plumber is ready to assist by draining your water heater before conducting any maintenance. However, in the case of a severe leak, it is advisable to promptly drain the water heater to prevent potential water damage to your home. However, we don’t recommend you do this yourself. The water in your tank will stay hot enough to inure you for hours. In such urgent situations, call us immediately. If the water heater has been off for a long time and you’re sure the water inside is cool, here are the steps to draining it.

  • Attach a long hose to the drain valve located at the bottom of the tank.
  • Extend the other end of the hose to an appropriate location, such as a drain gutter or sink. Avoid draining water onto your lawn or driveway, as sediments and rust in the water could cause damage.
  • Release the valve where the hose is attached.
  • Open the pressure relief valve located on the top of the tank.
  • Allow the water to drain from the tank.

By taking these measures, you can help mitigate the impact of a water heater leak on your home and property – but don’t try it if the water is still hot, or you don’t have professional plumbing experience.

When to Call A Plumber

Did you know that a plumbing inspection from a trained and certified expert can help you avoid this entire situation? It’s true. We recommend scheduling a water heater inspection with Bill Howe to prevent potential issues.

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! Remember to call the professionals at Bill Howe for all your plumbing, HVAC, and restoration needs.

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