What to do when your hot water heater is leaking

It’s a chilly morning, and you’re looking forward to a warm shower. But as you head to the basement, you notice a puddle around your hot water heater. Panic sets in. Is it broken? Do you need a new one? Before you jump to conclusions, let’s walk through the steps to address a leaking hot water heater.

AI representation of a cartoon water heater leaking in Brooklyn

Turn Off the Power

Safety first! If you have an electric water heater, turn off the power at your circuit breaker. If you have a gas water heater, turn the gas switch to the “off” position.


Turn Off the Water Supply

There should be a dedicated shutoff valve on the cold inlet pipe. Turn this valve off to stop water from flowing into the water heater.


Identify the Source of the Leak

  • Top of the Heater: If it’s leaking from the top, it might be due to loose connections or a faulty pressure relief valve.

  • Bottom of the Heater: If it’s leaking from the bottom, it could be due to normal condensation, a leaking drain valve, or the tank itself might be leaking, which is more serious.


Address the Specific Problem

  • Loose Connections: Tighten any loose pipe connections with a wrench. But be careful not to overtighten!

  • Faulty Pressure Relief Valve: If your pressure relief valve is leaking, it might be due to excessive pressure or overheating. You can try lowering the temperature on the thermostat. If it continues to leak, the valve might need replacement.

  • Leaking Drain Valve: Ensure the valve is completely closed. If it’s still leaking, you might need to replace the valve.

  • Leaking Tank: If the tank itself is leaking, it’s usually a sign that the inner tank has corroded due to age. In this case, you’ll likely need a new water heater.


Clean Up the Water

Use towels or a mop to clean up the water. This will help prevent any potential water damage or mold growth.


Call a Professional

If you’re unsure about the source of the leak or how to fix it, it’s always best to call in a professional plumber. They can provide expert advice and ensure the issue is properly addressed. 


Consider a Replacement

If your water heater is old and has seen better days, it might be more cost-effective to replace it rather than repair it. Modern water heaters are more energy-efficient and can save you money in the long run.


Conclusion: Don’t Let a Leak Leave You Cold

A leaking hot water heater can be a cause for concern, but with the right steps, it doesn’t have to be a disaster. By identifying the source of the leak and addressing it promptly, you can ensure that you’re back to enjoying hot showers in no time. And remember, when in doubt, it’s always a good idea to consult with a plumbing professional.

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