A leaking water heater is nothing to sneeze at. Left unaddressed it can damage floors, walls, subfloors and items you store in the basement, and eventually lead to total water heater failure.
If you see signs of water heater leakage, you should take the following actions before things get out of hand:
Step 1: Eliminate other potential sources of leaking or moisture accumulation
Water pooling in a basement isn’t enough to prove you have a leaking water heater. Furnace drain lines, water softener lines, assorted plumbing fixtures, dripping from overhead water pipes, flooding from rainfall if you have cracks, or random moisture condensation (basements are naturally wet) could be the source of the puddling.
Step 2: Cut off the power or gas supply
This is all about safety. If you have an electric water heater, find the designated switch inside the circuit breaker box and turn it off. If the water heater is gas powered, as most are in Colorado, flip the switch or turn the dial to the “off” position.
Step 3: Find the exact location of the water heater leak
Once you’ve eliminated other possible sources, it’s time to inspect the water tank more thoroughly.
Possible causes of a leaking water heater include:
- The cold water inlet or the hot water outlet. Both connect to the water heater on top, and if either shows signs of minor leakage you may be able to stop it yourself by tightening them with a pipe wrench.
- The temperature and pressure relief valve. Located on the side of the tank with an outlet pipe running downward, this valve is a safety feature that will release water if pressure inside the tank is excessive. The leaking could occur at the point where it joins the tank or inside the outlet pipe if the valve is faulty, although leaking in the latter location could mean you have a pressure problem and the valve is working properly. Regardless of the cause of the leak, you’ll need to call a plumber.
- The heater drain valve. The heater drain valve is found near the bottom of the tank, and if leaking is seen here you should check to make sure the valve is completely turned off. If it is, repairs will be required.
- The water tank itself. Over time water heater tanks can rust or decay and start leaking, and when this happens you’ll need to purchase a new water heater. Since the water tank is covered by an insulating jacket, water will usually leak out the bottom of the tank if this is the problem.
Step 4: Shut off the water supply to stop the leaking
The water shut-off valve will be located above the water heater. Either pull the handle down or turn the dial clockwise, depending on the type of valve you have.
If you haven’t yet found the source of the leak, you may have to leave the water supply on until you do.
Step 5: Determine which is the best course of action, repair or replacement
When you have a leaking water heater, you’ll need to summon a plumber or a water heater specialist to your home to perform a thorough evaluation. If he or she tells you repair is not possible and recommends replacement, you’ll need to consult with a dealer to explore the available product choices. Your options for replacement could include a new tanked heater, or you might decide to go with an on-demand tankless water heater, which is likely to last longer and cost you less in monthly bills.
Learn More about Water Heaters from IAQ
At Indoor Air Quality, Inc., we can inform you about the advantages and disadvantages of tanked and tankless water heaters, and help you find the right water heater for you if your old one is ready for the scrap heat. Call us to arrange a full inspection today of your water heater today, and if you eventually decide to purchase a new one we can provide expert installation services in Highlands Ranch and throughout the Denver Metro area.