When you spot something unusual with your water heater, it can be worrying. This is the beast that is responsible for keeping your home warm and cozy; having it break down could be inconvenient and maybe damaging, even dangerous, too. Arming yourself with information about different water heater leaks that are possible, and what they mean, will empower you to fix the problem or get help, without panicking that your house is about to flood.
Why is my water heater leaking?
There are many different reasons why your water heater could be leaking. It could have to do with the tank itself — older water heaters were made with tanks that have now become vulnerable to wear. As tankage deteriorates, leaks become possible. Sometimes the glass lining of the tank can become calcified over time, resulting in small cracks and fissures that let water through. Sometimes the inner tank will deteriorate and cause leaks that seem to come from nowhere. Sometimes rust forms on the outer tank. Another reason for leaks is pressure. High pressure will force steam to fill the tank, leaving water with nowhere to go but out. Pressure valves could also be a source of the problem; if they're not working properly, they might not be releasing pressure from the tank. Sediment, faulty drain valves, and simple condensation could be other reasons you're seeing water where you shouldn't.
What to do when you notice a water heater leak
Your first task, when you're trying to diagnose your water heater leak, is to see whether the water is coming from the top or bottom of your heater.
• Your water heater is leaking from the bottom.
This kind of leak is usually caused by one of two things. It could be the tank itself, having become old and worn and cracked due to rust or sediment, in which case it won't really improve until you get a replacement tank. Or, it could be a drain valve issue, which will likely be a quicker and easier fix.
• Your water heater is leaking from the top.
When water is coming from the top of the tank, it's unlikely to be caused by damage to the tank itself. It's more likely to be caused by issues with the inlet connection, where cold water enters your heater, or the outlet connection, where hot water leaves to enter your home.
So now that you think you know where the leak is coming from, and even what could be causing it, what do you do?
I see my hot water tank leaking. What do I do?
So you've noticed that your water heater is leaking, and maybe you've been able to locate which end of the heater the leak is coming from. This will give you some starter information to troubleshoot with, but the best thing to do when you notice a leak is to get on the phone to your plumbing service.
When your plumber visits, they can quickly find the likeliest source of the leak. They might drain and clean the tank, to clear the inside of sediment that could be causing cracks. They might need to replace your water heater, or they might need to check the water pressure and tighten or replace valves so that they're functioning as well as they can.
Your plumber might also give you some tips for maintaining the health of your water heater between visits. For example, they can show you the various valve components on your heater, and, using a wrench, you can tighten these yourself as part of your monthly home care routine.
So if you spot water where it shouldn't be, and you're worried about a leaky water heater, don't panic. There are multiple possibilities for why this is happening, but they're not endless. Knowing where the leak is coming from is half the battle won; you might be surprised by what a simple fix-it turns out to be.
Looking for help with water heater repairs or replacement? Connect with us at Stahl Plumbing today, and we'll make cold showers a distant memory.