How to Repair a Leaking Water Heater

How to Repair a Leaking Water Heater
June 7, 2012 Lorelie

One of the most common problems in both gas and electrical water heater systems is leaking.  This is the main reason why you must consider a particular designated room when installing your gas or electric-powered water heater.

In order to fully understand everything there is about your water heater when it is leaking, you should know the things that can cause your water heater unit to leak, why it leaks, how to prevent it from leaking, and how to perform DIY repairs.

Clues on How to Determine if Your Water Heater Unit is Leaking

The very first sign that you have a leaking water heater is that there is a puddle of water present around the unit.

Heating units must not be installed in any location wherein the leaky water heater may result in property damage.  One of the simplest and easiest solutions may be the installation of the drain pan, shut off device and the water leak detector.  The sensors are used to trigger the alarm or to turn off the incoming cold water in cases when a leaking problem is detected.

Condensation can also be considered as a leaking problem due to the fact that the amount of water and suddenness when it happens.  It normally disappears when the water heater unit becomes warmer.  The excessive condensation normally occurs during the colder months, particularly during winter and early spring.

Take note that you can typically find where a gas water heater leaks by looking into the combustion chamber with the use of a flashlight and then pointing it into different areas of the jacket.

Water Heater Leaking – Leakage Points

  • In gas-powered water heater units, when hard water is heated (and also because of its hardness), the minerals are separated and then tend to attach to the hot surface.  During the heating process, these surfaces become much hotter, which in turn affects the metal tank.  To prevent this, make it a point to regularly flush the tank at least twice a year or you could also opt to install a water softener.
  • In electric-powered water heater units, when hard water is heated (and also because of its hardness), sediments will tend to form, which in turn will cause the heating elements to become very hot and break, resulting to water heater leaking.  To prevent this, make it a point to conduct regular maintenance, install a water softener, or install heating elements that are resistant to failure which can be caused by lime buildup.
  • There is also a significant amount of vapor in flue gases and the vapor typically condenses on the vent pipe and draft hood on the top of the water heater tank.  When the products of combustion cool, the moisture then becomes liquid, which is then known as carbonic acid that attacks the metal.  In order to solve this problem, you can try installing a water heater that is properly sized so that there is no quick drop in the temperature whenever it is used.  Another simple solution to this problem is to install a mixing valve in order to minimize the cold water impact.
  • Plumbing pipes are also prone to condensation, so it is wise to insulate them as well.
  • If you discover and verify that the plumbing is the source of the leaking problem, locate the leak and fix it.
  • The anode fitting rod may also cause a water heater unit to leak.  The metal anode rode is usually responsible for preventing internal corrosion inside the water heater unit.  Whenever it is used (and also because of the water action), the sacrificing rod tends to dissolve at a slow rate.
  • Due to high pressure or thermal expansion in the plumbing, it may cause the temperature pressure relief (TPR) valve to open or to leak.  Excessive pressure occurring in the water heater tank causes failure of joints, gaskets and welds.  It will be helpful if you add an expansion tank which can limit the pressure to reaching a near incoming pressure.  The TPR valve also limits pressure to the factory set max.
  • The temperature pressure relief (TPR) valve fitting may be the one that causes the water heater unit to leak.  If this is the case, you can either replace or reseal it.
  • If the drain valve is slightly open, tighten the drain valve.
  • Water normally expands when heated as it is considered to be a non-compressible type of liquid.  For each 10°F increase in the water temperature, the water expands at about 0.2%.  As the temperature continues to increase, the maximum designed water pressure can possible exceed and therefore can cause the water heater unit to bulge and leak.
  • The water may be too hot.  When stored at 160°F (72°C), it is twice as corrosive as when it is at 140°F (60°C).
  • During the start-up, condensation normally occurs.  Keep in mind that about one half of gallon of condensate during every hour of operation is considered to be absolutely normal for a residential water heater unit.  It takes about 1 to 2 hours for the water heater tank to warm up, so the condensation should disappear at that period of time.
  • There may be improperly sealed connections, drain valve, temperature pressure relief (TPR) valve, relief valve and the thermostat connection.  Ensure that these are properly sealed.
  • Contaminated air and chemical vapors from various household cleaners may come in contact with a burning flame or electric source, which in turn can create various acids that can attack the metal tank and cause it to corrode.  A simple solution to this is to provide a cleaner, chemical-free room or to buy a direct vent heater that utilizes air from the outside environment.

Take note that you may also tend to have leakage problems originating from other appliances or the plumbing line.  Do not replace the water heater unit unless you did a full inspection of all the possible problems that might cause it and took corrective action such as tightening treaded connections, replacing broken parts, and other corrective measures as mentioned above.

Comments (3)

  1. It is really a nice and helpful piece of information. I’m satisfied that you just shared this useful
    information with us. Please stay us informed like this.

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. It’s an amazing post for all the online viewers; they will get advantage from it I
    am sure.

  3. Johnny Shi 3 years ago

    I have heard that flushing you water heater could help prevent sediment build up. You mentioned it could be preformed periodically. How often would you recommend flushing your water heater?

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