A water heater leak may seem like just a minor issue, but it can quickly turn into a big problem. A water heater has an expected life span of 10-12 years. In Arizona with our hard water, this time frame can be less. Even a small amount of water will cause damage to your floors, sub-floors and walls. Keep in mind that water heater leaking may be a symptom of a much larger problem. In extreme cases, a catastrophic and complete water heater failure can cause a significant flood that could lead to hefty repair bills and damaged personal property.
Water heater leaking can also be a health concern. Damp and wet areas can sprout mold and mildew that can cause allergic reactions and asthma in some individuals. According to the EPA, some mold spores are toxic and can lead to serious health problems.
Here are a few steps you can take to minimize the amount of damage before a professional arrives at your house.
1. DETERMINE THE SOURCE OF THE LEAK
Not every small puddle of water found at the base of a water heater is necessarily due to a leak. A water heater and the pipes around it, plus the other appliances typically found nearby, can form condensation, which can accumulate and drip to the floor; especially in a basement or during damp weather.
Furnace drain lines, water softener discharge lines and other plumbing can also be the cause of the leak. If a small amount of water is noticed under or near a water heater for the first time, wipe it up and try to determine its source through simple observation. Closely inspect the water heater and its plumbing fittings for obvious signs of water leakage. If none are found, inspect other nearby possible sources. Water faithfully obeys the laws of gravity, so pay particular attention to anything directly overhead, especially water pipes.
If still nothing is found, lay down some paper towels over the area that was damp and come back to check on it every few hours. If, after a day or so, the problem does not re-appear, it’s likely nothing to be concerned about. If, however, water does show up again and no other source for it can be readily identified, the water heater leaking is the likely cause, and the inspection steps that follow should be carried out
2. CALL ONE STOP PLUMBING SERVICES RESTORATION
One Stop is available 24 Hours a Day, 7 Days a week. We service the Phoenix Valley, including Mesa, Queen Creek, Tempe and Scottsdale. This first step is important as you want to have a professional on site as soon as possible to minimize the amount of damage a water leak will cause.
3. TURN OFF THE POWER TO YOUR WATER HEATER
Once you determine that your water heater is leaking, the first thing you should do is turn off the power supply.
If you have an electric water heater simply locate your circuit breaker box and switch off the breaker for your water heater. Water and electricity can be a dangerous combination, so it’s important you do this before going forward.
If you have a natural gas water heater, it should have an on/off switch or dial. Make sure it is set to “off”. Avoid closing the gas shut-off valve if possible. These valves can be finicky and susceptible to failure over time, so it is best that they be left alone.
4. TURN OFF THE WATER SUPPLY
WARNING: Water heaters are typically factory-set to heat water to 125° F, which is hot enough to inflict first degree burns on skin on contact. When turned all the way up to maximum temperature (which can be anywhere from 160ºF to 190º F) serious injuries can result from even indirect contact with the water. Always take precautions to avoid coming into contact with heated water.
If the water heater leaking is significant and obvious, turn off the water supply at the cold water shut-off valve.
Most water heaters will a valve located above the water heater (by code they are required to be here) that will shut off the water supply. This valve will either have a handle that you have to pull down, or a gate valve (essentially a dial) that you will have to turn clockwise to close. Before closing the valve, make sure you can get to it safely without coming in contact with any water. If you have a large, serious leak and cannot reach the water shut-off valve safely then you should find the main shut-off valve for the house and close it to stop the water supply to your water heater. Shutting the water off should slow and may even stop the leak depending on where it is coming from.
A water heater leaking can be a serious problem, so take action quickly. Depending on the type of leak you have, you will either have to repair your water heater, or replace it. In both cases, it is highly recommended that you call a professional to deal with the problem. Improper repairs or removal of a water heater can cause larger leaks and even floods which could lead to much more serious problems. A professional will be able to take care of any issue your water heater has.