When it comes to hot water, the smallest leaks can quickly turn into a big problem. Most hot water systems come with a long warranty, up to 10 years depending on the brand. That’s why it can be easy to forget that this appliance is one of the most frequently used in a home and it should be well maintained, especially as it ages. Hot water system leaks will likely go unnoticed until you do not have enough hot water or even worse, no hot water at all.
What To Do When Hot Water Heater is Leaking
A hot water system leak can be stressful for even the calmest homeowners. It pays to know what to do ahead of time, so you can be prepared if you find your hot water system leaking.
Step 1: Identify the leak – From where the leak is actually coming in hot water system
An important first step is to determine that the leak is actually coming from your hot water system. Be sure that it is the tank or the pipes coming in and out of it that are leaking, rather than other pipework that may be nearby. If water is coming from another source, you have an entirely different issue on your hands.
Step 2: Get Help of hot water heater specialist or your local plumber
Once you have confirmed that the leak is from the hot water system, the best thing to do is call a plumber. Unless you are a licensed professional, we do not recommend homeowners ever working on their own hot water systems.
Step 3: Be Proactive
Depending on the severity of the leak, it might be a good idea to turn off your water at the mains to prevent further damage to your property until the plumber arrives. In most Australian homes you will find your water mains in the front yard or along the side of the house. If you are in a unit or apartment, it could be under the laundry tub or kitchen sink. If you can’t find it ask your strata as they can be well hidden.
Step 4: Turn Off The Water Main
Once you have found your water mains, turn the tap handle until it is in the off position. Once off, it means that there will be no water running into your home or any appliance. It’s a good idea to fill up a few bottles and a bucket with water beforehand so you can have something to drink and to flush your toilet with until your plumber arrives.
Reasons: Why is Hot Water Heater Leaking
Almost all leaks get worse over time. In fact, many hot water system leaks get worse over just a day or two if they are ignored. A drip can turn into a gush in no time. For your knowledge, here are some of the reasons behind a hot water system leakage.
Cause #1: Damaged tank
Most leaks come from the hot water tank itself. If the tank is leaking, there is an internal problem, and likely one of the components has sprung a leak, causing water to leak out and pool slowly.
Cause #2: Pressure Relief Valve:
The temperature and pressure relief valve may be leaking – While it is normal for this to let out small amounts of water occasionally, it should not be continuous. If there is a puddle, your valve might need replacing.
Cause #3: Loose/leaking pipe joints:
Over time, fittings can come loose. Harsh weather can also contribute to leaking fittings. Depending on your system these can sometimes be repaired, other times the entire system must be replaced.
Take Decision About Hot Water System Repair Or Replace
Depending on the cause and severity of a leak, sometimes hot water heater repairs are possible. Other times a replacement is either the only solution or simply a better option.
Replacing a broken hot water system with an identical unit is a common solution. However, this may not always be the best, economically or environmentally. Hot water system technology is changing and what was the best 10 years ago is hardly likely to be the best today. There’s a good chance that there is something out there that is better suited to your home and lifestyle.
There are plenty of options when it comes to replacing a hot water system, and many questions come into play when making this decision. Gas or electric? Tank or tankless? Solar or heat pump? We know this can be overwhelming and if you’re doing it alone, can require hours of research. We take the hassle out of replacing a broken hot water system by sending a professional straight to your door.
Watch this video about hot water heater installation/repairs
Is Your Hot Water Tank Leaking From Top?
If your hot water heater is leaking from the top, don’t fret but relax, as fixing a leak at the top of your hot water heater is usually much easier and cheaper than a leak at the bottom of your tank. However, that statement holds true only when you’re able to find the leak and provide the fixes speedily.
Why does your hot water heater leak from the top?
Well, a hot water heater may leak from the top seam or rim due to any of the following reasons:
- A leaking temperature and pressure relief valve
- A loose pipefitting
- Perhaps your cold water inlet valve is leaking. (hot water tank leaking from top valve)
- An oxidised anode rod
- A leaking expansion tank
- The tank itself is leaking out
Let’s look into how you can detect the underlying problem.
- Switch off your electric or gas hot water heater
- Do you have an electric water heater? Well then, at the electrical panel, shut the power off. Spot a 2-pole breaker labelled “Water Heater” and twist it to the OFF position.
- Do you have a gas water heater? Well then, twist the gas valve to the OFF position. This valve you can find on the water heater itself. In addition, you’ll want to ensure that the ball valve located on the gas piping and connected to the heater, is twisted at a right angle i.e. vertical to the piping.
- Identifying the leak
To identify the leak; first of all, you’ll have to turn on the water again and observe cautiously from where the water is leaking out. Most common leaky areas are at the top of a water heater that includes:
- T&P relief valve
- The anode rod screw
- Pipe fittings
- The cold water inlet valve
- The expansion tank
- The tank itself
- Fixing the leak
Once you have identified the leak, here is how you can fix the leak:
- Is your T&P relief valve leaking? Well, if it’s leaking from its base wherein it directly screws into the water heater, then you need to replace it. If this is the case, it’s recommended to leave the work to the professional technician who will inspect the tank to identify the problem.
- Is your water bubbling up and leaking from the anode rod port? If yes, don’t delay and call a professional plumber at once, as this is an indicator that your tank is about to burst anytime. That’s because when the water is bubbling it indicates that the anode rode has been oxidised and immediately needs to be changed. Once the anode rod rusts away, rusted components in the water will begin eating away at the inner lining of your tank. Well, you may require changing your hot water heater altogether depending on how long your anode rod has oxidised.
- Are your pipe’s fitting loose and the water is leaking? Well then, tighten the pipe’s fitting with a spanner. However, observe for the signs of rust formation. If the pipe is corroding, it may require to be changed. If you need to replace it, then it’s best to call a licensed technician to handle the job.
- Is your cold water inlet valve leaking? Screw the nut to tighten it, as it holds the handle in place. Use a spanner and turn the nut anticlockwise. Well, if the leak doesn’t halt, the valve itself may have to be changed. To determine the best solution, get a technician to look at the valve.
- Is your hot water expansion tank leaking? If yes, inspect the root of the leak. If the root of the leak is the threaded connection, just take it out from its connection point. Next, apply some thread sealer and thread it back in its place fastening it securely. Conversely, if it’s leaking from any other place on the expansion tank, it will need to be completely changed and this should only be performed by an expert and licensed plumber because the pressure within the tank needs to be appropriately set so that it can function correctly.
- Is the tank itself leaking? If you answer with a yes, get in touch with an expert plumber to replace the tank at the earliest instant. That’s because the more you wait to get the replacement done, the likelihood is greater for the tank to burst and flood your home.
Is Your Hot Water System Leaking From Bottom?
When a hot water system is leaking from the bottom, it’s not always a sign of tank breakdown. Before you plan to change the entire water heater system, take a few minutes to find out from where it’s leaking and you may be able to repair the leak yourself with little or no cost. Prior to working on the water heater, switch OFF the water heater’s power or turn OFF the gas valve to prevent possible shock or burns.
Locating the Source of Water heater tank Leak From Bottom
- If you think the leak is coming from the bottom of your water heater, one of the first places you need to inspect is the drain valve, and temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve).
- One of the possibilities could be that the leak is actually at the top of the water heater and just flowing down through the heater’s body before disappearing at a lower level.
- Watch out for any noticeable signs of a leak on the top of the water heater system and on all the pipes leading to or away from the heater. Moreover, you can take out the access panels on an electric heater and inspect for moisture in the insulation.
Probable Reasons for Water Heater Leaks from the Bottom
- Is the Pressure Relief Valve Leaking?
The pressure relief valve (T&P valve) is an essential safety measure for your water heater to reduce extra pressure if the water heater gets too hot. The pressure relief valve is on top of the unit for most of the water heaters; however, most systems include a tube connected to the valve to guide the water to the floor. When the T&P valve starts leaking, it may look as if the issue is at the bottom of the tank because the overflow tube abandons the released water beneath it. As the T&P valve is intended to allow water to be discharged from the tank, the first thing you need to do is to inspect the thermostat setting to ensure that it’s not turned up too high. If there’s no issue with the temperature, then you’ll probably require changing the pressure relief valve.
- Is the Drain Valve Leaking?
All hot water heaters come with a drain that’s close to the bottom of the unit so the tank can be fully vacated for performing routine clean-ups, or prior to removing the tank. A leaky drain valve can be detected by dripping water or moisture, either around the valve itself or out of the drain opening. Inspect to ensure that the bottom valve is completely stopped by turning the valve control clockwise. If this doesn’t resolve the problem, the valve may need to be changed. To change the valve, you’ll need to connect a normal water hose between the drain’s outlet and an outside location.
Next, switch OFF the water inlet for the tank that’s normally situated at the top of the water heater on the cold water line. Next, turn OFF the water inlet for the tank that’s usually located at the top of the water heater on the cold water line. Open the drain’s valve and allow the tank to be completely vacant.
At most hardware stores, replacement valves for hot water heaters are available, which can be changed only with a spanner/ wrench. Rotate the existing valve counter-clockwise to take it out. Cover the threads of the replacement drain valve with joint compound or plumber’s Teflon tape, and then screw the new valve into the opening until it’s hand-tight. Using a spanner, tighten the drain’s valve with a half turn, or until the drain is firmly in its place.
- Is Water Heater Experiencing Condensation?
Some of the water heaters’ tank may experience condensation, which is common on older water heaters; however, it can occur to newer tanks as well if the thermostat is set too high for safe operation or if the insulation has been damaged. With the gas or power turned OFF, let the tank sit idle for several hours. When the leak halts, know that the water heater is probably experiencing condensation. Switch OFF the thermostat and reinstate power to the unit. If the problem still remains, you may have to change the tank with a better-insulated variant. Besides, condensation can temporarily happen after installing a new water heater – that’s because the cold water filled up in the tank didn’t have a chance to heat up yet and the temperature difference between the tanks’ inside and the outer air often causes condensation.
- Is The Tank Itself Leaking?
Hot water heaters not cleaned out regularly can amass residue in the tank. Salt and other chemicals in the residue may lead to untimely oxidization or decay inside of a water heater and gradually develop pinhole leaks. Once a pinhole leak is opened up, the water pressure inside of the tank will push its way through the opening causing the leak to get bigger as the time progresses.
The best solution for resolving this problem is to change the tank with a new unit. A tank that’s leaking is an apparent indicator of a water heater that needs to be changed entirely. Even if you know how to change the water heater, it’s always recommended to call in a specialised plumber for a professional installation of a brand new hot water heater. Remember, it’s time to install a new water heater when your existing water heater tank is damaged in any way.
Our plumbers are experts in hot water systems. We can effectively diagnose the necessities of your household and present you with all the options so you can make an informed decision. We can make recommendations for all families and budgets, big or small. Next time you have a hot water system leak, book online or give us a call on 1300 859 383 and let us take the hassle out of it all!