If you have a tank-style water heater, you may not think about it very often. However, ignoring your water heater can lead to expensive bills down the road.

Learn the biggest problems that water heaters can have and how to solve them — and make sure to keep your water heater in mind when you schedule your important home maintenance tasks.

1. Small Leaks Can Cause Big Problems

When it comes to flooding, leaks, and other water damage in the home, the water heater is one of the five most common causes.

A tank-style water heater holds a lot of water at once, if it begins to leak, the results can be messy at best and damaging to your home at worst.

If water leaks go undetected for a long period of time, the damage to your home may be significant.

Depending on the location of your water heater, a small leak can cause the following problems:

  • Damaged carpet, furniture, and belongings
  • Mold and mildew growth
  • Rotted floor joists
  • Rotted wall framing

To avoid finding hidden water damage in your home, have your water heater inspected once or twice a year.

If your water heater is located on an upper floor of your home, be sure you have a drip pan with a drain or a water alarm in it.

If you have a closed-loop water system, one that has a backflow preventer and/or checks valve in it — be sure that your water heater is outfitted with an expansion tank.

2. Water Heaters Can Corrode

Freshwater can carry a lot of oxygen, as well as a host of minerals, as it enters your water heater. Consequently, even the best water heaters are prone to corrosion.

For this reason, modern water heaters include a sacrificial rod, called an anode rod. It rests in your water heater tank and is a few inches shorter than your water heater’s internal height.

The anode rod is made of magnesium or aluminum, so it undergoes the same corrosion as steel.

The anode works by attractive corrosive elements in the water to it, instead of letting those elements corrode the water heater itself.

Experts recommend that you have your anode rod checked every two years. If you use a water-softening appliance or product, have the anode rod examined annually.

During an inspection, your plumber will check the anode rod to see how much it’s been eaten by corrosion.

If the rod needs replacement, your plumber simply screws a fresh anode rod into place.

If you replace the anode rod frequently enough, your water heater won’t become corroded and will last longer.

3. Drainage Problems?

All water tanks contain drain valves, which allow plumbers to drain the tank periodically, whether to flush out a 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 a 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.

4. 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 the 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 set 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.

Water heater leaks and other issues can cause serious damage to a home.

For more information about repairing your water heater, please contact the plumbing pros at Rakeman Plumbing and Air.