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What to Do When Your Water Heater Springs a Leak

A water heater is an essential appliance in any house since it provides hot water for laundry, dishwashing, and showering. But when your hot water heater suddenly springs a leak, it can create a stressful situation and leave your home open to water damage.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss the steps you need to take when faced with a leaking hot water heater, from identifying the source of the leak to seeking professional help. A leaky hot water heater can be annoying, but you don’t have to let it ruin your day – just follow the tips outlined below.

Common Causes of Water Heater Leaks

Water heater leaks can be destructive and costly, but they are easy to prevent. You simply have to understand why these leaks happen in the first place so that you know how best to guard against them.

By identifying the causes of water heater leaks, you can take appropriate steps to prevent them in the future or quickly identify when a problem occurs. Some common causes include:

  1. Loose or corroded connections: Over time, the connections between the water heater and the pipes may loosen or corrode. This can result in slow leaks. Regularly inspecting and tightening connections, as well as replacing corroded parts, can prevent this issue.
  2. Faulty temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve): The TPR valve is a safety feature designed to release excess pressure and temperature from the tank. If the valve is faulty or has debris buildup, it may cause the hot water heater to leak. Regular maintenance and inspection can help keep the valve in good working condition.
  3. Internal tank corrosion: The inside of the tank is lined with a protective layer to prevent corrosion. However, over time, this lining can wear down, leading to rust and leaks. Replacing the anode rod, which helps protect the tank from corrosion, and periodically flushing the tank can help prolong its life.
  4. Cracked or damaged drain valve: The drain valve is used to empty the tank for maintenance or replacement. If it is cracked or damaged, it may be the source of the leak. Replacing the drain valve can easily solve this issue.
  5. Age of the water heater: Hot water heaters generally have a lifespan of 8-12 years. As they age, their components wear down, increasing the likelihood of leaks. If your water heater is nearing the end of its life, it may be time to consider a replacement.

Signs of a Water Heater Leak: What to Look For

If your water heater is leaking, it’s important to address the problem as soon as possible to prevent further damage to your home. Here are some common signs of a hot water heater leak to keep an eye out for:

  • Water pooling around the base of the tank 
  • Damp spots or wetness on floors.
  • Rust or corrosion on the tank itself or on the pipes 
  • Unusual sounds coming from your hot water heater, such as hissing or whistling

Steps to Take When You Discover a Water Heater Leak

When you find yourself faced with a leaking water heater, it’s crucial to act quickly and follow these steps to minimize damage and ensure the issue is resolved efficiently:

Identify the Source of the Leak

The first step in dealing with a leaking water heater is to identify the source of the leak. Typically, leaks can occur from the top or bottom of the tank, the pressure relief valve, or the inlet/outlet connections. To locate the source of the leak, examine the tank and the surrounding area for any signs of water. If you cannot locate the source, it may be necessary to call a professional plumber for assistance.

Turn Off the Power Supply

Once you have identified the source of the leak, the next step is to turn off the power supply to the hot water heater. This is crucial for your safety and to prevent further damage to the appliance. For electric water heaters, turn off the circuit breaker in the electrical panel. For gas hot water heaters, turn off the gas supply valve.

Shut Off the Water Supply

After turning off the power supply, the next step is to shut off the water supply to the hot water heater. The water supply valve is usually located near the top of the heater, and you can turn it off by turning the valve clockwise. This will prevent water from continuing to flow into the heater and exacerbate the leak.

Drain the Tank

With the water supply shut off, the next step is to drain the hot water tank. This will minimize the amount of water that spills out during repair or replacement. Attach a garden hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the tank, and run the hose to a drain or outside. Open the valve to allow the water to drain. Be sure to wear protective gear such as gloves and safety glasses, and keep children and pets away from the area.

Repair or Replace

After the tank is drained, it’s time to evaluate the damage and determine whether the hot water heater can be repaired or needs to be replaced. If the leak is caused by a faulty part such as a valve or pipe, it may be possible to repair the heater. However, if the tank is corroded or damaged, replacement may be necessary. Consult with a professional plumber to determine the best course of action.

Call a Professional

While some homeowners may be tempted to attempt repairs or replacements themselves, it’s important to call a professional plumber to handle the job. Hot water heaters are complex appliances, and attempting to repair or replace them without proper knowledge and training can be dangerous and cause further damage. A licensed plumber has the expertise and tools necessary to repair or replace your hot water heater safely and efficiently.

Preventive Measures

To avoid future leaks and damage, it’s essential to perform regular maintenance on your hot water heater. This includes flushing the tank periodically to remove sediment buildup, inspecting and replacing worn or damaged parts, and monitoring the unit for signs of wear and tear. Keep an eye out for rust or corrosion on the tank or connections, strange noises, or water temperature fluctuations, as these can indicate potential problems.

Q: Is a leaking hot water heater dangerous?

Yes, a leaking hot water heater can be dangerous. There are a number of risks associated with hot water heaters in general. Occasionally, a water heater can explode if the pressure builds up, especially if the pressure relief valve is broken or malfunctioning.

Q: Can I fix a hot water heater leak myself?

Some minor issues, like tightening loose connections or replacing a damaged drain valve, can be fixed by homeowners. However, for more complex issues or if you’re unsure of the cause, it’s best to consult a professional plumber.

Q: When should I replace my hot water heater?

If your water heater is over 8-12 years old, has multiple recurring issues, or if the cost of repair is more than half the cost of a new unit, it’s worth considering a replacement.

Q: Can a leaking hot water heater cause a decrease in water pressure?

A small leak in your water heater may not cause a noticeable decrease in water pressure. However, a significant leak or multiple leaks can lead to a drop in pressure, especially when using hot water.

Q: How much does it cost to fix a leaking hot water heater?

The cost to fix a leaking water heater depends on the issue at hand. Minor repairs, like replacing a drain valve or tightening connections, can be inexpensive. However, if the leak is caused by internal tank corrosion or a faulty TPR valve, the costs can increase. In some cases, replacing the water heater may be a more cost-effective solution.

Call a Local Plumber

A leaking hot water heater can be a frustrating and potentially costly problem for homeowners. However, with prompt action and the help of a professional plumber, it’s possible to repair or replace the unit and avoid further damage. 

Are you in need of reliable water heater repair in Atlanta, GA? Look no further than R.S. Andrews! Our team of expert plumbers is equipped to handle all of your water heater needs, from installation to repair and maintenance. Service areas include Atlanta, Alpharetta, Chamblee, Sandy Springs, Decatur, Roswell, Marietta, and more.

We offer a wide range of services, including gas, electric, and tankless water heater installation and repair, as well as inspections to ensure maximum efficiency and potential tax breaks. Why settle for less than exceptional service and unparalleled professionalism that R.S. Andrews Plumbing offers? Reach out to us today


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