Water dripping from a hot water heater is a bad sign. Hot water heaters work in our homes all day without a second thought. Sometimes a leak can go on without even being noticed. As soon as you recognize puddles or dripping water around the tank, it’s time to take action.
So, why does your water heater leak, and what do you do when it does? At Simple Service Plumbing we have a lot of experience in this area. We help families in San Antonio deal with water heater issues regularly. Here, we’ll shed some light on the situation and help you determine the next course of action following a leak discovery.
Why is my Water Heater Leaking?
This is likely the first question you’ll ask after noticing a leak. Why is the tank leaking? Did something happen to it? The most common reasons for a leak are:
- Relief Valve Pressure Problems: The relief valve on the water heater is meant to allow hot air to escape when pressure mounts inside. If the water heater is used too often, the relief valve isn’t given a chance to relax and reset. Instead, the excessive heat and pressure damage the valve.
- Age: All appliances in our homes age, and they all have shelf lives. Water heaters have an approximate 10-year lifespan. Once a decade, you should replace the heater. If yours is nearing that 10-year mark (or has surpassed it), it’s simply a matter of age. Parts wear out over time, making the heater less effective.
- Drain Valve Issues: Like the relief valve, the drain valve has taken a beating over the years. Anything trapped in the heater, including sediment, gets caught in the drain valve, ensuring it doesn’t flow into your water system. This valve lets the heater be cleaned, and you may notice some water dripping near this area. A little is normal, but a lot isn’t.
- Inlets and Outlets: Where hot and cold outlets appear on the tank, there are weak spots. The inlets and outlets weaken faster than other heater components. It’s one of the first places to check if the tank begins leaking.
Sometimes there are small signs that the heater is ready to give out. Things like a slight change in the color and quality of water, physical changes to the heater (rust, missing pieces, a crack, etc.), strange noises coming from the heater, and of course, water where it shouldn’t be (outside the heater instead of inside the heater).
If you notice any of these signs, or there seems to be obvious trouble with the above-mentioned issues, your heater’s in trouble.
The first step to fixing anything in your home is diagnosing the problem. Where is the leak coming from exactly? And which of the heater components is closest to the leak? This might help you determine where and why it’s leaking.
Before acting on any DIY repair attempts, be sure to turn off the power to the tank and drain it. Do this by switching the breaker on your circuit breaker box associated with the heater. Be careful because leaving the power running on a leaky water heater is extremely dangerous, especially if you plan on touching the tank.
If the water heater is gas-powered, there should be a switch to turn it off. Gas or electric, always turn off the power before starting any DIY process.
Next, turn off the cold water and then the hot water valve (main water valve). Once power and water have stopped running to the tank, and it’s properly drained, you can begin to address the issue.
There are a few areas you can check out by yourself, including the inlets and outlets. It could be something as simple as a loose connection. A wrench can be used to tighten hardware and stop a leak caused by loose inlets and outlets without help.
A broken valve is another common culprit. If you have experience changing a valve, you could tackle this project on your own. Most homeowners need a professional for this. There are a few reasons calling a professional is best.
1. A professional knows which new valve is needed
2. Improper assembly could cause bigger problems with the heater.
If the reason the tank is leaking stems from a crack or hole, it’s probably game over. Not you, nor a professional will be able to remedy a hole or crack. Most heaters will need to be replaced entirely in this situation.