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Water Heater Leaking? Here’s What to Do!

Hand attaches hose to drain water heater
Hand attaches hose to drain water heater

Nothing is worse than finding a puddle of water around your water heater. It’s another mess to clean up, and the sinking feeling you get pondering how much money you’ll have to put into fixing it can be nauseating.

If your water heater suddenly has a puddle on the floor, it’s important to know what the issue might be so you don’t have to worry about more problems down the line. With this article, we will go over how a water heater works, some of the most common reasons for leaks, how to fix them if they’re small, or if you need a water heater repair, and how you can try to prevent this scenario from occurring again in the future.

Why Does My Water Heater Leak?

The most common reasons for water heater leaking are age and high water pressure.

Over time, the natural minerals in water can create deposits and calcium build up inside the water heater. Then, the tank can rust and corrode. This is a natural process.

On the other hand, if your water pressure is too high, this can cause too much strain on the TPR valve, drain valve, or other components.

Sometimes, other components can just become faulty which may lead to a leak at the supply pipes or elsewhere.

Is it Dangerous?

This is one of the most common questions we get from concerned homeowners. Just like any other broken appliance, a leaking water heater can pose various dangers to your home. What homeowners should be most worried about is water damage. If your water heater floods, you’ll find yourself ankle-deep in water that’s quickly soaking into your floorboards and creating the perfect environment for mold and mildew growth. When this happens, emergency service is your only option. However, a broken water heater also has the potential to be deadly, although it’s extremely rare. As the water heats up, it builds up the pressure inside the tank, which is slowly released by the safety valve. Malfunctioning security features will contain the pressure inside the tank until the appliance explodes. Again, this is extremely rare, but it is a possibility. Leaky water heaters can be very dangerous and it’s best not to take any chances.

Where is the Leak Coming From?

Something as simple as the location of the leak can be the difference between a simple repair or a costly replacement. Generally speaking, a water heater that leaks from the top has a far better chance of being repaired than a bottom leak. The valves and pipes that connect the water heater to the plumbing system are located at the top. If one of these components becomes dislodged, the water will leak from the pipes, but it can easily be fixed. However, a water heater that leaks from the bottom almost always means that the tank itself is damaged somehow. If the tank is leaking, the only option is to replace it. 

What Should I Do?

Step 1: Shut Off Water Supply, Power, & Gas

The first step in any water leak situation is to shut off the water supply. This will lessen any water damage as you find the source and make repairs.

Your water supply can be stopped in many places depending on your home. The easiest place is the pipe that leads water into your water heater. However, you can also shut off your water at your main valve or water meter if you cannot find the valve just before your water heater.

Take a look at the images below to find these valves. Keep in mind, cold water goes into the water heater, and then hot water leaves so your water shutoff should be on the cold side (inlet) which is typically on the right. Use your hand to feel the temperature of the pipe and ensure it is the inlet.

Step 2: Draining the Water Heater

If your leak is bad enough, you may want to consider draining the water heater to prevent further water damage.

To do this, simply connect a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater. Then, lead the hose outside the home. Be sure that gravity will naturally allow the water heater to drain.

Next, use a flat head screwdriver to loosen the drain valve and empty the water heater.

Step 3: Finding The Water Heater Leak & Repairs

By this point, you should see your water heater leaking and know if it is a lot or a small drip. In most cases, the water heater leaking is at the bottom, however, it could also be in other places. Before moving forward, take a look at this diagram to understand where your water heater leak may be.

Final Thoughts

Water heater leaking is common and is usually an easy fix. In most cases, you will have to replace the water heater. However, following these steps might lead you to find your water heater leak was really an easy repair!

Pine Breeze Inspections inspects water heaters for leaks during their home inspections in the Colorado Springs areas!