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The Home Depot

How to Fix a Leaking Water Heater

Pro Referral > Home Guides > Handyman > How to Fix a Leaking Water Heater
How to Fix a Leaking Water Heater

A leaking water heater is more than just a minor irritation that can be ignored for some time. Since a water heater is frequently placed in the basement or a closet that is not commonly used, even a small leak can cause extensive damage to the floor, sub-floor, and walls of the home before it is spotted. Leaking water heaters can also cause flooding of the basement. Even a small puddle of water that is not attended to can lead to mold or mildew formation or cause walls to rot.


Mold can cause allergic reactions and asthma in those who are susceptible to them. In fact, according to the EPA some mold spores are toxic and can lead to serious health problems. The EPA advises that all water leaks should be treated immediately to reduce the formation of mold in homes.

  1. 1.Safety Precautions

    When you spot water around your water heater and want to fix the leak, you need to keep in mind that electricity and water is a potentially dangerous combination. To ensure your personal safety, turn off the power to the water heater by switching off the circuit breaker or fuse before you start work. To prevent a major flooding of your home, you also need to shut off the water supply before carrying out the repairs.

  2. 2.Water Heater Leaking Scenarios

    A leak in the water heater is typically caused by:


    1. A fault in the temperature and pressure relief valve

    Place a container or bucket under the overflow pipe and then open the T&P valve. Flush it to clean it of debris. If water continues to leak from this spot even after this, you need to replace the valve.


    To replace the T&P relief valve check if it has been screwed on. It can then be unscrewed with a wrench and replaced. If the valve is soldered, you have to cut it off taking care to ensure that there is enough pipe left over to fix the new valve. It is important to remember that this valve has been placed on the water heater for your safety. Simply plugging the valve to prevent the leak will ensure that all the warranties on your water heater are nullified. More importantly, it can convert your water heater into a dangerous appliance with the potential to explode.


    2. Excessive pressure or over heating of the T&P relief valve

    Sometimes excessive pressure on the T&P relief valve will keep it open almost continuously, leading to water leakage. Just reduce the temperature of the water by reducing the thermostat setting. Lower heat of water will mean that the T&P valve does not have to open to relieve pressure, thus fixing the leakage.


    3. Leaks in the plumbing connection – the inlet and outlet pipes

    Check the places where the inlet and outlet pipes join the water heater. The flex lines at the inlet or the drain valves at the outlet might be loosely joined, leading to water leaks from these points. You can either tighten or replace them as needed using an adjustable wrench. However, care needs to be taken to ensure that you do not over tighten the connections.


    4. Heating element leak

    When the heating element is the cause of the leak from your water heater, you need to replace it.


    5. Leak from the storage tank – possibly because of corrosion

    The final item to check if you notice there is leak from your water heater is the tank itself. Examine the outside and the inside of the tank for small holes or signs of rust. If you spot even a single hole in the tank, you need to replace your water heater.

  3. 3.Inspect Before Replacing

    Since a water heater costs a large sum, you should inspect the leaking water heater and carry out minor repairs before replacing it. Not only will this save you significant money, but it will prevent a number of issues from arising down the road.

  4. 4.Empty the Water Heater

    After locating the source of the leak, empty the water heater tank by opening the hot water tap and collecting all the water in a bucket or other suitable container. This will ensure that you are not accidentally scalded by hot water when trying to fix your leaking water heater.

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