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How To Tell If Your Hot Water Unit Is Leaking

How To Tell If Your Hot Water Unit Is Leaking

Any appliance leaking or making unusual noises is never a good sign.

This could mean that the particular appliance is broken or leaking. The same goes for water heaters as well. Since it is a water heater, it can be difficult to tell the difference between rushing sounds of water or the water leaking on the inside. However, there are some ways one can tell if there is a leak, and we are here to tell you how.

If you are looking for a way that will indicate a water heater leak, this review is meant for you. So hold on tight as we explore a few ways that will be definite indicators of this problem. Furthermore, we will also elaborate on some steps you should take to solve and prevent such issues.

So, without further ado, let’s get right to it.

How To Tell If Your Hot Water Unit Is Leaking

The thing about water heater leaks is that it has to be sorted out the minute you find it. It's one of those issues that cannot wait till later as prolonging the repair will damage the property. Plus, leaking water that is puddling up on the floor can cause mould and mildew.

Hot Water System Leaking At Base

Thinking it does not need your attention right away is not wise, as the situation only worsens, leading to higher water bills and more damage. However, these leaks are not severe initially, and that is the best time to identify and treat them properly. Depending on the degree of the leak, you can either treat it at home or with the help of a professional service.

The First Steps

One of the first steps will be to use your eyes and ears for this, especially if the leak is not visible. Checking for puddles of water near the heater will be the first thing to do. Additionally, you can also check the drain lines and other pipes to see if there is any leak there.

When trying to find an auditory indication of a leak, dripping sounds can be quite telling. However, if you stand near the water heater and hear dripping noises, it is best to look for visual confirmation. Furthermore, the leak can be inside the heater as well, making it difficult to detect visually.

Another thing that can be done if the leak is not visible is to put a few paper or cloth towels on a dry surface near the heater. If the towels have soaked water in the next few hours (or, in some cases, days), this means there is a leak.

Where To Look In Case Of A Leak

Pipes and Fittings

One of the first places to look for a leak is the inlet and outlet pipes of the water heater. These are usually located on the top of the heater and are prone to leakage with prolonged use.

In case there is internal leakage, what happens is that the water tends to puddle on the top of the water heater and soak the insulation. Once that happens, there is a chance of damage to the water heater as the insulation does not dry out.

But most of the time, the leak is external, and it does not puddle on the top. These kinds of leaks are easy to fix by just tightening the connection. Since it is not too complicated, you can do it yourself.

Valves - Pressure and Temperature

The next best place to check if you have leaks in the water heater is near the temperature and pressure valves. These valves are usually located on top of the heater and are intended to relieve the heater pressure. To elaborate further, water on heating expands and creates pressure which is then stabilised using these valves.

When the pressure is too high, these valves lower the pressure by releasing water inside the tank. However, when the temperature is low, it shouldn’t be releasing that much water. Therefore, we suggest reducing the water temperature and observing the valve. In case water is still flowing, the chances are that is the source of the leak.

Drain Valve

This one is located at the bottom of the heater, unlike the other two valves, and can also be a leak source. The drain valve helps in emptying the water heater, which is needed for maintenance purposes.

The drain valve is the easiest to identify for a leak visually. If you think the drain valve is faulty, shut it off and check if water is still leaking. While there is a chance it may be loose, you can also tighten it using a wrench. After that, if water still leaks, then there is a definite fault.

Inner Tank

Now, the inner tank of a water heater is where all the hot water is stored. These inner tanks are usually made of steel and are also insulated. If none of the valves is leaking and there is still a puddle of water under the heater, the tank might be faulty.

The issue with this is, there is no way to repair a tank leak. So all you can do is change the water heater.

Some Additional Steps

Figuring out where the leak is coming from is not an easy task. Sometimes it can be difficult to judge even by looking at the valves and inlet/ outlet pipes. However, to conduct a thorough investigation of the water heater, there are some additional steps that you must take.

1. Turn Off The Water

The first thing to do if you suspect a leak is to turn off the water supply. This is to properly check if the water is leaking or just dripping down as per usual.

To turn the water supply off, check the top of the heater. There will be two pipes, with “cold” and “warm” written on them, or they will be indicated through different colours. The pipe that is cold to touch is the cold water pipe and supply line. Follow it to find the valve and shut it off.

Top Of Hot Water Unit

Now, coming to the valve. A valve will be there in every water heater, but they may differ in type. For example, some have a “ball” type valve where a lever must be pulled down to turn it on/ off. On the other hand, there are “dial” type valves that need to be turned clockwise or anti-clockwise.

On the off chance that your heater is one of those rare ones that do not have a valve, we suggest turning the whole house water supply off.

2. Turn Off Power

The next thing you will want to do is turn off the power of the water heater. Now, depending on the heater, the turning-off process will differ.

If you have a gas heater, there should be a valve that is not too far from the heater itself. In addition, there should be a gas supply line under the heater which connects to the gas control valve. On finding it, turn the valve (usually clockwise) until it stops, and that should stop the gas supply.

Now, if you have an electric heater, the process is slightly different and much more straightforward. First, turn off the main switch, then go to the electrical panel of your house and look for the circuit breaker for the water heater. Once you find that, turn that switch off as well. This way, you are sure there is no power coming from anywhere.

Word Of Caution

Leaking water from the tank isn’t always a sign of an actual leak. Usually, water heating up causes some condensation on the tank, pipes, and valves. This does not mean there is a leak and instead is just the water heater doing its job.

However, the paper towel method that we mentioned earlier is an excellent way to determine if it’s a leak or not.

Looking After Your Water Heater

Not all leaks are impossible to fix by yourself; some minor repairs can be done without the help of a professional.

If you think the leak can be fixed by just tightening some loose pipes or valves, then feel free to use a wrench and flaunt your plumbing skills! Most of the time, these minor repairs do the trick unless the heater needs to be changed. For that, you will need to hire a professional.

Until next time!