Leaks are annoying. Imagine being in a very quiet building or room, hearing nothing except the constant dripping noise. If you are a very light sleeper, you may have been kept awake by this noise. It’s enough to drive anyone crazy. Aside from the noise, you also have to deal with the mess. If it is just starting out and all that comes out are drops, it’s not a big deal. Yet. But if you did not notice the leaks or you just left it alone for a long time without cleaning up, don’t be surprised to see either just a puddle or ankle-deep waters at home. Have you ever encountered this? If so, you know that leaks don’t come from your ceiling alone. Your plumbing system is also a common culprit for this. Would you believe even your water heater can get leaks? This article is for you if you are curious about leaks coming from a water heater, or are experiencing this problem. While water heater leaks can occur at the top or at the bottom, we will discuss bottom element leaks here.
What Causes a Hot Water Heater to Leak?If you see a puddle of water near your water heater, your likely conclusion is that there is a leak somewhere on it. After all, hardware issues are the most usual causes of a leaking water heater. You should know that this is not always the case. Instead of your water heater, the leak may actually come from somewhere else, like a roof, and settled near your unit. When this happens, you might mistake it as coming from your water heater. This is why it is always important to determine whether a leak is caused by an issue with your water heater or not. Other nearby piping and plumbing fittings may also be the source of the leak, not the water heater itself. Connections may have loosened up or they are the ones that need to be checked out. Another possible source is condensation, especially on its connected piping and fixture. The water you see on the ground may come not from leaks but from the condensation that forms. This is quite common in rooms that have a warm and humid air and condensation forms when cold water runs on the piping at the same time. If there is too much condensation, you might believe there are leaks. Age also plays a huge factor for the formation of leaks. If your water heater has been working for years, even as long as more than a decade already, the more likely it is to fail. Water heaters, just like most appliances, become brittle over time and a common result of this are the formation of leaks. Pressure in the water tank can also result in leaks. A common safety feature of water heaters is to release water when there is already too much pressure, which often happens if you have set the temperature of your water heater too high. The water that gets removed as a result of this is the “leak” you might see. All these just shows that having leaks within the vicinity of your water heater means one of two things: either the leak is a result of an issue or two with your water heater or the source of this water is actually coming from somewhere else and it just looks like it is from a leak on your water heater.
Why is Water Leaking from the Bottom of my Water Heater?If you believe that the leak is coming from your water heater, it is best that you immediately call a qualified contractor as soon as you can. Leaks should never be underestimated and the repair must not be put off for later. It will get worse if left unattended and this would be a very costly mistake on your part. Once the contractor sees that the leak is indeed coming from the water heater, he or she will then have to check which of the component of your water needs repair. If the leak originates from the bottom of your water heater, this would be a much more complicated situation. It’s either your contractor will do some very minor repairs or you would have to completely replace it. For bottom leaks, the contractor will check on the following components:
- Temperature & pressure relief valve, also referred to as the T&P valve
- Internal tank
- Drain valve
- Heater element gasket
What Should I Do When My Water Heater Leaks?From our discussion, you can already guess that the first thing we advise you to do is to get in touch with a contractor. Sure, you may be a pro at DIY-ing your way with your kitchen sink but doing repairs on any water heater is a different story. Not only do you run the risk of ruining your water heater, but there are actually fatal consequences if you don’t really know what you are doing. Immediately calling a contractor to help you out is the wisest decision you can make in this situation. These contractors can gauge if repairs are still possible or not, given that bottom leaks are more often a bad sign. To check on this, he or she must first trace the source of the leak on your water heater. From there, it will be easy to identify whether doing repairs or just replacing the entire water heater is much more economical. In this situation, the standard practice of contractors is to:
- Dry off all the water. This is the easiest way for them to see if there are actual leaks coming from your water heater or it is possibly coming from another source.
- Once the floor has been completely wiped dry, the contractor will observe and see if water will seep through again. If this happens, the possibility of a leak increases.
- The next step of your contractor is to see where it originates. To check the location of the leak, he or she will place indicators, such as tissue paper and towels. This way, the contractor will be able to narrow down the location of the leak.
- As soon as the source is identified, the next step for your contractor is to turn off the power source of your water heater. This is not as simple as removing the plug from the socket, as water heaters are either powered by gas or electricity. Gas-powered water heaters usually have a dial or an on and off switch, while electrical water heaters need to be shut off by its circuit breaker.
- The last step before your contractor will start repairing your water heater is to shut down the water inlet valve. But if the leak has become too strong, your contractor may have to temporarily cut off the entire water supply in your home.
The Hazards of a Leaking Hot Water HeaterA typical homeowner has the tendency to ignore leaks at home, especially if it is just more of an annoyance for them and not something that already causes visible damage. But when these leaks start wreaking havoc at home, that’s the only time he or she will think about repairing it. If you are one of these homeowners, you need to know that there are potential harmful consequences to it. It’s not just the possible damage it can do to your home that you need to worry about. Here are the reasons why you should always have leaks on your water heater checked out as soon as you can:
- It can cause water damage to your home and your belongings – this is probably the one you are most familiar with. After all, it is common knowledge that water leaks can be destructive. At its best, it may just leave stains on your furniture or floors, but leaks that are so bad can even ruin the foundations of your home or your appliances, or you may even be greeted with a flooded basement the next time you go down there.
- Repairs will get even more expensive the longer you put it off – a water leak will never go away on its own; it will only stop once it gets repaired. If you expect to pay a lot to make the necessary repairs, don’t be surprised once you end up paying double or triple the amount you expected to pay, before the situation got out of hand.
- Mold, mildew, and harmful bacteria may grow and easily reproduce – consider yourself lucky if you have never encountered these issues at home. Not only can they do a lot of damage, they are also known health hazards. Aside from getting allergic reactions, anyone exposed to it can get respiratory infections. These allergens thrive in a damp environment and the surrounding walls of your leaking hot water heater is a perfect place for it to start. And once it starts growing, it will rapidly reproduce.
- There is always the risk of electrocution – we were all taught in school, or through first-hand experience, that water and electricity must never mix. A water leak can cause this, especially if the leak ends up on an electrical connection. This risk is even higher for water heaters, especially electrical ones.
- Unnoticed puddles from leaks can cause accidents – since water is colorless, it is hard to spot them on any surface. If you have yet to discover the leak and there is already a buildup of water near your water heater, you may not notice it and it can cause you to slip. This is one of the most common causes of accidents at home.
- The water quality will be affected – if the leak is caused by rust or a corroded part, it will possibly contaminate the water, especially if the water passes through this particular part. Instead of getting potable water, you may get water that is full of various chemicals and harmful microorganisms.
- A leak on your water heater may be a sign that it is about to explode – even if there are safety precautions available for all water heaters, a leaking one may be a sign that it is going to explode. It may happen tomorrow, after a few months, or next year, but it can definitely happen.
Can I Have the Tank of My Leaking Hot Water Heater Repaired?Earlier, we talked about how leaks on a water heater can be remedied either by repairing it or completely replacing your water heater. If you recall, we mentioned how doing either of these two will depend on the source of your water heater’s leak. Some parts are still repnoairable, but there are also those that aren’t. If the contractor traces the leak to the internal tank of your water heater, it is a much more serious problem. There is a bigger possibility that you must replace your water heater already. It doesn’t matter if it still works excellently for you; any leak confirmed to come from the internal tank is a sign of a very serious problem. But before you replace it, your contractor may check if the problem just lies on the set temperature of your water heater. Leaks as a result of too much pressure on the tank may actually be caused by setting your heater to a higher temperature than it can manage. But even if this is the case, it already shows that your heater is no longer working at its peak condition and you may soon have to replace it already. If changing the temperature doesn’t work, then there really is something wrong already with your water heater’s tank. Unfortunately, this part is something that can no longer be repaired. You would have to change your entire water heater, as the tank is a vital component and must always be in perfect condition. If your water heater is not well-maintained, corrosive chemicals found on the water sediments that pass through it may settle inside. Over time, it can cause rust to form or corrosion to start, beginning from the inner glass lining of the tank. This will cause the formation of pinprick-sized holes to form, which will enlarge over time, and water will leak through it. Does your water heater fit this bill? If so, you need to stop using it and replace it as soon as you can. This type of leak is a major sign that a water heater is already at risk of exploding.
How Do I Fix a Leaking Water Heater?You might have noticed how issues with water heaters tend to be in the extremes – it’s either the issue is so minor that your contractor can easily finish the repairs in a day, or it is completely unrepairable and would need to be replaced. There is no in-between for it; you can’t leave water heater leaks alone and go on your way, hoping that it eventually stops. If your contractor has checked everything out and the tank is not the culprit of the leak, or it does not already warrant a replacement, it means your water heater can still be repaired. This is good news for you. What you need to know is that the kind of repair your contractor will do is dependent on the part or component with the problem. Here’s a guide on what you can expect when your contractor starts repairing those leaking parts:
- Heater Element Gasket
- Drain Valve
- T&P valve
Should I Replace my Water Heater?You’re in luck if your contractor says that he or she will only have to do minor repairs to your water heater. This would mean you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get rid of the leaks on it. However, there are times that just replacing it entirely is a more economical option. But when should you do so?
- The overall cost of the repairs is just too high. Sometimes, a repair job you assumed to be easy may turn out to be not so simple in reality. As a result, your contractor may give you a quotation that ends up higher than you anticipated. If the ballpark figure you were given is nearly the cost of a new water heater, why not just get a new one? After all, you have no guarantees how long yours would still run even after it gets repaired.
- You’ve had it for such a long time. One of the household appliances that is known to last years is the water heater. Most of them can even last for more than a decade. However, they will still eventually break down. If you are already encountering hiccups with your unit and you know that it’s quite an old unit, think about replacing it now.
- It keeps making unusual sounds. Water heaters, in general, do not make a lot of noise while running. And when you start hearing noises it has never made before, you might need to get it checked asap. This is a common issue with aging units.
- Your electrical consumption is getting higher, but your actual household usage seems unchanged. One of the appliances that consumes the most electricity is your water heater. They can consume as much as half of your entire usage in a month. If you noticed a consistent increase on your electricity bill for reasons unknown to you, you might have to check on the condition of your water heater. A constant higher consumption may indicate that it is starting to fail.
- The water temperature is lukewarm, even when set to the highest available temperature. One of the easiest ways to tell if your water heater is malfunctioning is to check the water temperature. Gradually start raising its temperature and if it stays at the same level, you have a problem. Get a contractor to check it out and see if something can still be done about it.
- You already see corroded parts or rust forming on its components. The formation of rust or having corroded parts in any appliance is never a good sign, especially for water heaters. If the rusted or corroded parts can still be replaced, have your contractor do it for you. But if not, you should already replace it, since this can affect the quality of the water. You don’t want the water coming out of your faucets to be full of germs or chemicals, do you?