Leaky Hot Water Heater: Where Do You Start?

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Leaky water heater giving you concerns?

Start by turning off the cold water supply immediately as well as the power source.

Attach a hose to the drain valve at the bottom of the water heater and drain all the water from the unit.

You’ve now solved the immediate issue of a leaky hot water heater. Now what?

The problem could be stemming from one of three sources:

1) Faulty temperature/pressure relief valve or expansion tank (or lack of expansion tank.)
This valve should be tested at least once a year to make sure its working. You can do this yourself, but be very careful of the scalding water that will overflow when the valve is released.

2) Leak from attached plumbing, possibly due to old expansion tank.
Pipes can burst for a variety of reasons, causing a leaky hot water heater. One of the reasons for bursting pipes may be the lack of or failure of an expansion tank.

3) Leaking water tank.
To guard against corrosion of the tank itself, there are a few items that are generally already put in place that may have failed. One is the sacrificial anode rod. Corrosion could attack these rods instead of the tank itself. In some cases, the anode rods may become completely corroded and therefore the water attacks the tank instead.

In another case, the anode rod may break off inside the tank, denting the interior protective lining, allowing corrosion to become more imminent.

As with any plumbing issue, leaks should be treated as soon as possible due to the ability of mold to form quickly. If you cannot quickly resolve the leak, it is recommended that you call a professional plumber.