A leaking water heater is quite bothersome – It can give off a pretty dangerous vibe and may make taking a shower to appear unsafe.
It is OK to take a shower when the water heater is leaking. However, in order to prevent further water damage, it is important to figure out what is causing the water leak.
To help you out, we’ve compiled all the information you need to know regarding water heaters – Why they malfunction, what you can do to address such issues, how long they last on average, and much more! Keep reading to find out everything you need to know regarding why a water heater could possibly leak.
If you don’t want to deal with the leaking water heater any longer and will buy a new one, read my guide to transporting it safely on its side.
Why Do Water Heaters Leak?
There are a number of reasons why water heaters could start leaking, figuring out the exact reason usually requires a close-up inspection.
The most common cause for a leaking water heater is the drain valve, however, there could be a number of other reasons why it has sprung a leak. We’ll take you through the primary reasons as to why water heaters start leaking;
Water Supply Line Issues
Typically, water heaters have supply lines that are installed to ensure a smooth flow of water into the tank of the water heater. A leak in this part of the setup is most often the culprit and can leak all the way down to the wiring and/or the tank itself. When this happens, it can look like there is an issue with the tank or other parts of the water heater. If the supply tubes are, in fact, faulty, your only option is to replace them. To do so, you can enlist a professional or purchase replacement tubes and swap them out.
Where the water lines connect to the water heater, you’ll find a set of fittings. This is another area in which leaks can be very common. In most cases tightening the fittings slightly solves the problem. Be careful however if you have brass compression fittings. It is very easy to overtighten them. Most brass compression fittings should be hand tightened and then a further quarter turn.
Temperature and Pressure Valve Issues
Typically, Temperature and Pressure (T&P) Valves can cause leakage in your unit. That being said, this usually indicates a more serious issue and in most cases, it is advisable to call a plumber.
Drain valve issues
Most water heaters have a drain in the lowest part of the unit. Depending on the type of valve used the rubber seals in the valve can deteriorate and the valve itself can start leaking. In most cases when the valve is leaking it is necessary to replace the valve. This is doable as a DIY project. Just make sure to buy the right size valve. Here is a 3/4 inch valve with a 2-inch shank from Amazon.
If none of the previous solutions seem to work, odds are your water heater’s tank is leaking. This typically happens when there is a hole in the tank, this can be due to rust or manufacturing defect.
How Long Will a Leaking Water Heater Last?
The answer to this question largely depends on the nature and scope of the leak itself.
If the heater is leaking from a fitting or a drain valve theoretically this has no effect on the longevity of the heater and you could use the heater like this for years.
Provided of course that you don’t mind the water damage 🙂
However, if it is a more serious issue, such as a leak within the tank the leak will only increase over time and the unit should be replaced as soon as possible.
When choosing a new water heater and you live in an area where there are frequent power outages you might be interested in finding out which type of water heater is best for that.
I have written an article about showering during a power outage, go check it out, there is a ton of info in there about water heaters.
If you find out that it is necessary to replace the water heater it is a good idea to consider tankless water heaters. They have many benefits over traditional water heaters.
How Do I Maintain a Water Heater?
While leaks demand immediate attention, performing routine checkups and maintenance can help add longevity to your water heater unit. To get the best results and keep your unit functioning properly, follow these steps to ensure smooth operation;
Set Correct Temperature
Many people set their water heater temperature too high. This can shorten the life of the heating element. To prevent that, set your thermostat to a lower temperature (we recommend anything lower than 120 F). This will prevent scalding and protect the taps from hot water.
Draining and Flushing your tank
At least once a year, make sure to drain and flush your water heater’s tank. This will clean the insides of the unit and prevent the build-up of impurities and sediments. To do so, turn off the water supply to the heater and connect a pipe or a hose to the drain valve. Then, put the other end of that pipe into a drain and empty the tank.
Inspect the parts for damage/issues
When you perform a routine check-up, inspect the external of the heater for small leaks. This will help catch the leak before water damage occurs.
Many people have not considered this, but it is possible to paint a water heater to make it look like new. If yours is still in working order, but you would like to spruce it up by giving it a new coat of paint read my guide on how to paint a water heater.
So, there you have it – this article offers a comprehensive list of ideas and solutions that can help with the maintenance, as well as the service of your water heater. If you’ve exhausted these options, you’ll likely need to install a new unit or call in a professional to help with your current one. Thanks for reading and we hope we have been able to assist you with your leaking water heater!