When you find water on the floor under or next to your water heater your first reaction may be that the hot water tank has a leak somewhere but that is not always the case. After some close inspection you may find that the source is from something positioned directly above the tank or the result of condensation running off the surface of cold water lines.
The first time you see some water under or around the water heater, wipe it up and try to see if you can see where the water came from. If you can’t find the origin of where the water is leaking from, lay down a paper towel or cloth over the area where the water was and check back every couple of hours to see if the water returns. If the water reappears and you cannot identify any other sources where the water is coming from then the hot water tank is likely the answer.
The first thing you should do when your water tank is leaking is turn off the power supply. With electric water heaters this is especially important as electricity and water don’t mix. If you have a natural gas water heater, there should be a temperature control with an off switch. Turn the switch to the off position. Avoid turning off the gas shut off valve as they are susceptible to wear and tear and may start to leak.
If the hot water tank is leaking significantly, turn off the cold water supply shut off valve that is located above the water heater. The valve could either have a handle that you pull down or one where you turn it clockwise to close. Shutting the water off should slow down or temporarily stop the water from leaking. If you are not sure where the leak is coming from, leave the water supply on as it will help in locating the leak.
There are a few things that can cause a water heater to leak so performing a quick inspection to find the source is best before calling a professional plumber to solve the problem.
- First check the cold water supply and hot water outlet connections. This is where the water pipes connect to the tank at the top of the unit. If this is where the leak is coming from the repair may be no more than tightening or re-soldering the connection.
- After that look at the temperature and pressure relief valve. All hot water tanks have a TP (temperature and pressure relief) valve located on the side of the tank with a pipe running down to the floor. This valve is there in case the water is heated too much, or if there is too much pressure in the tank, the valve will let water out of the tank to relieve the excess pressure. Inspect the area where the fitting is attached to the tank to see that it is watertight.
- If it appears that the relief valve is passing water down the splash tube then it will either be that the valve is defective, or that it is doing its job and the tank is overheating. A leak from here is usually repairable but you may need to call a professional if you do not know what to do.
- Inspect the drain valve that can be found near the bottom of the tank. Make sure that it is closed completely and that its point of entry into the tank is watertight. A leak from there is not a major concern and is repairable.
- And lastly re-check the bottom of the hot water tank. The whole tank is wrapped with fiberglass insulation and is enclosed in an outer skin of sheet metal. Any leak in it will not be visible from the outside. If your hot water tank has an internal leak, water will make its way down and escape from the bottom of the tank. Most water heater leaks are from the tank itself and are due to age and wear. The only solution is to replace the hot water tank.
Just as lite bulbs are engineered to have a predetermined lifespan water heaters typically have a lifespan of 8-12 years. This range will be dependent on a combination of factors such as tank design; quality and temperature of supply water; quality of installation and the level of maintenance the hot water tank has received.
If you require Professional Service or Replacement of your Gas or Electric Water Heater call Tradesman Mechanical today. 204-888-2020
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