A leaking water heater, very similar to any other common problem in a home; it costs money, inconveniences you, and causes damage. However, unlike typical plumbing leaks, a leaking water heater has the potential to be dangerous and even deadly. Here is all you need to know to address a leaking water heater in a safe, inexpensive and correct manner.
Water heaters are known for propagating the illusion of a leak. Your water heater will typically have many other plumbing pipes, fixtures, and elements surrounding it that could be leaking. So before jumping to conclusions, clean up any standing water and closely examine the surrounding pipes and other plumbing elements close to your water heater. If the small puddle of water never returns, you have nothing to worry about because these puddles are generally caused by condensation. Water heaters and their surrounding parts are prone to condensation, which overtime, can gather and create a small puddle of water on your basement floor. However, if the puddle does consistently return and no sources can be identified, your water heater is most likely the cause of the leak.
Once you determine your water heater is the cause for a leak whether by close examination or a very obvious leak, it is recommended that you turn off the power supply to your water heater.
Commonly set a 125° F, the water within your water heater is very dangerous and can result in serious injury from just indirect contact. It is very important that after turning off the power to your water heater that you turn off any water flow as well to ensure your safety. Turn off the cold water shut-off valve located just above your water heater as required by law. Be sure you can get to this valve safely if you have a major leak as it can result in serious burns and injuries. To avoid possible injury in the case of a significant leak, locate the main shut-off valve and close it to stop any water flow to your water heater.
(a) Loose Fittings and Connections
Commonly known as the cold water inlet and hot water outlet connection, these fittings and connections can be found attached to the top of your water heater. Fixing a leak here may simply require tightening the fittings and connections or inexpensively replacing the cold water inlet and hot water outlet connections.
(b) Broken Temperature and Pressure or T&P Valve
Located on the side of your water heater with a pipe running straight to the ground, the T&P Valve exists as a safety mechanism in the event that the temperature or pressure (PSI) within your water heater exceeds the tanks allotted specifications. Check your T&P Valve for any leaks near its point of connection to your water tank. Additionally, if the T&P Valve is releasing water and steam it may be a faulty device or it might be working properly in which case you should adjust the pressure and temperature within your water heater. While this problem is easy to fix it is the most concerning and dangerous because a significant amount of excess pressure within your tank will cause the T&P Valve to release scalding hot steam and water.
(c) Broken Drain Valve
Located near the bottom of your tank, the drain valve can leak due to use and deterioration overtime. It is easy to fix and not a serious concern. Check your drain valve for any leaks near its point of connection to your water tank.
(d) The Tank Itself
If no other source can be identified on the outside of your water heater, it is mostly likely an internal problem. Internal problems within your water heater are generally cause by age and deterioration and result in water leaking from the bottom of the tank. The only fix to this problem is to replace your water heater with a new one.
Upon discovering and identify the problem with your water heater, it is highly recommended that you contact a local professional repair or replace your water heater to prevent extra damage or possible injury.