Water heater leaking
Noticing water below your water heater isn’t always a cause for great alarm; although, this type of leak definitely requires your attention. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons your water heater leaks. We’ll assume in this article that the water isn’t coming from pipes external to the tank–this is water that is coming from somewhere on or within the tank itself.
Water heater leak – pressure relief valve
Sometimes a water heater leaks on purpose. A pressure relief valve can open to relieve water pressure (as its name implies). While no water heater leak is good, this type is usually more indicative of a smaller underlying problem than other leaks. A relief valve’s purpose is for safety, and it keeps the tank from exploding should pressure from heat and water get too high internally. Over time, the springs inside the valve mechanism can corrode or become weak and start to give too easily, i.e. with even slight pressure build-up. If you see water leaking from the relief valve, the first step is to replace it.
To do this, first, shut off the electricity to the water heater (or shut off the gas valve if your is gas). Then turn off the water supply to the tank. Now, you’ll need to drain water from the tank so that you can bring the water level down past the height of the pressure relief valve. This could be a couple gallons if your pressure relief valve is at the to of your tank. If it’s on the side somewhere, then drain about 5 gallons. You’ll know if you open the valve and no water comes out!
Use a wrench to untighten the relief valve. If yours has a discharge pipe, that will twist off as well. When you replace the pressure relief valve, be sure to do so with the exact same type. Use teflon tape over the threads of the pipe you’ll be screwing the new relief valve onto. After tightening, open the water supply valve, turn on the power or relight the pilot light (gas).
Pressure relief valve
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If your new valve still leaks, you may need to address the problem with your house’s water pressure regulator. Have a plumber come out to test the pressure on your main water line. The regulator allows for thermal pressure. If it doesn’t, it may be causing undo pressure in your water heater relief valve and causing it to open, thus a recurring leak.
Water heater leak – leaking drain valve
Sometimes a hot water leak can be due to a bad drain valve. These valves can either be metal or plastic types. Metal types are called sillcock valves and have little washers, which may be replaced if leaking is occurring. Use a wrench to remove the sillcock valve and to put it back on. Be sure to use teflon tape on the threads after you’ve replaced the sillcock washer and are ready to tighten the sillcock valve back on.
If your drain valve is plastic, then it needs to be replaced if it’s leaking water. To remove, use hand pressure only. Do this by turning the valve counterclockwise four full revolutions. Stop, and then pull on the valve handle while turning the valve clockwise six full revolutions. The valve should release from the tank. When you replace this valve, use the same type that was on there. When installing the new one, reverse what you did to get the old one off. Be sure to push during the first six counterclockwise revolutions.
Other types of water heater leaks
If you think by chance that general condensation around your tank is making it look like the water heater is leaking, then try this. Tape a flat piece of glass to the bottom of the tank (be careful of the heat!), leaving part of it exposed on the outside. After 2-3 hours, remove the glass. If there is water on the outside (not the part touching the tank), then condensenation is to blame for your “water heater leaking.”
The worst kind of hot water heater leak is the one that doesn’t fit the desriptions of any of the above. Sorry, but if you see water leaking from the bottom of the tank, then it’s time to replace the water heater immediately as the tank is damaged and is not repairable.