Why Is My Hot Water Heater Leaking And What Can I Do

Why Is My Hot Water Heater Leaking And What Can I Do

If you just found out your water heater is leaking, this guide will provide you with valuable information about how to deal with the situation in the near and long term. We’ll also discuss the benefits of leak detectors, which will proactively alert you of a leak.

When dealing with a water heater leak, from understanding the source of the problem to identifying the most efficient solutions, this guide will walk you through the steps you’ll need to take to stop the leak on your own, and when to call in a professional. 

Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide – feel free to jump to the section you’re interested in.

  1. How Do I Know if My Water Heater is Leaking?
  2. What To Do If My Water Heater Is Leaking?
  3. What is a Water Heater Leak Detector?
  4. Investing in Water Heater Leak Detector
  5. Best Water Leak Detectors on the Market
  6. Best Place for Your Leak Detector
  7. Do Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters Leak?

How Do I Know if My Water Heater is Leaking?

First, check the water heater drain pan.  A water heater drain pan, when installed properly, serves to catch water heater leaks and prevents water damage in your home. Observing a significant amount of water in the drain pan is a common sign that your water heater is leaking. When it stops working properly, a drain pan can cause severe issues to your water heater or flooring.

As years go by, the tank of a water heater begins to corrode and deteriorate, which can cause water leaks. If your water heater is near or past its life expectancy, the best thing to do is to replace your water heater before the leaking causes damage to your home.  Plus, water heaters have become much more efficient in recent years, saving you money and using less energy.

What To Do If My Water Heater Is Leaking?

If your water heater is leaking, you will need to follow these steps below to solve the problem or you can always call a professional who will do it for you. 

  1. Turn off the water. When you notice your water heater is leaking, you don’t have to call a professional immediately. The first thing you should do is to turn off the water to prevent further leaking. To turn off the water supply, find the shut-off valve on the cold inlet pipes of your water heater tank. If the valve is gate-style, turn it clockwise as far as possible, and if it’s ball-style, turn the handle 180 degrees. If, due to some reason, your valve is broken, just turn off the water to your home and this will turn off the water supply.
  2. Turn off the power. You should also turn off the power. For electric water heaters, shut off the power at the breaker before you start working with your tank. For gas water heaters, shut off the gas on the gas line leading to the tank. If you’re unable to cut off the power supply on your own, you should consult a professional.
  3. Determine the cause of the leak. If you’re certain that the water leak is coming from your water heater, you will need to determine the cause and location of it. The leak may be coming from the top or bottom of the water heater and these are the areas and causes you will need to check:

Drain valve

One of the most common areas where water heater leaks can occur is at the drain valve. To fix this issue, try tightening the connections with a wrench. If your drain valve is faulty you can replace it by removing the old drain valve and, after wrapping threads in plumbers tape, installing a new drain valve.  It’s important to fully drain the water heater tank before doing this job.

Temperature & Pressure Relief (T&P) valve

If the leak is not coming from the drain valve, you could be dealing with a leak from the relief valve. Check the temperature-pressure relief valve to see if there are any leaks. As with the drain valve, replacing the T&P value is fairly straightforward but due to the critical safety nature of this component we recommend having a licensed plumber inspect and replace the valve if you determine the leak is happening in this area.

Inlet and outlet.

The area where your water heater connects to pipes is often a source of leaks. You should check the connections between the cold water intake and hot water output. If you notice a loose-fitting, consider tightening them with a pipe wrench. 

Anode Rod 

The anode rod attracts corrosive materials so the water heater itself does not corrode as quickly. However, water heater leaks occur when the anode rod corrodes to the point that it almost disappears. When this happens water can leak through the space where the anode rod used to be.

Cracked internal storage tank

If your water heater is near or past its life expectancy then it’s possible that the internal tank has deteriorated and sprung a leak.  Sometimes these leaks can sometimes be seen through pooling of water under the unit.  That said, these leaks could be from anywhere inside the tank and sometimes these internal leaks will not be able to be detected from the outside of the tank.  So if your water heater is getting old, consider proactively replacing it with a new, high-efficiency model such as a hybrid heat pump water heater.

Sediment Buildup

Over time sediment builds up at the bottom of water heater tanks.  Regular draining of the tank can avoid this issue, but if the tank has not been drained for a long time, sediment can build up and lead to cracking, which may require water heater replacement.  Be sure to drain your water heater to avoid unnecessary damage from sediment.

What is a Water Heater Leak Detector?

A water leak can cause serious problems in your home, such as floor and wall damage, if not detected early. To avoid this, many homeowners purchase a water heater leak detector. This device alerts you any time it senses a leak coming from your water heater, dishwasher, washing machine, or pipe. With a leak detector, you will be informed quickly about the issue and you can prevent any further damage in your home.

A water heater leak detector has a moisture sensor that should touch the floor next to the water heater, so if there is a water leak, the alarm will alert you immediately. These sensors can be adjusted according to height and also can accommodate the location of your water heater. 

Investing in Water Heater Leak Detectors

The majority of water leak detectors available on the market cost less than $100 and are simple to install, making them an investment you’ll never regret. If you want more than just a basic model for your home, you can opt for more expensive models which will not only detect a leak but also shut off the water. 

These models also provide you with suggestions on how to conserve water as they are monitoring the flow of water through pipes. If you’re looking to purchase a model like this, you will likely need to spend around  $400. Also, keep in mind that these models need to be professionally installed.  

Best Water Leak Detectors on the Market

If you have a compatible Rheem water heater, one of the best options is Rheem’s Leak Guard, a leak detection and prevention system on ProTerra. It can limit leaks to no more than 20 ounces.

Another model we would recommend is Leak Sense from the same company. It’s an integrated leak detection and prevention system which alerts you as soon as the leak starts. It can detect any leak in your home in 15 seconds. In case of a leak, you will be notified via an audible alarm in your water heater and in the Rheem’s EcoNet app by having any of Rheem’s products.

Best Place for Your Leak Detector

When thinking about where to place your leak detector, think of it as a crucial factor. If you place it in an inadequate place, it will not be able to alert you about the leak early enough. So, these are the factors you need to consider when placing your leak detector:

  1. Where would you expect the water leak to appear first? 
  2. If you already have moisture on the floor that is irrelevant to the water heater leak, place the sensor above it so it doesn’t send you unnecessary alerts. 
  3. If the water heater pan is underneath your tank, make sure you place the leak detector between the floor and the top of the pan. 

Do Hybrid Heat Pump Water Heaters Leak? 

Although hybrid heat pump water heaters are an efficient and reliable solution for many homes, they too can leak from time to time.

Leak problems specific to hybrid heat pump water heaters include:

Dirty coil: The cold evaporator collects condensation from the air and drains it into a drain pan via the coil, which if dirty, can malfunction and cause water dripping. 

Cracked overflow pan: A heat pump collects humidity from the air which drips down into the drain or overflow pan. The pan can crack as a result of corroding and cause a leak. 

Clogged condensate drain: The condensate drain system carries out the moisture away from homes, but when blocked, the water will back up and flow out of the drain pan. 

Contractors for Hybrid Heat Pump Hot Water Heater Installation

Finding the right contractor can be the key to having a hybrid heat pump water heater installed correctly and safely, and is certainly easier than doing it yourself. Beyond word-of-mouth recommendations, local building inspectors or trade groups may have a list of licensed contractors in your area.

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