Common Reasons for Water Heater Leaks

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Common Reasons for Water Heater Leaks

Water heater that is leaking - Williams Comfort Air Heating, Cooling, Plumbing & More

Water heater leaks are troublesome for homeowners in Indianapolis, Indiana. Leaks lead to water damage, which costs time and money to rectify, not to mention a lack of hot water when you need it in some cases. They’re even harder to deal with when homeowners don’t know where the leak comes from on the unit. Several types of malfunctions let water through, and each have different consequences for the water heater. It’s important to learn the distinctions between each leak type. 

The plumbers at Williams Comfort Air keep homeowners in the loop with important information on leaks. Our plumbers discuss exactly how water heater leaks come about so homeowners better understand how to prevent them. Plus, we go over leak locations and what they mean for the water heater.

Why the Water Heater Leaks 

The water heater provides every fixture in the home with warm water. When the water heater leaks, this task becomes harder to complete. There are several causes of leaks, and all of them mean something different for the system. However, homeowners often don’t know the reason behind leaks, which makes it more difficult to remedy.

Certain types of leaks require an entirely new water heater. However, many others are able to be repaired. These are the most common reasons for a leak.

  • Anode rod. The anode rod is an important part of the water heater because it attracts corrosive materials. This ensures corrosion only occurs on the anode rod and not the tank itself, to protect against leakage. Over time, the anode rod corrodes so much it becomes nonexistent. When this happens, water leaks through where the anode rod is located. Replace the rod quickly to avoid these types of leaks.  
  • Sediment collection. As the water heater performs its daily tasks, it collects sediment at the bottom of the tank. Homeowners must clean out this sediment to avoid cracks. If the sediment sits there for long stretches of time, the tank eventually wears down. Water then leaks through those openings. Drain the water from the tank annually to clean the sediment and prevent leaks. 
  • Too much pressure. In the water heater, pressure is natural and normal. However, too much pressure puts stress on the tank and causes leaks. Pressure builds when the water temperature setting is too high, or if the water coming into the home starts off at a high pressure. When the pressure becomes too much for the water heater, water leaks through any crack or opening on the unit. 
  • Inlet and outlet connections. Cold water enters the water heater through the inlet connection and hot water travels to fixtures via the outlet connection. These components loosen over time, which allows water to leak through as it enters and exits the water heater. Water heater leaks like these generally require tightening of loose parts and not much else. 
  • Old tank. Tank water heaters last about 15 years with regular maintenance checks. As the unit approaches this mark, the system starts to fail in many cases. Parts weaken, components refuse to stay tightened, and leaks occur more often. Rust formation also increases as the water heater reaches the end of its life. Rust corrosion causes leaks in the tank, which warrant a new water heater.
  • Cracked storage tank. Sometimes, homeowners want to increase the capacity of their water heater’s storage. To do this, they invest in extra hot water storage tanks. These tanks often have glass linings. As minerals collect in the tank, they calcify and cause cracks. Water leaks through those openings. In addition, water expands as it becomes warmer, which puts stress on the glass. This also causes cracks. In both cases, new storage tanks are necessary. 
  • Drain valve. When homeowners need to clean the tank, or when plumbers perform maintenance, the drain valve allows the water to empty. This part loosens over time, which results in small water heater leaks. Faulty drain valves are also possible, though rarer. If you suspect the part is faulty, have a plumber take a look. The plumber tells you if the part is really faulty and performs the repair, or if another problem is the root of the leak. 
  • Internal tank. The internal tank in the water heater holds the water. The external tank contains insulation to keep the water warm. When the water heater leaks in the internal tank, the reason usually stems from age or deterioration due to sediment collection. There is no evidence on the outside of the tank for this type of leak, which makes it hard to diagnose.  
  • Faulty temperature and pressure relief valve. Lastly, the temperature and pressure relief valve helps remove some of the pressure in the tank. The valve sometimes loosens, which causes leaks. However, the valve itself is potentially faulty. In this case, remove the faulty valve and replace it. Be sure to lower the pressure in the tank before you attempt to replace the valve or else water bursts through the opening.

Why Locations Matter When the Water Heater Leaks

Water heater leaks occur in many places on the unit. Most of these leaks are minor and require small adjustments to the water heater. However, some are more serious and lead to complete replacements. The location of the leak helps plumbers and homeowners identify which cause is the most likely. This aids in diagnosis, which informs the course of action the plumber needs to take. If you are able to point the plumber in the right direction as soon as he or she arrives, the process goes a lot faster.

  • Leaks in the tank. When the water heater leaks from the inside, an old or deteriorated tank is likely the problem. Though unfortunate, this requires a new water heater. These leaks aren’t visible on the outside, which means a plumber is necessary to diagnose the problem. However, homeowners usually know when the leak occurs because large puddles of water form underneath the unit. 
  • Top leaks. Inlet and outlet connections are usually the reason for top of the tank leaks. In this circumstance, the fix requires a wrench and elbow grease to tighten the connection. However, some water heater leaks from the top of the tank are due to cracks. While cracks on the top or the sides of the tank are rare, they are possible. In this case, the entire water heater needs a replacement. Other problems include anode rod deterioration and T&P valve looseness. 
  • Bottom leaks. Water heater leaks from the bottom of the tank are usually more severe. These are normally due to cracks in the tank because of sediment collection. In more favorable circumstances, the drain valve is the source of the leak – this doesn’t require a new water heater because homeowners simply need to either tighten the part or replace it.  
  • Condensation. Some homeowners experience condensation on the sides of the tank. Many mistake condensation for leaks, but it doesn’t indicate any problems with the unit. Rather, the temperature inside the tank differs from the temperature of the room. This stark difference in temperature causes condensation on the unit. 
  • Undetermined location. Pressure leaks don’t leak from one spot in particular. Instead, they exit from any crack, loose part, or opening on the unit. Because of the sporadic nature of leaks due to pressure, they are harder to diagnose unless you witness the leak as it happens. In most cases, homeowners notice there is a problem because large puddles of water form underneath the water heater. Contact a plumber to diagnose this issue and solve the problem. 

Prevent Water Heater Leaks in Your Home

Like with most plumbing problems, water heater leaks are less likely with proper preventative care. Homeowners have more control over their water heater problems than they think, which means they are able to adequately prevent most leaks from happening. When leaks go without care, the water damage reaches the walls, floors, and important possessions. Floods are also more likely when the leak goes without any repairs.

To keep leaks from damaging your home, use these preventative measures. They ensure the water heater stays leak-free for as long as possible.

  • Respond quickly. It’s important to respond to water heater leaks as quickly as possible. This keeps the water damage minimal. Locate the leak and call a plumber. If you already know where the leak started, you are able to point the plumber in the right direction. This further decreases the amount of time the leak has to create severe damage. Additionally, pressure leaks are more dangerous the longer they go without care because the tank only handles so much stress. 
  • Drain and clean tank. Drain the tank semi-regularly to clean away any sediment. The longer sediment sits at the bottom of the tank, the more likely it is to crack. The drain valve empties the water, which allows you to clean it. Use a bleach-water solution to kill any mold or mildew. This improves the water quality. 
  • Check the water heater frequently. Keep an eye on your water heater. If you know how the water heater looks and acts when it works, you are better able to identify when problems occur. In most cases, you see a leak almost immediately because puddles of water form under and around the water heater.  
  • Preventative maintenance. Plumber perform annual maintenance checks to keep water heater leaks at bay. During a visit, the plumber checks all aspects of the plumbing to ensure no problems are around. This includes leak checks. If there are active leaks, the plumber takes care of them. If they notice an area has the potential to leak soon, they let the homeowner know and give advice on how to best handle the situation if it occurs. 
  • Tighten loose parts. Lastly, make sure to tighten loose parts on the water heater as soon as you notice them. It’s important to check connections often to decrease the chance of water heater leaks. If you don’t have a wrench nearby, simply tighten the loose parts with your hand. 

Mr. Plumber Helps with Water Heater Leaks

Water heater leaks in Indianapolis, Indiana are difficult to handle alone. However, with proper preventative care and quick response times, leaks are easy to combat. Call Williams Comfort Air for more information on our services!

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