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Is A Leaking Water Heater Dangerous?

Leaking water heater

While a small leak in your water heater will likely not cause a problem, wondering if a leaking water heater is dangerous is not a misplaced concern. A leak in your water heater could be indicative of a more serious problem that could have several negative consequences if left unattended. 

In this article, we answer the question, “Is a leaking hot water heater dangerous” so keep reading to learn about the dangers of leaking water heaters and how to make them safer for your home and family. 

Can a Leaking Hot Water Heater be Dangerous?

Leaking Water Heater

So, is a leaking hot water heater dangerous? The simple answer is: Yes, a leaking hot water heater is dangerous.

Hot water heaters in general have their own unique set of risks.

Though rare, it is also possible for a water heater to explode if the pressure builds up, especially if the pressure relief valve is broken or faulty. But why is a water heater leaking dangerous?

Knowing the reasons a water heater leaking is dangerous can help you prevent catastrophic structural damage to your property.

With early leak detection and regular preventative maintenance, there is less chance that your water heater will malfunction, need to be replaced, or cause serious damage.

However, if a leaking water heater is left untreated, potential flooding damages can reach tens of thousands of dollars in personal property and structural damage.

Here are a few reasons why a leaking water heater is dangerous

Flooding

One of the biggest reasons a leaking water heater is dangerous is that the water can flood the room where your water heater is stored. This can cause thousands of dollars worth of damage to your floor.  

Scalding Risk

Water heaters are usually good at one thing in particular: Heating water. If you have a leaking water heater, the heater will do its job a bit too well and make the water scalding hot. Always be careful when dealing with leaks in your water heater to avoid getting burned.

Gas Leak or Fire Hazard

If your water heater is leaking, that means something isn’t working properly which could mean there is a gas leak and your water heater presents a fire hazard. If you think this may be the possible reason behind your water heater leak, make an emergency call to your HVAC company.

Causes And Solutions Of A Leaking Water Heater 

There are two main reasons why you might notice your water heater leaking:

1.  A Misused Temperature & Pressure (T&P) Valve 

When water is heated up inside a tank, pressure builds. If the temperature gets too high, your tank should automatically shut off or else release the excess pressure through a safety valve. However, if these safety measures fail, this can make your leaking hot water heater dangerous as it may start leaking.

When the pressure becomes too intense after an extended period, the tank can burst. If this happens, there may be thousands of dollars in damage, not to mention potential injury for anyone nearby. An explosion also has the potential to ignite a fire.

Solution: Keep your water heater’s temperature set between 120-130°F so it doesn’t get too hot. If your T&P valve is malfunctioning, replace it. The good news is that they are relatively inexpensive to purchase.

2.  Sediment Buildup

Water heaters are made of steel, which is mostly just iron. This means as it ages, the iron will corrode and turn to rust.

Your water heater has an anode rod, which protects the tank from corrosive elements in water, like salt and rust. However, the lifespan of an anode rod is only five years, after which it needs to be replaced.

Water Heater in Home

If your anode rod is deteriorating or nearing the end of its lifespan, your water heater tank may not be filtering the sediment. This means the sediment could build up at the bottom of the tank, causing insulation or corrosion and creating pinhole leaks. You will know your anode rod is the issue if your tap water is brown or rusty-looking.

Solution: Replace your anode rod. Check its condition every one to two years to see if it needs to be replaced. You should also drain your tank annually to avoid any sediment buildup.

What To Do If Your Water Heater Is Leaking 

No matter the cause, if you notice a leak we highly recommend the first thing you do is turn off the power supply to your water heater. You can do this by going to your home’s circuit breaker box and switching the breaker to “off.”

We also recommend shutting off your water supply via the cold water valve on your water heater. Mixing water and electricity is extremely dangerous and should be avoided at all costs.

Water Heater Leaking From the Top

A leak from the top of your water heater is (relatively) good news, as it’s usually easier to fix compared to a bottom leak. Your water heater leaking from the top could mean a few things, including:

  • It could be the pipes above the water heater. Check all plumbing above the heater to make sure it is dry.
  • The T&P valve may be leaking, requiring a simple tightening if the seal is loose, or a replacement.
  • The cold water inlet valve may be leaking, requiring a tightening or replacement.

Water Heater Leaking From the Bottom 

Leaking Water Heater from the Bottom

If your water heater is leaking from the bottom, it could potentially be due to:

  • The drain valve if you recently drained your tank and failed to close it back up completely. The valve should be turned as far clockwise as it can go.
  • Condensation build-up (in rare cases).
  • The tank inside the water heater deteriorating due to sediment buildup and premature corrosion. This is usually the case with bigger leaks.
  • The leak could be coming from the top but has run down through the body of the heater and released at the bottom.

Don’t Leave The Leaks For Later 

Don’t waste time wondering, “Is a leaking hot water heater dangerous?” A leak will not magically fix itself. If you do not feel comfortable handling it, do not wait around for it to get worse.

Make an appointment with the experienced professionals at John C. Flood to find and fix the source of your leak, so you can avoid damages and expensive repairs.

Even if it doesn’t leak currently, we still recommend getting your water heater inspected annually as a preventative measure. Schedule service today to keep you and your home safe!