Have you discovered that your hot water heater is leaking?
While a small leak may seem to pose no major urgency, its actually important to take care of it right away. If left unattended, it can turn into a serious and costly problem.
Leaks are actually very common in both gas and electric storage-style water heaters, and there are a number of fixes that may take care of them.
In this guide, we will take a look at different sources of leaks in gas and electric water heaters and review repair solutions.
If you are into DIY, and feel comfortable working with the power source of your heater, you will most likely be able to handle many of the repairs yourself.
However, for safety reasons, more complicated repairs or replacement require the help of a licensed professional.
Also, keep in mind that hot water heaters may experience other problems, in addition to leaks, that would call for a different course of action.
Repairing Leaks in a Storage-Style Hot Water Heater
This guide covers leaks that occur in storage (tank-style) electric and gas hot water heaters.
Before you actually undertake any repairs, make sure to take the following safety measures:
1. On an electric device, the first thing you MUST do is TURN OFF water heater power. Do not open any access panels, if the power is still on.
2. Before checking an electric water heater, check the multimeter on an outlet that you are sure is working.
3. On a gas heater, turn the gas pilot control valve to – pilot
3. For both an electric and a gas heater, be sure to TURN OFF the water supply. This is a very important step, as you may get seriously scalded or even get burned, if hot water comes out, when you are working on a repair.
T& P Relief Valve Leaks
One source of leak you may have discovered is at the T&P relief valve (there may be large amounts of water gushing out of it). This usually happens because the water temperature has become too hot.
Here is what you can do:
1. Check the temperature on the thermostat, and lower it if its too high. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that the temperature should be set at 120 °F (49 °C), which is found to provide an ideal balance between safety and comfort.
2. Make sure that the thermostat fits tight against the tank
3.Check that the thermostat is actually working. If its not, it needs to be replaced.
4. Another reason for a leak in this spot is that the valve itself may be defective and will need to be replaced. Before replacing the valve, you will need to drain your tank.
Leak at the inlet connections
You may discover that the source of the leak in your heater is at the connection of either the cold water inlet pipe or the hot water outlet pipe and the heater itself. If the leak is minor, the first thing to do is simply tighten the connection with a pipe wrench. If this does not solve the problem, it is best to ask for professional help.
Tank itself is leaking from the bottom
If you discover that water is leaking out of the bottom of the tank itself, and you know its old (over 8 years) its likely time to replace the device. Over time, corrosion rusts the walls of the tank, and it starts to leak. Unless you feel confident doing this job and are familiar with electricity, it is best to call a pro and have him install a new hot water tank. Depending on the device, this may cost you anywhere from $800-2,500 (includes installation). A tankless heater may cost even more.
Heater drain valve is leaking
Another common source of leaks in an electric device is the heater drain valve. This may be caused either by a faulty valve (similar to the T&P valve) or by debris build-up inside the valve. The first thing you can do is open the valve and flash out any debris that may be there. If this does not help and the leak persists, you will need to replace the valve itself.
Heating element gasket is leaking (Electric Device)
If the heating element gasket is leaking, a DIYer may have a difficult time locating that this is the source of the leak, because the gasket is covered by insulation and an access panel on the side of the electric heater. Over time, a natural wear and tear process takes place; the gasket is no longer watertight, and therefore needs to be replaced.
There are lots of ways to determine water leaking problems, this article have just summarized all the possibilities. Though I agree that water leaks should be taken care of by professionals, so DIYS like those mentioned above would be worth the try.
I can see why you would want to turn off your water heater as soon as it begins to leak. Our water heater’s temperature has started to fluctuate and I’m worried about potentially permanent damage. I definitely think that we should find a professional that could completely replace it before it gets to cause a serious issue.
interesting article but i would think that any leak is an issue and you should contact a professional.
– Franklin Plumbing SC
I had no idea that leaks are common in both electric and gas water heaters. I also appreciate what you said about checking different specific parts of a water heater in order to troubleshoot problems. I’ve heard that electric water heaters are more efficient than gas water heaters, I’ll have to check up on that though.
This morning I noticed that there wasn’t very much hot water and that there was water all over our basement floor. In your article, you suggested that while a small leak may seem to pose no major urgency, it’s actually important to take care of it right away. Are there certain types of water heaters that are not very prone to leaking?
This is some really good information about heater repair. I like that you pointed out that finding a leak in a heaters gauge can be a difficult thing to do. I know that I wouldn’t even know where to start looking for a leak. So, it does seem like it would be best to have a professional do the repairs.
I agree that unless you’re confident and are familiar with electricity it’s good to call a professional. I also think that it would be the less dangerous options. It may cost a little more money but at least the repair has been properly taken care of.