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How to Deal With a Water Heater Leak

Published by 911 Restoration Chicago on April 11, 2014 in category: Water Damage Restoration

For those who enjoy hot showers (and really, who doesn’t?), the water heater is one of the most important plumbing components. Although most water heaters are durable enough to last at least 10 to 15 years, knowing how to spot the telltale signs of a leak may help you recognize potential problems early enough to avoid a major disruption to your hard-earned comfort.

Detecting a Leak

The process of determining whether a leak is present may vary depending on the type of water heater you have. When inspecting electric heaters, the lower and upper covers should be removed. If water is observed after removing the covers, a leak is probably the culprit. Another place to inspect is the base of the unit. If water comes while pressing your hand against the seam where the metal bottom and side meet, the bottom portion of the unit is likely filled with water that has leaked from the tank. Checking a gas unit is easier. Simply remove the burner access cover, and look for standing water.

What to Do Next

If you suspect your water heater unit may be leaking, it is very important that you switch off your unit’s power prior to proceeding. To turn off power to an electrical unit, you will need to locate the switch for the water heater on your home’s circuit breaker panel. Gas units typically have an on/off switch. However, you should avoid closing the shut-off valve if possible as these tend to have a relatively high failure rate when used often.

Determining the Source of the Leak

Diagnosing the source of the leak before can be helpful and get you one step closer to a full recovery. There are many possible origins for a water tank leak. In some instances, the cold inlet and hot water outlet connections may become loose. If this is the cause of your water tank leak, a simple tightening with a wrench is all that is needed and is a very easy DIY project. A leak may occur in the temperature and pressure relief valve or in the pipe that connects to the valve. If water is coming from the valve itself, then the valve is likely defective and must be replaced. Alternatively, if water is leaking from the pipe, the cause may be excessive pressure inside the tank. Both scenarios warrant a phone call to a professional. A less serious leak may occur in the heater drain valve. This valve should be inspected to ensure it closes completely and that the point at which the valve connects to the water tank is water tight. Your water tank itself may have a leak that may only be evident when examining the bottom of the tank. Water tanks often leak due to age. If your tank is older and has begun to leave from its base, you may be required to replace the unit.

Water tank leaks may have many different causes. Fortunately, the average homeowner can investigate a possible leak to determine its source prior to calling a professional water damage and restoration company. Before attempting to examine or fix any part of a water heater, the unit’s power source and water supply should be turned off to prevent injury or further damage.

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