How to Spot and Handle a Leaking Water Heater

plumbing heaters

Checked your water heater lately for leakage?

Some people like to live on the edge and let things like that lapse. Here’s why that’s a bad idea. In most households, the water heater is the major appliance with the shortest average service life. Ten years is pushing it and, if you have hard water in your area, it could be as little as six years. In addition to gradually increasing your monthly water heating costs, another thing a water heater approaching the end of its life may do is leak.

Water heaters incorporate high temperatures and internal pressure up to 150 p.s.i. That’s a potent combination and a good reason why signs of leakage should never be disregarded.  Leakage often precedes a total tank rupture that can flood your home, causing extensive water damage. Flooding doesn’t stop when the tank empties. The heater is directly connected to the main water supply line so inundation continues until the tank water valve is shut off. If water heater leakage ever leads to tank rupture, you better hope you’re home and awake when it happens.

Water heaters usually manifest two types of leakage. While one is not a Code Red emergency, the other may be.

  • Dribbling relief valve. The temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR) typically located on the top or side of the water heater tank automatically opens if tank heat or pressure exceeds specs. For reasons such as internal wear or accumulation of mineral deposits, an aging TPR valve may dribble water intermittently. Usually, this water is conveyed down a tube and ends up puddling on the floor or flowing down a drain. The TPR is a replaceable component. A qualified plumber can easily diagnose a leaky TPR and install a new valve without replacing the entire heater.
  • Tank leakage. Water leaking from the tank usually indicates severe internal corrosion that could trigger a tank rupture at any time. Leakage occurs from the lower portion of the tank and may pool anywhere beside or underneath the tank. Tank leakage may also drip down onto the hot burner and cause a sizzling sound as it evaporates without obvious puddles. No amount of tank leakage is “normal” or safe to ignore. If you notice leakage, turn off the water heater at the main control valve, then shut off the cold water inlet valve located on top of the heater, too. Call a plumber immediately.

North County Plumbing is located in Oceanside, California and has been in the service business since 1970 providing quality plumbing services including leak detection and drain service in northern San Diego County. Our qualified technicians are available 24 hours a day to help with emergency plumbing repair services…with no overtime charges!

If you found this blog helpful, you may want to check out our post “Why it’s Best to Have Appliances Professionally Installed

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