Yikes–is your water heater leaking?
Water heater leaks can be a scary and serious issue that may require the assistance of a plumber.
If you’re unsure if your water heater is leaking and/or if you’re ready to take on the DIY fix by yourself, keep reading. Below is everything you need to know if your water heater is leaking!
Is Your Water Heater Leaking? Take These 5 Steps to Fix it
Step #1: Is Your Water Heater Actually Leaking?
The first step to fix your leaky water heater is to confirm the source of the link–if there is one.
In some cases, it will be obvious where the leak is but in other situations, it may be more difficult to determine if there’s even a leak in the first place.
Is it Condensation?
Sometimes, normal condensation from the water heater, pipes, or a nearby appliance is the source of a small pool of water that might have collected around the tank.
However, this is usually most noticeable during winter months, and once the water in the tank has a chance to heat up, the outside condensation will generally go away.
If you don’t think it’s condensation that is the culprit, closely inspect any plumbing to the water heater, valves, and the tank itself.
If you’re still having trouble finding the source of the leak, lay down some paper towels in the area where you originally spotted dampness. Then, come back and periodically inspect.
If the problem doesn’t reappear after two days, chances are it’s nothing to worry over. Of course, it’s best to keep an eye on it for a bit just to make sure.
Step #2: Turn Off the Hot Water Heater
Once you’ve confirmed that your water heater leaking is not just condensation, turn off the power source immediately. This step needs to come before you do anything else.
Keep your safety in mind–it’s dangerous to deal with water and electricity. Natural gas can also be dangerous as well.
How to Turn Your Hot Water Heater Off
Electric Water Heaters
First, go to your circuit breaker box. Find the breaker switch for your water heater and turn it to off.
If your electrical panel’s breakers aren’t labeled and you can’t locate the right switch, shut off the main breaker to be safe.
Gas Water Heaters
For gas water heaters, you’ll need to shut down the gas supply to the water heater.
To do this, look to the side or behind the water heater for the gas supply line. Once you’ve found the line, follow it to the gas supply valve.
Finally, turn the valve clockwise until it stops. It should be perpendicular to the gas line.
Step #3: Shut Down the Water Supply
Turn off the water source, next.
Your water heater should have a dedicated cold water shut-off valve. This is usually located near where the cold water inlet pipe connects to the tank.
The valve with either be a gate valve or a ball valve.
If it’s a gate valve, it will have a wheel or knob. To close, turn the wheel/knob clockwise until it stops.
For a ball valve, there will be a handle. You will need to turn the handle 90 degrees, so that it’s perpendicular to the pipe.
If the water heater leak is so serious to where you can’t safely get to the shut-off valve, you’ll need to locate the main shut-off valve for the house. Therefore, it’s a good idea to know where the main water shutoff in any event, in case an emergency occurs.
Step #4: Where is the Water Heater Leaking From?
The good news is that it’s usually easy to determine where the water heater leaking is coming from, since a water heater has only a limited number of failure points.
The bad news is, if an area is hard to see, if the water heater is cold, or if condensation is the actual culprit, things can get more complicated.
Areas Where Water Heater Leaking is Found
Pressure Relief Valve
The temperature and pressure relief valve is a part of every standard electric or gas water heater.
This is the valve located at the top of the water heater and is connected to a pipe that runs down the side of the tank.
If you suspect the water heater leaking is coming from the pressure relief valve, it might be defective. This means that the connection from the temperature and pressure valve to the water tank is not watertight.
Or, the valve might simply be doing its job of releasing excess tank pressure. This means you don’t necessarily have a leak, but you might have a more serious issue that should be looked at by a professional repair plumbing company.
Take a look at both the coldwater inlet and the hot water outlet connections. These should be at the top of your water heater.
Often, homeowners fill find that one of these pipes or fittings is slightly loose, causing the leak.
Simply re-tightening the loose part with a pipe wrench is usually all that is needed to fix it.
Near the bottom of the tank will be the water heater drain valve.
The drain valve is used to drain the water tank for maintenance or to remove sediment.
This valve will sometimes get loose and need re-tightening. However, other times, the drain valve will become completely defective and require replacement.
Heating Element Gasket
If you’re looking to see where the water heater leaking is coming from, it might be your heating element gasket.
While not too common, the gasket around the heating elements on electric water heaters may become worn or pinched. This will cause dripping links.
To fix this issue, you’ll need to open the cover plate(s) on the side of the tank Then, push aside the insulation, and check around the gasket for any leaking.
Hot Water Tank
Lastly, like other appliances around your house, a water heater has a limited lifespan.
Over time, sediment inside the tank starts to break down the interior of the tank. This is when rust will start to form and then slowly begin eating away at the tank until a leak develops.
Unfortunately, when an internal leak such as this occurs, replacing the water heater with a new one is a must.
Step #5: Make Necessary Repairs or Replace
After you’ve determined where your hot water heater is leaking from, you need to decide whether you want to repair your current water heater, or replace it with a new one.
Although repairs or part replacements on a water heater can be fairly easy to tackle yourself, call a professional for plumbing services if you have any doubts.
Even though you feel you have the skills to do it yourself, hiring a plumber is always a better option.
If you’ve followed the steps above and determined that your water heater does, in fact, have a leak, what’s your next move?
Will you let a professional repair your water leak? Or, will you take the job on yourself? Let us know how your leaking water heater fix is going in the comments!
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