Yes. Prevent catastrophic structural damage to your property when your water heater epxlodes and spills over 100 gallons of scalding water into your home. Knowing how to detect and fix a leak in your water heater will help you avoid the nightmare of costly structural water damage and cleanup.
alpharettawaterdamageremoval.com assembled the following information about the dangers and signs of a leaking water heater, how to safely halt a leak, and what you can do to fix them.
Dangers of a Leaking Water Heater
If a leaking water heater is left untreated, potential flooding damages can reach tens of thousands of dollars in personal property and structural damage.
Defective water heaters pose the following threats:
- Gas leak
- Scald Risks
- Extreme fire hazard
The most significant danger of a water heater is when internal pressure causes the unit to explode (while most units possess safety features to prevent this, explosion remains a life-threatening possibility).
Signs of a Leaking Water Heater
A leaking water heater is dangerous and can cause grave (sometimes fatal) injuries if not quickly addressed. The following will help you detect a water heater leak:
Abrupt Lack of Hot Water Coming from Fixtures/Faucets – When a leak extinguishes the pilot light or shorts out a water heater’s electrical components, it will stop producing hot water.
A Decrease in Water Pressure – Depending on the amount of water leaking from your water heater, you may experience a significant drop in water pressure from fixtures/faucets.
Water Leaking from the Temperature/Pressure Relief Valve – This indicates that the relief valve has malfunctioned or that the temperature or pressure within your water heater has exceeded safety limits.
Hot Water Leaking/Flowing from the Overflow Pipe – This indicates pressure buildup within the unit or a malfunction of the shutoff valve.
Standing or Pooling Water Around or Near the Base of the Water Heater – This may indicate a pinhole leak, a crack in the tank, or another significant issue.
If your water heater is located on a second or third floor, you may see water staining or warping on the ceiling or wall sheetrock. The worse a leak becomes, the more damage/staining will appear on the lower levels of your home.
Watch this video to see signs of a leaking hot water heater
What is the Source of the Leak
Either by poor installation or the aging parts of your water heater, the following are potential sources of leaks and their solutions:
Broken Drain Valve – If your water heater is leaking from a broken drain valve, shut off the water, electricity, and gas. Drain the water heater and replace the drain valve. Allow at least one hour before refilling the tank to avoid cracking or shattering it from temperature shock.
Loose Pipe Fittings and Connections – The unit’s cold water intake or hot water output connections may come loose or oxidize. The fix may be as simple as tightening the connections or replacing the fittings. If a replacement is necessary, call a professional plumber to make the repair and inspect the rest of the unit.
Temperature and Pressure or T&P Valve Malfunction – This device, located on the side (near the top) of your water heater, is one of its many safety mechanisms. If the T&P valve is leaking from its connection, call a professional plumber to fix the issue.
However, if the T&P valve releases water and steam, it may be doing exactly as it was intended to do. If this is the case, lower the thermostat by ten to fifteen-degree increments until the release stops. If the problem persists, call for professional assistance.
The Tank – Due to sediment buildup, age, or temperature shock, the glass tank within your water heater may develop pinhole leaks or ruptures. If this is the case, your water heater must be replaced.
How To Stop a Water Heater from Leaking
Once you confirm that your water heater is leaking, the following measures will help you stop the leak:
Turn the Power off to the Water Heater – Most water heaters will have an emergency shutoff switch located near the unit. Observe the following:
- If you must stand in or contact water to shut off the power to your water heater, do not attempt to flip the switch. There is an extreme risk of electrocution under these circumstances. Go to your breaker box and flip the associated breaker to the “off” position to shut off the water heater’s power.
- If the leak has affected outlets or light switches, eliminate any risk of causing a fire by moving all associated breakers to the “off” position.
Turn off the Gas Supply – Even though there are safety features to prevent gas leaks or explosions when a hot water heater has malfunctioned, no amount of precaution is too great.
There should be a clearly labeled black, red, or orange knob on the gas control valve/box for gas-operated water heaters. Turn this knob to the “off” position.
Shut off the Water Supply to the Water Heater – For most standard water heaters, you will find a lever or knob on the water supply line, located at the top of the unit:
- A lever should be moved to a 90° angle from the supply line.
- A knob should be turned clockwise (to the right) until it stops.
Tip: If hot water is spraying/leaking into the space you need to shut the water off; shut off the home’s water main instead. Contact with leaking water from a water heater can cause severe injuries, including scalding and electrocution.
Once the water supply has been shut off, you can empty the tank by one of the following methods:
- If safe, attach a hose to the unit’s drain valve (usually a spigot at the bottom of the tank), run the hose to an isolated/protected drain, and open the drain valve. (Caution: water exiting the unit may be hot enough to cause scalding)
- Open several hot water faucets until water stops flowing from them.
Once your water heater has been disabled and drained, call a professional plumber to either repair the malfunction or replace the unit.
Warning: Unless qualified to do so, do not attempt to rewire, reconnect gas lines, or fill the unit without consulting a professional. Besides voiding your warranty, your actions could result in catastrophic damages to your property and/or health.
Water Heater Leak Prevention
Like all household appliances, your hot water heater has a life expectancy (usually 8 to 12 years). To avoid premature failure, the following preventive maintenance should be performed:
- Inspect the unit every 60 to 90 days for leaks or signs of oxidation and rust
- Flush the unit every 6 to 8 months to remove sediment buildup from the tank
- Keep your unit’s thermostat set to factory recommendations (typically 125°F)
When anything “out-of-the-ordinary” happens with your water heater, call a plumber to thoroughly inspect the unit.
Dangers of a Leaking Water Heater
In this article, you discovered the dangers of a leaking hot water heater, the signs indicating a leak, how to stop a leak, and steps you can take to get them fixed.
By recognizing and correcting a water heater malfunction, you are protecting your home from potentially tens of thousands of dollars in property and structural damages.
Allowing a water heater to leak and malfunction can result in costly damages, severe injuries, and deadly outcomes if/when it explodes.