Are you looking for help with projects around the house? Our blog offers helpful tips and DIY videos, or schedule a service appointment today. John C. Flood, Inc. cannot be held liable or responsible for any personal or property damages incurred if the end-user attempts any of the aforementioned DIY tips and instructions.

Is A Leaking Water Heater Dangerous?

Leaking water heater

A small leak in your water heater will likely not cause problem, but it could be indicative of a more serious problem that is dangerous if left unattended. 

A danger of a leaking water heater is that the water can flood the room where it's stored and cause thousands of dollars in damage to your floor. 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.

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 dangerously high,your tank should automatically shut off or else release the excess pressure through a safety valve. However, if these safety measures fail, it may start leaking.

When the pressure becomes too intense after an extended period of time, the tank can burst. If this happens, there may be thousands of dollars in damage, not to mention potential injury for anyone in close proximity. 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.

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 buildup 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 recommended 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 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 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 actually 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

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 dangerous damages and expensive repairs.

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