Why Is Your Water Heater Leaking?

A leaking water heater is stressful in any circumstance, but even more so when you don’t know the reason behind your water heater leaking. Homeowners in Louisville, Kentucky often don’t know where to look or what to do when they have a leaky water heater, which makes repairs all the more difficult for a water heater leak. When your water heater is leaking, it’s critical that a water heater repair be made right away, if possible, to protect the gas water heater or electric water heater and prevent damage to the home from hot water escaping the water tank or cold water from the cold water inlet pipe.

Further, leaks stress homeowners because they sometimes indicate a replacement hot water heater is necessary. New tank-style water heaters can be costly, and homeowners want to ensure the problem actually necessitates a replacement before they make the investment.

Jarboe’s Plumbing, Heating & Cooling offers homeowners advice about how to identify the cause of the water heater leak. A leaking water heater is easy to diagnose when you know where to look. Though most repairs and replacements require a professional plumber, it’s good to know the location of the leak so you can point the pros in the right direction and prevent damage until they arrive.

What to Do if the Water Heater Leaks?

Water heater leaking can cause extreme damage to your home, so you’ll want to take steps to avoid this damage as soon as you notice a water heater leak.

  • Shut off power supply to the water heater. If you have an electric model, turn off its breaker at your electrical panel. For gas water heaters, find the gas supply shutoff valve on the gas line running from your unit.

  • Close the cold water inlet using the dedicated shutoff valve on the pipe going into your water heater.

  • Look for the location of the water heater leak. If the reason for water heater leaking cannot be repaired through DIY methods, call a plumber right away for repairs.

  • Clean up any water outside the water heater using paper towels, mops, and other equipment to prevent water damage.

What’s Responsible for Water Heater Leaking?

Water heater leaks occur for a multitude of reasons. Practically every component of an electric water heater or gas water heater has the potential to leak. However, some causes of water leaking are easier to fix than others. Occasionally, the problem is simply a loose component, such as a drain valve. Other times, the whole water heater tank requires attention. In every circumstance, it’s best for homeowners to contact a professional plumber to properly diagnose the issue and complete water heater repair services.

These are the most common causes of leaking water from electric water heaters and gas water heaters in Louisville homes.

  • Drain valve. The drain valve allows the hot water supply to leave the water heater tank for proper maintenance checks or replacements. Homeowners also use this to empty the water tank to clean away sediment. If there is a drain valve slightly loose, water slowly leaks out—an easy fix with a pipe wrench. Alternatively, leaks from the base of the drain valve mean the drain valve isn’t watertight, which requires a new drain valve. Homeowners can install a new drain valve on the hot water tank or call a plumber to perform this task.

  • Too much pressure. Pressure naturally occurs in water heaters because the tank deals with incredibly hot water. Hot water creates steam, which adds to the tank pressure and pressure builds throughout the water heating process. If pressure inside the hot water tank becomes too high, you may see leaking water through cracks, loose parts, and more. If the water temperature is set too high, this can cause excessive pressure. Additionally, if the inbound water pressure is at excessive pressure levels, the tank experiences leaks. If pressure builds too high, the hot water heater can explode.

  • Faulty temperature pressure relief valve. In a similar vein, water heater leaks occur from problems with the temperature and pressure relief valve, or the T&P valve. Issues with the T&P valve result in higher water pressure. In addition, the valve loosens and causes leaks, or the part itself doesn’t work. Be sure to lower the pressure in the tank before replacements of the T&P valve take place.

  • Internal tank leaks. Water heaters have one tank with two shells. The shell on the inside contains the water, and the external shell provides insulation via polyurethane foam or another insulating material. Finally, one last layer of metal covers both shells. If a leak occurs on the inner shell because of age or deterioration, it isn’t plainly visible on the outside.

  • Old tank. Hot water heaters with old tanks tend to experience leaks more often than newer units. Over time, the water heater naturally deteriorates, especially if the homeowner uses the hot water supply in excess. Overuse shortens the lifespan of the system. Plus, rust develops over time, which leads to corrosion and leaks. If the hot water heater is at the end of its life, it’s best to replace it to avoid full failure and flooding.

  • Sediment collection. The longer a homeowner owns the water heater, the more sediment collects in the tank. In many circumstances, this collection doesn’t do more than clog the system or lower the water quality. However, if the sediment rests at the bottom of the tank for extremely long periods of time, the tank deteriorates. When this type of leak occurs, the water heater replacement. It’s important to clean the tank on an annual basis to avoid this.

  • Inlet and outlet connections. The cold water inlet and hot water outlet pipes connected to the water heater supply cold water to the system through the cold water supply line and allow hot water to travel to the fixtures in the home. These water supply line connections loosen over time, which causes leaks at the point where the pipes connect to the tank. These connections require tightening with a pipe wrench to fix the issue.

  • Anode rod. The anode rod of the water heater attracts any corrosive material in the water supply. This ensures the rod faces corrosion instead of the water heater itself. When the rod completely corrodes, corrosive materials start to eat away at the metal of the hot water heater tank, resulting in damage ad a leaking water heater. Quick replacement takes care of this water heater leak, so be sure to check the anode rod for excessive corrosion.

  • Cracked storage tank. Glass-lined storage water heater tanks are components in some water heaters and optional additional storage tanks. Storage tanks hold warm water and release it into the home when needed. They increase the storage capacity for a greater hot water supply as well. In glass-lined models, minerals calcify and collect in the tank, which causes cracks and leaks. Plus, heat expands water and this expansion stresses the glass and creates cracks. Both of these instances require a replacement water heater tank.

What Leak Locations Mean?

Water heater leaking occurs in specific places depending on the cause of the problem. If you know where the water heater leak is but don’t know much else about the system, these tips help you narrow down the potential reasons why your water heater is leaking. In addition, when homeowners are able to tell the plumber the location of the leak in an electric or gas water heater, the job becomes easier for the plumber because they know exactly where to look.

  • Bottom leaks. If you notice your water heater is leaking from the bottom of the tank, the cause stems from either the drain valve or the tank itself. If the drain valve is the issue, the fix usually entails tightening the part with a pipe wrench. However, if the tank has a crack or you have a faulty tank, the water heater requires a replacement.

  • Top leaks. A leaking water heater at the top of the tank is most likely because of inlet and outlet valves. Additionally, a loose pressure relief valve, corrosion on the anode rod, and even the tank itself are causes. The only issue severe enough for entire replacement is if the tank itself has the leak. Otherwise, tighten the components and replace any necessary parts to take care of the issue.

  • It’s important to note condensation when water heater leaks come about. Condensation on the water heater doesn’t indicate any leaks on or inside the water heater. When moisture develops evenly around the unit, the temperature of the room and the tank are different enough to create condensation on the water heater.

  • Leaks in the tank. A water heater leaking in the internal tank—which is encased in insulation—isn’t visible from the outside. The water leaks through at the bottom of the tank, but this doesn’t necessarily mean the internal leak occurs at the bottom. Deterioration and age are the two most common reasons for this type of leak to happen. Only a new water heater fixes this issue.

  • Undetermined location. Sometimes, homeowners are unable to identify the location where a water heater is leaking without professional assistance. However, the reason why you aren’t able to find the leak potentially stems from too much pressure. When the water pressure becomes too high, the leak springs out from any available crack or crevice. If you already know specific components all work as intended, pressure is likely the cause, which makes the leak location difficult to find.

How to Prevent Water Heater Leaks?

When a water heater leaks, the damages reach beyond a malfunctioning or failing unit. The possibility of water damage and flooding increase the longer water leaking exists. Floods cause water damage to the floors, walls, and your possessions. Plus, mold and mildew grow when water stagnates in any area for too long. To prevent these extreme damages, homeowners need to take preventative measures. Here are some of the things homeowners need to do to prevent leaks on the water heater.

  • Preventative maintenance. Annual maintenance checks by a plumber are the best way to protect against water heater leaks. During maintenance visits, plumbers survey the entire plumbing system. This obviously includes the water heater. They inspect the water heater for any active leaks and fix them on the spot.

  • Drain and clean tank. Make sure to regularly clean the water heater. To do this, drain the water from the tank with a garden hose attached to the drain valve and make sure the cold water inlet valve is completely closed before opening the drain valve. Use a bleach-water solution to remove any mold or mildew. This ensures sediment collection doesn’t become too overwhelming for the tank. If you don’t clean the water regularly, the sediment builds at the bottom of the tank and causes cracks. Make sure the drain valve is completely shut before opening the cold water inlet pipe.

  • Tighten loose parts. Another task homeowners complete on their own involves a wrench. Water heater leaks due to loose parts are often easy to fix. Be sure to check how tight components are every once in a while.

  • Check the water heater frequently. When you check for loose parts, take a look at the rest of the water heater. Take note of any water under the tank. Is the temperature around the tank much colder than the tank itself? If so, the puddle is likely condensation. If not, a leak is probably the cause and requires further investigation.

  • Respond quickly. If you do discover water heater leaks, respond as quickly as possible. The faster you fix the leak, the less water damage you face. Additionally, water heater leaks from the tank itself or from pressure are potentially dangerous. It’s important to attend to these issues quickly to lower the chance of extreme circumstances.

When Your Water Heater Leaks, Contact Jarboe’s!

Jarboe’s in Louisville, Kentucky, wants homeowners to know the ins and outs of water heater leaks. Though there are several causes, each are easy to resolve when you know the location of the leak. Before anything else, find where the leak starts to determine your next course of action.

Call us today for water heater repair or replacement!

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