Call Today!
(318) 795-8000

Why Is My Water Heater Leaking Water?

water heater leaking

What can be worse than finding your water heater surrounded by a puddle of water? When water heater leaks occur, it’s a mess to clean, and you’re left with the sick feeling of wondering how much you’re going to have to spend to fix the water heater. If your water heater is leaking or is suddenly surrounded by a puddle of water, it’s important to figure out the issue to resolve the matter and avoid the same problem later down the road. 

We’re going to tell you all about how your hot water heater works, why water heaters leak, how to resolve the matter, how you can avoid the issue and more. 

How Does a Water Heater Work?

To start, let’s take a look at how your water heater works. 

Cold water enters the tank through what are called inlet pipes. A dip tube then brings the cold water to the bottom of the tank to be heated. Electric heaters operate a little differently than gas heaters.

There are two electrical elements in electric water heaters, one towards the top and one near the bottom, which heat water on the inside.

If you have a gas water heater, a flame is lit by the burner assembly. With a gas water heater, the flame heats the bottom of the tank, which warms the water inside. The fumes then escape from the combustion gas through a silver, round pipe. The pipes warm the water along with venting the flue gases. In the end, the water exits the heater via the outlet pipe, dispersing hot water through your home. 

Common Causes of Water Heater Leaks

hot water heater leaking

If you notice your hot water heater leaking, it’s always a good idea to call a local plumber. Some of the most common reasons for water heater leaks include the following:

Drain Valve

The drain valve is used by plumbers and homeowners during water heater maintenance visits and replacements. The drain valve is also used by homeowners to clean the tank when it’s necessary.

Throughout the water heater’s life, the valve can become loose. A loose drain valve then allows water to flow through it. When leaking water comes from the bottom of the valve, the component may not be waterproof.

In this situation, the installation of a new drain valve is required. It’s possible for you to replace the drain valve on your own, but it would be more beneficial to get advice from a professional plumber before doing so. 

Old Tank

Tank-style water heaters that are over 15 years old tend to leak more frequently than those with digital controls. When you have an older tank-based water heater, components of the hot water tank begin to wear down, water loses heat, and tank leaks become more frequent.

Water heater leaks may be a result of an aging water tank. Rust begins to form inside the water heater tank, which can result in corrosion. This, in turn, permits water to escape through fractures in the water tank.

We provide helpful tips for rust here: How to Prevent Rust and Leaks From Your Hot Water Heater

When tank water heaters reach the end of their lifespan, the only option for fixing the water heater leak is water heater replacement. This is inevitable. 

If you need to know how much it costs to replace a hot water heater, you can learn more by clicking the link.

Too Much Pressure

As with any other plumbing component, water heaters are affected by naturally occurring water pressure.

Steam generates from the hot water and begins to fill the vacant spaces causing water pressure in water heaters. As the pressure builds, the water heater needs to release the steam.

When there is nowhere for the steam to go, the water pressure becomes elevated too much. Because there is too much pressure, the water escapes through any crack in the heater, resulting in relief from pressure.

If the water temperature is set too high or water enters the system with excessive pressure, the heater’s pressure rises. 

Internal Tank

A tank water heater has two shells to complete its job. The external shell of the tank insulates the internal shell containing the water. A layer of metal covers both shells.

Most tanks leak from the inside of the shell as a result of age and deterioration. Unfortunately, when an internal tank leaks, this isn’t visible from the outside.

Faulty Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve

A temperature pressure relief valve, also known as a T&P valve, can cause water heater leaks.

The T&P valve aids in pressure reduction within the water heater tank. If the T&P valve is faulty, the tank’s pressure will rise. It is possible that the P valve just needs to be tightened; however, if the valve is defective, it will need a replacement.

If you believe this is the cause of your water heater leak and don’t want to call a professional plumber, you need to be sure that the tank is depressurized before addressing temperature pressure relief valve concerns.

hot water heater leaks

Sediment Collection

As water heaters age, the bottom of the tank collects sediment.

Those who regularly maintain and clean their water heaters rarely have this problem. Fractures form as more sediment accumulates, allowing water to seep through. In this case, a leaky water heater means it’s time for a replacement.

Keeping water heaters clean can save you from the expense of a replacement. 

Anode Rod

An anode rod is a component that is designed to be destroyed. It keeps the water heater safe by attracting corrosion products.

When the quantity of the anode rod depletes due to excessive corrosion, the water heater leaks because the anode rod can no longer attract those corrosive materials. The leak appears between the anode rod and the space it was previously.

In this case, water leaks can be addressed by quickly replacing the anode rod. 

Cracked Storage Tank

There is an additional tank on hot water heaters that extends the water quality of the water that is able to be stored. Tanks are sometimes lined with glass.

Mineral deposits form from mineral accumulation and calcification on the glass. This can happen as a result of water that is too hot or when the water cools off. When the water becomes hotter, it grows and puts a strain on the glass, which results in tiny fractures.

Water heater replacement is required in either situation. 

Is Leaking Water Heater Dangerous?

There’s a good chance that if you have a leaking water heater, there is water dripping in the area around the leak, which can create a potentially hazardous situation. It is important to be aware of water leaks inside or around your water heater so you can take action to solve the problem before water damage happens. 

A water heater is typically leaking if you see signs of water outside the water tank, most often resulting in pools or puddles around the water heater. Even if water hasn’t spilled out, it is possible that the water heater is still leaking if there is soggy drywall or visible spots on the ceilings. 

If you don’t notice water leaking from the water heater surface, your water heater can still be at risk for water damage. There may be an internal leak if water is dripping or leaking from the pressure relief valve. 

Serious water damage can result from a water heater that has been leaking without repair for an extended period. The surface of the water heater still isn’t safe because water can pool and create an environmental hazard for any nearby wildlife, along with attracting growth. 

Water heater issues typically become more severe when water begins to damage other areas of the home or building. Damage to home exteriors, walls, and surfaces can be a result of a water heater leaking. 

Leaking Water Heater? Here’s How to Troubleshoot

If there is a puddle of water underneath your water heater, it’s time to look a little deeper. Leaking water can signal an issue with your water heater that needs to be addressed.

Below we will talk about some of the most common reasons for a leaking water heater, along with providing some helpful tips on how to maintain your water heater to avoid costly repairs later on.

Rule Out Condensation

You might know you have an issue when you see water on the floor around your water heater. You will first need to rule out other common causes of water. Condensation could be the result of water around your water heater. 

Condensation on a Gas Hot Water Heater

Harmless condensation can be produced by high-efficiency gas water heaters, but it can look like a leak.

Here’s how you can identify if your water heater is leaking or if it’s just condensation:

  • Wipe under the water heater with paper towels or old towels
  • Turn the gas valve to the OFF position
  • Wait a few hours to see if the area located under the water heater is wet again
  • If there is no water under the heater, that means it was condensing

Condensation on an Electric Water Heater 

Condensation of an electric water heater can be caused by the hot cylinder tank being located in a cold room. You may test for condensation by wiping down the exterior of your hot water heater and then watch to see if the moisture returns in an even pattern across the surface of the water heater. If so, then it probably means it’s just condensation.

Turn Off the Power Supply

When you have determined the water heater is leaking, turn off the gas supply (for gas water heaters) or electricity (for electric heaters).

It is very important not to skip this step because water and electricity don’t exactly mesh well together.

If you don’t feel comfortable working with gas or electric water heaters, then it would be best to contact a professional. Gas piping is not something to mess with and should be handled with care by a professional.

Locate the Gas Shut-Off Valve

Instructions on the front of your water heater usually explain how to turn off the gas valve. If you’re unable to find instructions to locate the shutoff valve there, look for the shut-off valve near the water heater.

The gas control valve is usually located at the top of the water heater and will have a lever or knob that can be turned to shut off the gas supply completely.

Locate the Power Breaker

With an electric water heater, make sure the circuit breakers are off in your electrical panel.

If you cannot find which breaker is in control of the water heater, look for the label on your electrical panel or use the diagram on your panel door to identify which breaker controls the outlet connections to your water heater.

When you find it, switch the breaker to OFF. 

Turn Off the Water Supply

leaking water heater

Another way to ensure safety is by turning your water supply lines off entirely. To do so, you will need to locate your main shutoff valve and turn it off. The shutoff valve is typically found in either a basement or outside in your yard at your meter. 

Along with shutting off your water supply at the main water supply line, you will also want to turn off the cold water supply for your water heater.

You will need to look for two valves on your water heater with red and blue collars. One will be hot, and the other will be cold. The hot water supply is commonly marked in red, and your cold water supply is commonly marked in blue.

When you shut off your cold water intake, it will help prevent any further water damage from a leaking water heater. 

Here’s more information on how to prevent plumbing problems.

Find the Source of Your Leak

You’ve now shut off the gas/electricity, your main water line, and the cold water supply. Now it’s time to find the source of your water heater leak. 

Water Leaking From the Top: Check Pipes

If water is pooling from the top of your water heater, it could be your cold or hot water inlets that bring water into the tank to be heated and then disburse the hot water into your pipes when needed. Loose pipe connections can often cause leaking from the top of the water heater. 

To resolve this issue, you must tighten the cold and hot water inlet pipes with a pipe wrench.

Water Leaking From the Side: Check the Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve and Drain Valve

The temperature pressure relief valve is most likely the culprit of water leaking from the side of your water heater. The pressure relief valve is a mechanism that allows hot water and steam to discharge from the tank when there is an influx of pressure built up inside.

To fix this problem, check the temperature to ensure it isn’t set above the recommended temperature of 120 degrees. If the temperature is set correctly and the water heater leaking continues, the valve is likely defective and needs to be replaced.

Water Leaking From the Bottom

If your water heater is leaking from the base, this could be a problem with the drain valve. The drain valve has the purpose of emptying the water heater tank when necessary, including during maintenance. 

To resolve this problem, you will need to inspect the drain valve for signs of corrosion and replace it. If there is no corrosion present, tighten the drain valve slightly. Don’t overdo it, though, because it can cause damage. If tightening the valve doesn’t resolve the problem, you will likely have to replace it.

Avoid Water Heater Leaks With Regular Maintenance

Your water heater leaking could be the result of sediment or mineral deposit buildup if your water heater does not show any of the above-mentioned issues. Flushing your water heater annually is an important maintenance and preventative care step. This can help avoid costly repairs due to build-up and can also reduce the risk of leaks. 

In order to keep your water heater running efficiently, check it regularly for leaking or damage. If you do find a problem, you should contact a professional as soon as possible to assess the problem and ensure that it is safe to use your hot water. 

Taking the time to maintain your water heater and inspect it regularly for signs of damage can help you avoid costly repairs resulting from a leaking system and keep your hot water running.

Here are more plumbing maintenance tips!

Repairing or Replacing Your Hot Water Heater

Just like any essential part of your home, water heaters need regular maintenance. If you begin to notice your water heater leaking, it’s important to act quickly. Inspect the water heater for signs of visible damage, and if your water heater is ten years old or older or you are constantly paying for repairs, it may be time to contact a professional for water heater replacement.

There are a lot of advantages to getting a new water heater, including:

  • More energy-efficient heating
  • Improved safety features
  • Energy savings
  • Warranty 

The expense of a new water heater, whether it be a tank or tankless water heater, might seem intimidating, but in the long run, it saves on monthly energy bills and will also give you peace of mind. 

Shreveport Water Heater Repair Technicians

water heater repair shreveport

If you see a leak coming from your water heater and think you need the help of an expert, call Pioneer Comfort Systems in Shreveport. Our Shreveport plumbing repair experts will inspect your water heater tank for leaks, perform preventive plumbing maintenance, and help determine if a new water heater is best for your situation. If the latter is the case, we also offer hot water heater installation in Shreveport and the surrounding cities. Call our local office at 318-378-5729 today to schedule an appointment or submit an online contact form