Don’t ignore a leaking water heater because this is a clear sign that there is something wrong with it. Fortunately, many of the causes of a leak are fixable, either by yourself or with the help of a plumber.
Just because you discovered a problem does not mean you immediately have to buy a new unit. You can save yourself money by learning to identify the issue, what it is caused by and how to fix a leaking water heater.
Read on for a simple guide on the most common types of leaks on a water heater and how to solve the issue.
Most Common Causes and What to Do
There are several reasons why a water heater might leak. Knowing that the leak is at the bottom already helps narrow down the possible causes.
1. Problems with the Drain Valve
The drain valve is for emptying the water tank during routine maintenance – this clears out any sediment at the bottom. The drain valve is always located at the bottom so if this is where the leak is coming from this is a good first place to check.
The first thing to is check whether the drain valve is secured tightly. If there is water coming out of the nozzle then it is probably not tight enough.
The solution here is simple; tighten the nozzle. However, if water continues to seep out, especially if the leak is further down the valve, there is another issue and you likely have to replace the drain valve.
If you are handy yourself, you could replace the drain valve yourself but it is always a safer bet to have a plumber come in and do it for you. Having a professional do it may also be one of the conditions of your warranty.
2. Temperature & Pressure Valve
The temperature and pressure release valve, or T&P valve for short, is a safety feature. When the water temperature gets too hot or if there is too much internal pressure, this valve sends water through the discharge tube at the bottom to compensate for the issue and prevent hot water from spraying elsewhere.
If you notice that the discharge tube is still moist inside then the T&P valve simply did its job. However, it is still a good idea to test the temperature and pressure valve because this is an important safety feature.
If you find it to be faulty during the testing, call a plumber to have them replace it and have them check the internal pressure of the water tank, as well.
3. Sediment Buildup in the Tank
A buildup of sediment is a more common issue in older water tanks but failing to do proper maintenance is also a common cause. If this goes on for too long, the bottom corrodes and water can seep through.
Make sure that you regularly clear out the tank to keep it clean and remove any dirt and other materials from the bottom. This is not only good for the water quality but also for the lifespan of your unit.
Unfortunately, this is an issue that you cannot fix. Once there is corrosion, you have to replace the unit.
Steps to Take with a Leak
When you notice a leak, don’t let the water continue running because it can turn the situation for the worse if not dealt with properly. These are the first steps to take when you notice a leak.
Step 1: Turn Off the Appliance
For electric water tanks this usually means flipping the breaker switch while gas water tanks have their own on/off switch. This vital first step prevent short circuits and gas leaks.
Step 2: Turn Off the Water Supply
Directly after turning off the unit, cut the water supply to prevent the leak from getting worse. Look for the inlet valve which is usually situated above of the tank.
Most valves have a handle that is either positioned parallel with the pipe which means open or crossing it which means it is closed off. So, make sure that you turn the handle so that it forms a cross with the pipe.
Step 3: Drain the Tank
Drain the tank if water is still coming through after closing off the inlet valve. Place a big bucket under the discharge tube and open the drain valve.
These are the three main steps to take to prevent further damage. Once the situation is contained you can check for any loose parts that may have caused the problem or call a plumber for repairs.
Testing the T&P Valve
As mentioned, the temperature and pressure valve may need to be tested. This is something that you can do yourself so you can save on the labor costs of calling a plumber.
Step 1: Know Where the Shutoff Valves Are
Take some precautions before even starting the temperature and pressure valve test. Make sure you know where the shutoff valve for the water, gas or electricity is and how to turn it off quickly.
Step 2: Remove the Drain Pipe
Use a wrench to remove the drain pipe and place a big bucket underneath to catch the water. Make sure that there is nothing else below or around the water heater.
Step 3: Lift the Test Handle
Behind the T&P valve is a little test handle. Lift this slightly, not all the way up, and wait for water to flow through.
Let a little stream of water flow through for a few seconds. Keep the handle lifted until the water is clear then let go to close the valve again.
There are two possible outcomes during the test. Either there is no water coming out when you lift the test handle or the water does not stop flowing after you release the test handle.
In both cases, you have a faulty temperature and pressure valve that needs replacing. In that case, call a plumber and have them replace the T&P valve.