Water heater that is leaking - Mr. Plumber by Metzler & Hallam

What Can Cause Water Heater Leaks?

Homeowners in Indianapolis, Indiana suffer from water heater leaks every now and again. The severity of these leaks depends on the place, but for those with little plumbing experience, it’s hard to determine the exact location or its cause. However, homeowners need to know this information to better aid their plumber during the repairs. Plumbers find every leak, but it saves time and helps prevent damage when the homeowner points them in the right direction.

Mr. Plumber shares important information about leaks to homeowners all over Indianapolis. We speak about the causes of leaks, where they happen, and how to prevent them. The difference between a minor leak and a major one determines if the homeowner needs an entirely new water heater, or if a repair fixes the problem. With the information below, homeowners are better able to understand that distinction.

Water Heater Leaks: The Causes

When the water heater leaks, homeowners want to know the cause. Because this device deals exclusively with water, there are many potential culprits. Smaller issues normally don’t require the assistance of a plumber, but proper diagnose from a professional ensures correct identification of the source. Because of this, it’s better to have a plumber inspect the water heater to handle the leak. 

Still, homeowners want to know why the heater leaks in the first place. These are the most common causes. 

  • Too much pressure. Pressure builds in water heaters because hot water creates steam. Steam fills all empty spaces, which puts stress on the tank. When this happens, water leaks from cracks, loose parts, and other vulnerable areas to relieve the pressure. High temperature settings or high pressure water entrance into the system both increase the pressure inside the tank. In general, the temperature in the tank doesn’t need to be any higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Old tank. Old water heaters naturally deteriorate as time progresses. Regular maintenance helps extend the life of the heater, but all water heaters reach the end of their life cycles eventually. Around 15 years, water heaters crack more easily, experience more problems, and leak more often. Additionally, rust forms after such a long lifespan, which causes the tank to corrode. If your water heater becomes this old, it’s time to invest in new one.  
  • Drain valve. Drain valves allow homeowners and plumbers to drain the water in the tank. Water heater leaks happen because of the drain valve when the component loosens in most cases. However, the valve itself has the potential to malfunction or break. In these cases, a new valve must replace the faulty one. Homeowners are able to perform this replacement, but it doesn’t hurt to have a plumber take a look as well. 
  • Internal tank. Water heaters with tanks often have two shells to the tank. The external tank contains insultation material and the internal one holds the water. If the internal tank cracks, water leaks through without any evidence on the outside. These leaks are not only hard to spot, but they also mean an entire replacement is in order.  
  • Faulty temperature and pressure relief valve. The temperature and pressure relief valve, or T&P valve, allows some pressure to escape from the tank. When the valve experience issues, the pressure builds in the tank and causes water heater leaks. The part either is faulty, or too loose when this type of leak occurs. Faulty valves require replacements. It’s important to lower the pressure of the tank before you try to replace the old valve. 
  • Anode rod. Anode rods are a sacrificial component of a water heater. These rods attract corrosive materials so the tank itself doesn’t experience the negative effects of corrosion. However, when this rod completely breaks down, leaks occur. To avoid this, quickly replace the anode rod when you notice it’s too broken down to protect against leaks.  
  • Cracked storage tank. Storage tanks are often used to extend the capacity of the water heater. Some of these tanks have a glass lining. The longer the tank is in use, the more minerals collect and calcify on the glass. This weakens it and leads to cracks. Additionally, hot water expands when warm, which puts excessive amounts of stress on the glass. Again, this causes cracks.  
  • Inlet and outlet connections. Inlet and outlet connections allow the water to travel through the heater. The inlet connection lets in cold water, and the outlet passes hot water along to the fixtures in your home. If either of these connections are loose, the water heater leaks.  
  • Sediment collection. Finally, sediment collects in water heaters naturally as they age. This sediment stays at the bottom of the tank. When the tank holds this sediment for long periods of time, the tank cracks under the weight. These cracks let out water. When the tank experiences regular cleanings, this issue is far less likely to occur. 

Water Heater Leaks: Location Matters

The location of leaks matter because the location helps determine the cause. If you have no knowledge of water heaters and how they work, it’s easier to work from the location of the leak than it is to inspect the entire system. The leak placement tells plumbers and homeowners about the leak itself. When the homeowner is able to point the plumber to the leak, the repairs go much faster.

  • Top leaks. Leaks from the top of the tank are normally because of the inlet and outlet connections. Tank cracks are also possible, but much rarer than connection problems. Loose T&P valves also produce water heater leaks near the top of the tank. Lastly, anode rod corrosion causes top of the tank leaks. All of these—besides tank cracks—are fixable via tightening or quick part replacements. 
  • Bottom leaks. Bottom of the tank leaks are often more sinister. In the best cases, water heater leaks from the bottom occur because of loose or faulty drain valves. For these issues, either replace the valve or tighten it. However, bottom leaks also indicate leaks from the tank itself. In this situation, a replacement water heater is the only option.
  • Leaks in the tank. Leaks inside of the tank aren’t viewable from the outside, so they require diagnosis from a plumber. You often notice pools of water under the tank with tank leaks, but it’s impossible to tell if the crack is at the bottom or the top of the tank. Deterioration due to age is the main cause of this issue. 
  • Undetermined location. Sometimes, homeowners are unable to locate the leak. When water heater leaks occur because of too much pressure, this is often the case. Water pressure leaks happen because the system needs to relieve the tank of pressure. Because of this, the leak has no clear path out of the system—it simply needs to get out. Unless you are present during the leak, you aren’t able to determine its exact placement. 
  • Condensation. Many homeowners worry when they see water accumulate on the sides of the water heater. However, this is likely condensation and doesn’t indicate water heater leaks of any kind. Condensation occurs when the temperature of the water and the room greatly differ. If the room the water heater resides in is cold, it’s likely condensation forms on the tank because of how hot the water is in there. 

Water Heater Leaks: Prevention

Diligent prevention keeps water heater leaks away for as long as possible. Homeowners have a hand in the protection of their water heaters, and it’s important to take the necessary steps to prevent leaks. Leaks cause water damage to the area around the water heater, the ground, and the walls. Plus, leaks left for large periods of time cause floods wherever the tank is stored. 

Preventative measures ensure water heater leaks significantly decrease. Here’s what homeowners are able to do for their water heaters.

  • Check the water heater frequently. Many don’t know the benefits regular checks offer to their water heaters. Simply knowing how your water heater normally looks aids in problem identification. If you know how the heater looks on a normal day, you are able to tell when there are leaks or other issues. Peer in on your water heater from time to time to see how it’s doing.
  • Preventative maintenance. Additionally, maintenance visits from a professional plumber decrease the chance of water heater leaks. With annual maintenance, water heaters increase their efficiency and experience fewer issues overall. This means leaks are less likely to occur. Plus, if the plumber does find a leak, they are able to attend to it. 
  • Tighten loose parts. Homeowners prevent water heater leaks by tightening loose components on the unit. Make sure the connections are tight, but not so tight you aren’t able to unscrew the part if you need to replace it later on. 
  • Respond quickly. When you do find a leak, respond as quickly as possible. Not only does this lessen the damages done by the water, it also ensures no further problems occur. For example, leaks due to increased pressure in the system potentially lead to explosions if the stress becomes too great. 
  • Drain and clean tank. Lastly, regularly clean the water out of the tank to remove sediment. Use the drain valve to empty the water. After, use a bleach-water solution to remove any mold or mildew. This prevents cracks due to sediment collection and improves your water quality.

Mr. Plumber Helps with Water Heater Leaks

Homeowners in Indianapolis, Indiana now know the most likely causes for water heater leaks. If you experience a leak, call Mr. Plumber! We repair leaks and replace water heaters if need be. 

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