3 Common Causes of Water Heater Leaks

Written by Tom Elliott. Posted in Rakeman Blog

Of all the appliances in your home, few experience quite as much use as the water heater. Not only must the water heater provide your plumbing fixtures with hot water, but it also supplies a range of secondary appliances such as washing machines and dishwashers. This heavy workload means that, as time goes on, a water heater may develop problematic leaks.

A leaking water heater puts your family at serious risk of injury while also increasing the chances that your home will suffer water damage. If you would like to increase your knowledge of water heater leaks, keep reading. This article takes a closer look at three common causes of a leaky water heater.

  1. Drain Valve Problems

All water tanks contain drain valves, which allow plumbers to drain the tank periodically, whether to flush out problematic sediment or to prepare a tank for a prolonged period of disuse. Unfortunately, despite their central importance, drain valves are a common source of leaks. Drain valve leaks may occur as the result of three different issues.

First and most simply, the drain valve may have simply come loose. Water heaters often produce vibrations when the heating element comes on, and over time these vibrations can cause a drain valve to work loose. Screwing the valve clockwise with a pair of pliers should resolve the issue.

In other cases, the leak may stem from simple degradation of the valve. In that case, an experienced plumber will need to install a drain valve.

Finally, a drain valve may experience leaks as the result of sediment caught inside of the valve body. Such sediment keeps the valve from closing all the way. This problem usually happens after a tank has been drained. Flushing the tank again often resolves the issue.

  1. Excessive Pressure

Water heaters contain a second drain valve known as the temperature and pressure relief valve, or T&P valve for short. This valve, which sits near the top of the tank, regulates internal pressure. More specifically, the T&P valve provides an emergency failsafe in the event that tank pressure rises too high.

Elevated pressure levels usually stem from excessively hot water. As the temperature of water rises, so does its pressure. If the pressure grows great enough, it can cause serious structural problems for a tank. Without some means of relief, too much pressure could even cause a water tank to explode.

As pressure gets to such dangerous levels, the T&P valve automatically opens up, allowing water to drain out until the pressure goes back down to safe levels. A chronic T&P valve leak means that you may have your temperature setting too high. In other cases, a T&P valve may leak as the result of simple old age, no longer being able to hold back the water in the tank. In that case, have a new valve installed.

  1. Tank Corrosion

Corrosion remains an ever-present danger for a water heater. To keep corrosion at bay, all water heaters contain a component known as the anode rod, which protects the tank by sacrificing itself to corrosive forces. Eventually an anode rod gets completely destroyed, at which point corrosion begins attacking your tank again.

Water heater leaks may indicate that your tank has succumbed to a dangerous degree of corrosion. Such leaks most commonly form at the base of the tank. Unfortunately, this problem cannot be repaired. Instead, to prevent outright catastrophe, you must have a new water heater installed.

Water heater leaks can cause serious damage to a home. For more information about how to ensure that your water heater never forms a leak, please contact the plumbing pros at Rakeman Plumbing and Air.

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