You’ve discovered water pooling underneath your water heater. It could be a small problem, or it could be bad enough to require a replacement. If it’s just a little bit of water, it might not be a problem yet. But if you let it continue worsening, your basement could be a giant standing puddle before you know it.
Unfixed leaks can also cause an electrical short if they enter the electrical compartment. Your floors and walls could also develop water damage, costing you even more in-home repairs.
Sometimes your water heater has a leak that’s hard to spot. If your water pressure suddenly drops, or the temperature is much colder than before, this could indicate a leak in the system.
Some leaks are easy to fix, while others require a professional touch to resolve. There are several things you can try to fix your leaking problem and save on your water bill. But before you try any of them, you need to know exactly what is causing the leak.
Diagnose the Problem
Before you try to implement any solutions, you need to figure out exactly what is wrong with your tank. After all, you can’t know what solution to use unless you know what is causing the leak in the first place. You’ll want to find the answer to the following questions to determine the best course of action.
- Where is the water coming from?
- Are there any obvious causes for the leak?
- Are there any problems with attached electricity or water lines?
Before you start implementing any solutions, make sure you’ve turned off the power leading to this appliance. Electricity and water don’t mix well, and you don’t want to risk getting shocked.
Here are some common problems you might experience with your water heater, as well as the best fix to make them stop.
Water is Spraying from Pipes
Fixing spraying pipes immediately can prevent the tank from emptying out all of the water. The first step you’ll want to take if water is spraying from the pipes is to shut off the water heater supply valve. You won’t be able to tell what’s going on if you’re being hit with a blast of water and unable to see.
There are a few reasons why you could have water spraying everywhere. The first is that your water pressure is too high. High water pressure can come from recent heavy rain or a problem with the city’s water supply. It can also happen in your plumbing system.
Another potential cause could be corroded fittings. Mineral buildup can corrode the elbows and joints that connect your heater to the water supply pipes. If the leak is happening between the water main and the heater, you’ll want to turn off your home’s supply. If it’s coming from the pipes leading out of the water heater, shut off the supply valve.
If you can identify the problematic pipe, make sure you replace it when the water is turned off. You can go to a hardware or plumbing supply store and make sure you get the same part that has gone bad.
The last cause could be a hole in your tank. Because most tanks are made of steel, interacting with water over time causes rust. When enough rust builds up, it can create holes in your tank. If this is the case, you’ll need to call a professional immediately.
Leak is Coming From Hot Water Tank
Is your water heater leaking from the bottom? There are a couple of places it could be coming from: the tank itself and the drain valve.
If the leak is coming from the drain valve, that’s one of the easiest things to fix. All you need to do is replace the faulty drain valve.
This is a relatively easy fix. Here are the steps you need to follow to do it correctly.
- Turn off the power to the electric water heater using a breaker. Turn off the gas by turning the pilot knob to PILOT.
- Close the cold water supply valve leading into the water heater. This should be on the top of the tank.
- Connect a hose to the drain valve and run it to a location where you can empty out the water in the tank.
- Completely open the valve to start draining the tank. Be careful, as the water will be hot.
- Open the temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve to prevent suction.
- Drain the tank completely. Once drained, close the T&P valve.
- Take away the hose and the drain valve. You’ll need a wrench to get it off.
- Wrap the threads on the new drain valve with plumber’s tape. Then thread it on by hand and tighten it with a wrench. You can stop when it’s in the same position as the old one. Make sure the valve is closed completely before moving on.
- Turn on the hot water on any faucet.
- Re-open the cold water supply valve and start refilling the tank. When the faucet you turns on before starts flowing, the tank is full.
- Turn the power back on and check the new valve for leaks.
However, if it’s coming from the tank itself, you’ll need to get a new water heater. A leak in the tank means the metal is corroded, and there’s no way to fix it.
Leak is Coming From the Top of your Water Heater
While no leak is ideal, if it comes from the top of your water heater, it’s likely very easy to fix. If you let these leaks develop into something more serious, it can end up costing more money and result in the need for a completely new water heater.
Before you start looking for any leaks, make sure you shut off power going to your water heater. Leave the cold water supply valve on until you can spot exactly where the leak is coming from, and turn it off when you’ve found it.
There are three major causes behind a water heater leaking from the top. The first is that it’s coming from the water inlet valve. If you notice the pipe is dripping, you might be able to fix it by tightening the nut with a wrench. If that doesn’t do the trick, you may need to replace the valve completely.
The second is a loose pipe fitting. These pipe fittings can also be tightened with a wrench. This might fix your problem. You might also have a corroded fitting, which is easy to replace. However, if your heater uses copper tubing instead of a threaded pipe, contact a plumber immediately.
The last is the T&P valve. While this valve is usually on the side, it can be on the top. If water is leaking from the threads, you’ll have to take the valve off to get a better look. Upon investigation, if it turns out this valve is the problem, you’ll want to replace it completely.
Condensation Buildup Causes Drips
Condensation buildup is one of the best things that can happen with your water heater. This isn’t even a problem. When your water heater is full of cold water, condensation can form as it’s heating up.
This can happen when a new heater is filled for the first time, or when using a lot of hot water in a short period. Condensation buildup is more common with gas-powered water heaters, as the burning gas can create water vapor.
If you have condensation buildup, the problem should go away on its own within an hour or two. However, if you have a smaller heater, or are using it during the colder months, it may take longer.
Call a Professional if All Else Fails
If you’re experiencing a leak, but you can’t attribute it to any of these causes, then it’s time to call in a professional. Repair technicians are trained and educated to know how to identify the problem and have the tools and experience to fix it.
Calling a professional can feel like admitting defeat. However, if you try to continue to fix the problem without knowing what you’re doing, it can cause a lot more damage than it fixes. Some repairs require the water heater to be completely taken apart. Without specific knowledge on how water heaters are made and assembled, you’re more likely to break the appliance even more than to take it apart in the right way.
The next time your water heater starts leaking, don’t panic. There are some things you can do on your own. In the worst-case scenario, you can reach out to a professional who is trained to take care of your problem quickly and efficiently. You can get back to having a safe and dry basement in no time.