Water heater leaks are an inevitable problem for most homeowners, especially with tank water heaters. Like any other appliance, water heaters eventually wear out and need to be replaced. Depending on the brand, use and maintenance, some may last as little as eight years. Other more durable, well-maintained tanks may last 8-12 years.
While there are some factors that are out of your control like water type, manufacturing errors and material quality, there are a steps that you can take to ensure you give your water heater the longest, leak-free life possible.
Prevent water heater leaks before they happen.
As we’ve illustrated, there’s no guaranteed way of preventing your water heater from leaking. As it ages, leaks will become more common as the parts and materials wear down. However, you can take action to make sure you catch minor issues before they turn into major ones:
- Drain and flush the tank. All water contains minerals. As your tank drains and refills, mineral sediment will start to accumulate, which affects the quality of your hot water and corrodes the bottom of the tank. We recommend draining and flushing sediment from the tank at least once a year.
- Inspect the anode rod. The anode rod attracts and collects the corrosive mineral sediment that’s present in your water. Eventually, the rod will fill up with sediment, and it won’t be able to remove any more corrosive minerals from your water supply. By inspecting the anode rod and replacing it when it’s completely corroded, you can limit the amount of sediment that settles at the bottom of your water tank.
- Check pipes and fittings. Make sure the pipes feel sturdy and the fittings are tight. You’d be surprised at how pipes can loosen over time.
- Identify corrosion and weak spots. Check the tank for any rust, corrosion or other weak spots. This is a warning sign that your water heater is close to failing.
You can make sure these things are done properly and safely by getting a professional water heater tune-up every year.
What causes water heater leaks?
In order to prevent future water heater leaks, you need to understand how leaks occur. Luckily, water heater leaks are pretty easy to spot and diagnose when you can locate the source.
If there’s water everywhere…
Is there water on the walls, ceiling, floor and just about everywhere you look? It might look like your water heater exploded and sprayed water all over the room.
Most likely, it’s not the water heater that’s to blame, but the connection or pipes coming to and from the water heater. Have you ever tried to use a garden hose without screwing on the nozzle all the way? Water sprays everywhere. This is the same concept, just on a larger, messier scale.
Over time, pipe fittings can wear down or loosen. As you continue to use the water heater, the water flowing through will put strain on the pipes, causing the fittings to loosen even further. In some cases, the fittings may have just come loose and need to be tightened. In others, they may need to be replaced completely.
If there’s a huge puddle under the water heater…
Is there a puddle forming at the bottom of your water heater? Is growing worse with every waking minute?
This is the most common sign that it’s time to replace your water heater. As your water heater ages, the corrosive properties of the minerals present in your water supply will wear down the lining inside of the tank. You may notice rust or condensation around the base of the water heater tank. That’a surefire way to know that it’s that tank that’s to blame for the mess.
If there’s water gushing from a valve…
Is there water settling more to one side than around the entire base? A loose drain plug might be the culprit. The drain plug is usually located towards the bottom of your water heater tank.
Like the materials that make up the pipes and water heater housing, the drain valve can wear down and fail as the water heater ages.
The pressure release valve can also be the source of a water heater leak. Usually, the pressure release valve is located towards the top of the tank. It looks like a long bent pipe angled towards the floor. There are two telltale signs that the pressure release valve is failing: your water heater is making a high-pitched squealing sound, or there’s water spraying out of the pressure release valve. Depending on the severity of the leak, you may be able to replace the valve, which is relatively inexpensive. In other cases, you may need to replace the whole water heater.
When is the last time you serviced your water heater?
If you can’t remember the last time you serviced your water heater, or if its been over a year, it’s time to give that hard-working appliance some attention.
Althoff Industries has been maintaining and repairing water heaters for over 60 years. With our expertise, you can be sure your water heater is running as efficiently as possible. Give us a call at (815) 455-7000 to schedule your maintenance and inspection today.