The first time you notice even a minor nuisance when it comes to water heater in your bathroom, basement, or kitchen, don’t ignore it!
A leaking water heater can be a tiger for the upcoming water damage of floors, even walls, in your home.
It doesn’t have to be that a leaking water heater would indicate large problems, but it can certainly be a sore point in the future.
In the worst case, it would end in a major flood that would cost you thousands of dollars.
What is more, no matter of the money, a water heater leaking may be a health concern, as wet areas make perfect surrounding for mildew and mold.
The EPA confirmed the threat mold spores represent for human health.
If you have noticed dripping from pipes or the hot water tank, follow our diagnosis tips and 5 expert advice on how to fix it.
Is There A Reason To Panic?
Just as we mentioned above, don’t panic at the first drop you notice.
Even though seeing a puddle of water may be disturbing, here are the signs that will calm you down.
A few drops around the water heater may indicate that the water tank is corroded or that the valves in your home got loose.
On the other hand, it can be the reaction to a condensation.
Condensation tends to accumulate water, and it will drip on the floor, especially during damp weather if the water heater is in the basement.
However, even though there is a problem with your water heater, it doesn’t have to be as bad as it looks like.
Leaking from the top is a common issue with water heaters in general, and this is totally fixable and not so expensive.
Yet, if you still need to set things right and check once more the leaking problem, move on to the next chapter.
Inspect the Problem More Thoroughly
If the problems still seem more serious to you, here is what you should do to determine the source of it.
But, note that a leaking water heater is potentially dangerous, and you would want to turn off the power supply and water supply.
Yet, to identify the exact leak spot, you would have to turn the water supply on afterward.
First things first, here is what should you do for the beginning:
• Inspect plumbing fittings, as these are the most reliable indicator you have a leakage problem,
• However, even though you don’t find anything here, inspect other sources, especially water pipes and anything that is placed overhead.
• You can also place some towels on the floor when it is dry completely. Check the towels after a few hours.
• In case water reappears, that means everything points out to a water heater.
The Most Common Leaking Areas
Numerous factors can cause leakage of a water heater.
As you want to conduct a proper diagnosis before you get to work, let’s take a look at the areas to check:
Hot water outlet and the cold water inlet connections are placed at the top of the water heater.
This is not a tough task, and you can find down below how to fix the connections leakage.
We are talking about the temperature and pressure relief valve on one hand and the drain valve on the other.
The temperature and pressure relief valve is a safety device for cases when the water tank becomes too hot.
In more severe situations, the excessive amount of pressure can lead to bursting, while the temperature and pressure valve reduces the pressure by releasing some of the water out of the tank.
You should inspect this valve itself, but the spot when it enters the tank.
If water is flowing from the attached pipe when the valve is closed, it means it is not in function.
It is also possible for the valve to relieve excessive pressure from inside the tank when the valve is opened.
This is, generally, a good sign, as you can fix it easily, even though it is not a totally naïve task.
We have the drain valve on the other side, which is located near the bottom of the tank. In the best case, you won’t notice any signs of moisture, but, even if you do – this is not a serious problem and it can be fixed.
The Internal Tank
The internal tank is probably the most common leaking place. However, it is also the hardest to inspect, as it is wrapped in insulation and confined.
You get it now why is it not possible to notice the leakage issue from the outside.
When the internal tank fails you, that is because of its age or deterioration.
Unfortunately, when this happens, there is no solution than to replace the old with a new water heater.
Water Heater Leaking – Solutions
If you have even minor experience in the plumbing area, it shouldn’t be a problem for you to fix a water heater without calling a plumber.
We prepared different solutions for the above-mentioned causes of leakage.
- Cold Water Inlet/ Hot Water Outlet Leaks
In case you inspected the area thoroughly and found out the leakage is coming from one of the connections to the water heater (cold water inlet/hot water outlet), all you have to do here is to tighten the connections.
- Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve
Just as we mentioned above, the temperature and pressure relief valve does exactly what its name suggest – relieves the pressure from the tank.
In case the tank overheats or aggregates excessive pressure, the valve allows water to escape, which relieves the pressure.
If you notice this is the issue, simply lower the thermostat setting, which will reduce the temperature.
Next thing to do is to turn the water and gas back on and keep track of the situation.
However, if you notice there is no excessive pressure or overheating, that can only mean one thing – you have a faulty temperature and pressure relief valve.
If you want to try to fix it, place a bucket under the discharge pipe and pull the valve tub up.
This will open it, but you want the tap to point straight out.
Doing this will potentially remove debris from the valve, as debris is a common reason for its malfunction.
If the leakage and flushing are still there, you can do nothing about this than to replace the valve with a new one.
- Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve Replacement
Before you get to work, make sure to empty the tank so the water level doesn’t exceed the valve. If there is no water when you open the valve, which means you are good to go.
Next thing to do is to open the faucet on the sink or bathtub to the hot water side to let the air get in the tank. Grab the valve with a pair of channel locks, turn it to the left, and you will know when it comes off.
You will need Teflon tape here as well, as it prevents future leakages and seals everything.
Wrap about 4 or 5 threads of the new valve with it, but do this tightly.
Now screw the new valve into the water heater with locks and turn the cold water back on.
Wait until the tank is full, and only then turn the power to the water heater back on.
How do you know the tank is full? Once you notice a full stream in your bathtub or sink, that means the heater is safe to switch on.
The final step is to attach the discharge pipe to the valve in order to assure hot water won’t spray outward but down to the floor.
- Drain Valve Leaks
Debris inside the drain valve can be a cause of leakage.
Another possibility here is that the valve itself is not functioning anymore.
You want to open the valve by turning the dial counter-clockwise.
Make sure to place a bucket or a container underneath it. Water flow out of the heater will wash away debris from the drain valve.
Yet, if the drain valve is still leaking, guess what? You will need to replace it.
Drain the tank completely and follow the step-by-step process we explained in the previous chapter on replacing the temperature and pressure relief valve.
- Heating Element Gasket Leaks
Electric water heaters contain a heating element gasket, and you may notice leaks exactly from the gasket.
If you do notice leakage from the spot where the gasket seals the heating elements to the tank, shut off the tank’s water supply and turn off the electrical power.
You should remove and replace the gasket, but make sure to turn on the water supply back on before turning the power back on. It would be good to run hot water for a while, as this till reduce the pressure from the heater.
If Nothing Helps…
Water heater leaking from the bottom is definitely a major red flag. The thing is – you can’t solve internal tank leaks by yourself, and you will need a licensed plumber on this one.
Sometimes a leaking water heater points out to a more serious problem, and that is another sign that you should get professional help.
Turn off the power and cold water and cold water supply to your water heater and wait for the plumber.
We know you want to solve that water heater leaking as soon as possible, but we have to mention that you should always put your safety first.
Before attempting to make any changes, make sure to turn off the power supply and water supply first.
We truly hope our tips will help you fix leakage or flushing in your kitchen, bathroom, or basement, but keep in mind water heater leaking sometimes requires professional help.