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What to Do with a Water Heater Leak?

Water Heater Leak

A water heater leak can cause serious damage if not fixed quickly. Water damage to floors, walls, furnishings, and personal items is a real possibility. Condensation on the outer tank surface can sometimes look like a leak, so it’s critical to investigate the issue. After all, a water heater or other significant leak can waste up to 32,850 gallons of water a year!1

Verify the Leak Is from the Water Heater

The first step should be to wipe the tank dry and look around the unit. Wearing protective gloves, turn off the power to the tank. Clean the valves and supply lines and check for dripping water. Tank leaks are often very subtle. If you leave paper towels underneath, and they’re damp or wet after a couple hours, your water heater is leaking. When this happens, close the water supply valve, which is usually a gate valve or handle on the cold water supply line above the unit.

Determine Where the Leak Is Coming From

A water heater leak may come from the bottom, originating from the tank or drain valve. You may find water on the bottom even if that’s not the source. For example, it’s impossible to see a leak that’s inside the tank; an internal crack can be anywhere and typically requires water heater replacement.

Leaks from the top are often due to a loose inlet or outlet connection or temperature and pressure valve; anode rod corrosion can cause a leak as well. Tightening components, quick repairs, or replacing faulty parts can usually resolve a leak on top of the water heater.

Address the Root Cause

To start, turn off the power to the water heater, drain the tank, and close off the water supply. Some fixes are simple. Others are complicated. Isolating the problem helps determine whether you can resolve it or require a plumbing professional’s help. The most common problems homeowners face include:

  • Worn/Old Tank: Many water heater tanks start to leak after about 15 years. Rust in the tank can cause leaks through small cracks in corroded metal. When this happens, you need a technician to replace the water heater.
  • Internal Tank: Water heater tanks have an external shell for insulation. The internal shell contains the water; since you can’t see this layer, a leak is hard to spot. Leaks are often the result of age and deterioration so, if the tank is leaking internally, replacement is the only option.
  • Storage Tank Damage: On some models, there’s a storage tank to hold additional water. This tank is often lined with glass, which can be damaged by minerals. Also, water expands when heated, putting additional strain on the glass and leading to cracks over time. The only solution is to have the storage tank replaced.
  • Drain Valve: It can loosen over time and cause water to leak. If the base of the valve is leaking, it’s not watertight. Fortunately, most homeowners can replace the drain valve on their own. But a plumber can help determine if there are other issues to fix.
  • Faulty T&P Valve: The temperature and pressure relief valve helps keep tank pressure below 150 psi and water temperature below 210℉. If it fails, the pressure will continue to increase and cause damage. A faulty T&P valve must be replaced, but if it’s just loose, the valve can be easily tightened. You can also lower the water pressure if it is set too high.
  • Water Line Connections: The inlet connection allows cold water to enter and the outlet connection lets hot water leave the water heater on the way to fixtures. Loose connections can cause leaks. Inlet/outlet connection issues can usually be fixed by tightening the lines.
  • Anode Rod: This sacrificial component draws in corrosive materials to protect the water heater. But the anode rod can deteriorate to the point water starts to leak. Fortunately, it can be quickly replaced.
  • Sediment: Sediment can build up over time at the bottom of the water tank. Regularly cleaning it out can protect the unit, but neglecting maintenance can eventually lead to trouble. Maintenance can therefore avoid expensive replacements.

Call a Plumber

At Hays Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, our licensed technicians can address any cause of a water heater leak. Some causes require just simple repairs. If your water heater needs to be replaced, we’ll recommend the best models and sizes for your home. Our dedicated team can also provide maintenance services to prevent leaks and their associated damage. To schedule service, contact us online or call 602-926-7527 today!

About the Author

Chris Hays

Founder of Hays Cooling, Heating & Plumbing

Chris and Stacia Hays, are the founders of Hays Cooling, Heating & Plumbing; a family operated HVAC company in Phoenix founded in 2001 that services both commercial and residential customers. Chris leads a team of certified technicians who have over 45 years of combined experience and has earned and A+ rating with the BBB and a strong five star rating online. Hays Cooling, Heating & Plumbing focuses on providing support to their customers every step of the way, with exceptional service and competitive prices. If you are looking for top-notch air conditioning and heating service, contact Hays today.