Why Is Your Water Heater Leaking?

Water heater that is leaking - Jarboe's Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling

Water heater leaks are stressful in any circumstance, but even more so when you don’t know the cause. Homeowners in Louisville, Kentucky often don’t know where to look when their water heaters leak, which makes repairs all the more difficult. Further, leaks stress homeowners because they sometimes indicate a replacement is necessary. Replacements are expensive, 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 leak. Leaks are easy to diagnose when you know where to look. Though most repairs and replacements require a plumber, it’s good to know the location of the leak to point the pros in the right direction.

Causes of Water Heater Leaks

Water heater leaks occur for a multitude of reasons. Practically every component of the system has the potential to leak. However, some are easier to fix than others. Occasionally, the problem is simply a loose component. Other times, the whole tank requires attention. In every circumstance, it’s best for homeowners to contact a plumber to properly diagnose the issue.

These are the most common causes of water heater leaks in Louisville homes.

  • Drain valve. Drain valves allow water to leave the tank for maintenance checks or replacements. Homeowners also use this to empty the tank to clean away sediment. When the drain valve is loose, water slowly leaks out—an easy fix with a wrench. Alternatively, leaks from the base of the valve mean the valve isn’t watertight, which requires a new drain valve. Homeowners and plumbers are both able 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 pressure in the tank. If too much pressure exists in the tank, the water leaks through cracks, loose parts, and more. If the water temperature is set too high, the pressure increases. Additionally, if the water from the water supply enters the system at a high pressure, the tank experiences leaks.
  • Faulty temperature and 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. 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. Water heater leaks happen more often with old tanks. Over time, the water heater naturally deteriorates, especially if the homeowner uses hot water in excess. Overuse shortens the lifespan of the system. Plus, rust develops over time, which leads to corrosion and leaks. If the 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 homeowners own the water heater, the more sediment collects in the tank. In many circumstances, the 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 inlet and outlet connections to the water heater supply cold water to the system and allow hot water to travel to the fixtures in the home. These connection loosen over time, which causes leaks. These connections require tightening to fix the issue. 
  • Anode rod. This component of the water heater attracts any corrosive material in the water. This ensures the rod faces corrosion instead of the water heater itself. When the rod completely corrodes, water is able to leak through the area. Quick replacement takes care of this leak, so be sure to check the anode rod for excessive corrosion.
  • Cracked storage tank. Glass-lined storage 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 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. 

What Leak Locations Mean

Water heater leaks occur in specific places depending on the cause of the problem. If you know where the leak is, but don’t know much else about the system, these tips help you narrow down the potential causes. In addition, when homeowners are able to tell the plumber the location of the leak, the job becomes easier for the plumber because they know exactly where to look. 

  • Bottom leaks. If you notice water heater leaks at 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. However, if the tank has a crack, the water heater requires a replacement. 
  • Top leaks. Leaks from the top of the water heater are most likely because of inlet and outlet valves. Additionally, loose T&P valves, 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.
  • Condensation. 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. This simply means the temperature of the room and the tank are different enough to create condensation on the water heater. 
  • Leaks in the tank. Leaks in the internal tank—which is encased in insulation—aren’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 source of the leak 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 a leak 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 and 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. 
  • 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 more information on our services!

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