Why Is My Water Heater Leaking: 5 Common Causes and Fixes

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Your water heater is doing something it shouldn’t be. Water is leaking from your tank, but you don’t know why.

Well, this can have several causes and in most cases, it’s an easy fix. However, in some circumstances, the cause isn’t so simple. Either way, you’ll want to address that leak as soon as possible to avoid expensive damage or even worse…a flooded home

Before we get into the top 5 reasons for a hot water system leak let’s talk about prevention. If you find yourself asking “why is my water heater leaking?”  Then it’s likely one of two things are happening:

  1. You have loose connections.
  2. There’s corrosion happening due to galvanic action which is a fancy way to say a chemical reaction between different metals.

What to do When You First Notice you Water Heater Leaking

Turn off the water supply

In order to empty the tank, you must first turn off the water supply. This can be done by either turning off the main valve or by shutting off a shutoff/isolation valve near the tank.

Turn off the power supply

This may seem common sense but I remember when I was young our instant electric water heater would regularly trip out. To fix it was as simple as removing the cover and pressing the reset button, placing the cover back on and that was it. I got so used to the process that I became lazy and did not bother switching the power off.

Until one day I accidentally touched the cover onto a live connection and blew the entire system up. I also sent myself flying backward a few meters. I was actually very lucky I was not killed by the electric shock.

So the moral of the story is, no matter how easy you think the job is. Turn off the power before you do any work on your water heater.

It is important to turn off the power when working on a water heater. This is because, if you don’t, you will be exposing yourself and your family to unsafe levels of heat. A water heater is a dangerous appliance and you should be sure to turn it off before working on it.

Drain whatever water is in the tank

Once the water supply has been turned off, you should open the drain valve located near where the tank empties into your home’s sewer system. If there is no drain valve near the tank, you will need to refer to your specific model’s user manual and find out where it is located.

Find the source of a water leak

There are many ways to find a leak in a hot water system.

The first thing you should do is give it a visual inspection. ie. Look for obvious signs of water where it shouldn’t be. For example, around the bottom of your tank or behind your heater.

Water is very good at flowing through seams that have even the smallest amount of corrosion.

Make sure you take the time to inspect all the valves, taps, or connections.

Now that we’re done with this part let’s get into the top 5 reasons why your hot water system is leaking:

What are the common sources of leaks in a water heater

Natural aging and corrosion

These are two of the main causes your water heater may start leaking and unfortunately if the leak is caused by internal corrosion it is going to be more cost effective to replace your hot water system than it would be to repair it.

If you notice your water leaking from near the bottom then this is most likely due to natural aging and internal corrosion.

Depending on where you live the water supply may be very hard and likely to cause corrosion, if you live in an area with hard water then it makes a lot of sense to install a whole house filter or water softener, this can extend the life of your water heater by many years.

Connections and Valves

Check that all connections are tight. If they are loose, tighten them up and you may ave just fixed your leak without spending a cent.

Deteriorated valves, outlet valves, and pipes

Another common area where you may find your system leaking is the inlet valve or pressure release valve. Again this is more likely going to happen in homes that have unfiltered hard water.

Faulty Temperature or Pressure Relief Valve

Often the pressure release valve gets a build-up of calcium in it which prevents it from closing off properly, once it starts to leak the problem will quickly get worse until the valve is replaced.

Faulty Drain Valve

Less common is a faulty drain valve, but it is something worth inspecting, if there are any signs of a leak, just replace the valve.

Faulty Water Storage Tank

As your hot water system ages, no matter how good your water is the internals of your system will deteriorate. The seams of the water tank are usually the first part to corrode and begin to leak so look for any greenish discoloration, as this is the first sign of a potential leak.

How to fix a leaky hot water heater

If your water heater is leaking from a faulty valve or connection then you can simply replace the valve, making sure you use a little plumbers tape to ensure you have a great seal.

If the leak is from the main tank then seek some advice from a plumber, but in general, this means it is time for a new hot water system.

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