Water heater leaking

Is Your Water Heater Leaking? Here's What You Need to Know

Tennessee Standard
March 4, 2022

The last thing any homeowner wants is to walk into their utility room and see a puddle of water around their water heater. If this happens to you, there will probably be a million thoughts racing through your head as you try to figure out the next step. If you have a leaky water heater, this should answer all your questions and steer you in the right direction to solve your problem.

Is It the Heater or the Connections?

In some cases, you may get lucky, and it is just a leaking pipe or a connection that is causing the leak. Start by checking all the connections and pipes first to ensure that it is not just a small part that needs to be replaced. However, a leaky connection or broken hose could indicate another problem, like excessively high water pressure, leading to more extensive water heater problems over time. 

Why Is My Water Heater Leaking?

If you learn that the water heater itself is indeed leaking, it’s important to identify the cause. Of course, there are many reasons why a water heater could be leaking, but there are a few common culprits which should always be the first place to look. 

High Water Pressure

High water pressure can damage components on the outside and inside of the tank. For example, a valve on the top of water heaters called the T & P relief valve (temperature and pressure) is supposed to regulate the water going into the water heater and release pressure when it gets too high. However, high pressure can damage the valve, resulting in a constant drip. 

Side Note: If high pressure is triggering the relief valve on your water heater, it may be time to replace your home’s pressure reducing valve.

Poor Water Quality

Another major cause of a leaking water heater is excessive hardness in your water. When the calcium and minerals from hard water build up on the inside of the tank, they will cause corrosion that can eat through the bottom of the tank. Even if no excessive corrosion eats through the tank, the minerals and calcification can build up and threaten the tank's structural integrity. Over time, that build-up will take up space in the tank, and even if it doesn't create a leak, it will limit the amount of hot water the tank can hold, which leaves you running out of hot water quickly.

Age

The average age of a water heater is between 9-12 years. We’ve seen some older heaters last as long as 20 years, but they don’t make them like they used to, and many heaters fail 7 or 8 years into their lifespan. Protecting the water heater from high pressure and poor water quality, along with regular water heater maintenance, will give you the most years of successful operation.

Can My Water Heater Leak Be Repaired?

The only cases where a water heater leak can be repaired is if the leak is coming from a pipe, connection, or an individual component. However, if the tank itself has been damaged, there is no way to patch it up, and you will need to replace it. When in doubt, have a licensed plumber take a look; you may end up saving money by not having to replace your entire unit. 

Is it Time to Replace My Water Heater?

Suppose your water heater is older, or you notice it isn't working as efficiently as it once did. In that case, you are probably questioning if now is the time to replace it. What's worse is seeing that puddle and thinking that you are about to be in for a hefty bill. Don't jump to conclusions; the best thing you can do is call an experienced, honest plumber who will diagnose the issue and tell you whether it is a simple fix or if you will need a new water heater. Someone with experience will be able to tell you, based on the age and condition of your water heater, if a repair would be worth the time and money.

Even if you don't notice anything outwardly wrong with your water heater, it may still be time to consider a new one. For example, if you notice that you don't have as much hot water as you once did, build-up in the tank could prevent you from enjoying the full potential of your water heater. A new water heater will eliminate all that build-up and give you the number of gallons you paid for. A new water heater will also reduce the environmental impact of your house as these appliances are continually becoming more efficient. In addition, energy efficient water heaters consume much less power, so a newer water heater will have a positive effect on your utility bills.

What Happens if I Don't Replace My Leaking Water Heater?

The short answer is that you don't want to find out too late. If it remains a small leak, the best-case scenario is that you quickly run out of hot water. The worst-case scenario is 50 gallons of water pouring all over the room it's in and any room underneath it. This could potentially cause massive water damage and come in contact with electrical components.  

How Do I Turn Off My Water Heater?

If you are experiencing a water heater emergency, the first step is to shut it off. The steps to do this depends on the type of water heater you have. 

Electric

Electric water heaters are usually wired to electric panels in the house, so you'll need to shut the power to the water heater from the fuse box. In some cases, the power to an electric water heater will be connected to a box on the wall; in that case, all you have to do is flip the switch off. 

Gas

Gas heaters are relatively simple to turn off as well. On the bottom of a gas water heater, there should be a dial that says Pilot, or A, B, and C; turn this dial off. If there is not an off or you cannot find the dial, find the gas valve that feeds the water heater and turn off that valve. That's how to turn off your water heater!

Should You Do It Yourself?

Many people believe that replacing the water heater DIY-style will save them a lot of money. However, it is unlikely that you will save much, and many other factors may not make those savings worth it. 

  1. First of all, professionals typically have access to higher grade heaters than you can find at your local home improvement store. Also, since they can order them in bulk, your dollar will most likely go further on the unit they supply.
  2. A pro will also have more experience to deliver precision installation, a DIYer may not see any leaks at first, but their job may not hold up as long as a professional's would. If anything does go wrong with a newly installed water heater, Tennessee Standard will deal with the warranty instead of you having to take time out of your day to call the manufacturer and wait on a replacement. 

Get an Inspection

If your water heater stops working, it's time to call Tennessee Standard. We are able to get onsite quickly and offer multiple custom-tailored repair or replacement options for electric and gas water heaters, and we also provide upgrade options for tankless water heaters. Our knowledgeable professionals will inspect and diagnose any issues and provide you with the best plan to move forward! 

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