If you own a home, you’re well aware of a universal truth of homeownership: leaks are never a good thing. And, while leaky faucets or leaks coming from the ceiling point to an obvious issue, it may be harder to pinpoint what’s causing the problem when the water is leaking from the top of your water heater. What’s causing it, and how can you fix it?
The good news is that some causes of leaks on top of your water heater have easy fixes. Most of the time, all you need is a towel, a bucket, a wrench, and replacement parts. However, there are instances where the problem could be more serious and require immediate assistance from a plumber.
7 Reasons Your Water Heater Is Leaking From the Top
There are several reasons why your water heater may be leaking from the top.
1. Pressure relief valve
This is also known as a T&P relief valve (for temperature and pressure). To replace it:
Step 1. Drain all the water from the tank by flushing your heater (you could also drain it by turning on all the hot water faucets in your home).
Step 2. Lift the lever on the valve to release excess pressure.
Step 3. Use a wrench to loosen the valve and remove it slowly.
Step 4. Install the new valve by turning it clockwise.
Step 5. Tighten it with a wrench.
Step 6. Turn the water back on.
Step 7. Turn the water heater back on.
2. Water inlet valve
If water is leaking out of the valve, use pliers to tighten the nut that connects the valve to the handle. If the leak continues after tightening the nut, you’ll need to replace the entire valve. Take a picture of it so you’ll know which one to purchase from a hardware store.
3. Loose pipes
Carefully inspect the connection points of the pipes above the water heater. If you see water leaking out of any of them, use a wrench to tighten them together. If you notice rust on the pipes, forego the DIY work and call a plumber.
4. Corroded electric nipples
These are the two protrusions that are connected to metal hoses on top of the heater. Once you’ve shut off the water supply to the water heater, drain water from the pressure relief valve. Use a wrench to remove the nut connecting the existing nipples with the water hose. Use a towel to dry around the tubes. Replace with the new electric nipples.
5. Corroded pipes
If the corrosion is minor, mix one gallon of distilled white vinegar and one cup of table salt. Apply the mixture on the corroded pipes and let it sit for a couple of hours. Wipe off the mixture. If the corrosion is extensive, you’ll have to purchase a new water heater.
6. Rusted anode rod port
This is a steel wire that runs the length of your heater on the inside and is screwed to the top of your water heater. Through a process called electrolysis, the water inside the tank corrodes the anode rod instead of the metal lining the inside of the water heater. When an anode rod is completely rusted, electrolysis stops, and water inside the tank eventually starts rusting the inside of the tank. Leave it like that long enough, and the tank could burst. To replace it, you’ll need the help of a plumbing professional.
7. The inside of the water heater is corroding
Open any of your home’s hot water faucets. If you can see rusty water come out, the problem is coming from inside the heater. This is more common to happen in heaters that are close to ten years old. If you’re not sure when your water heater was installed, look for the serial number on the manufacturer’s sticker. Following the initial letter, they’ll have the last two digits of the year when the heater was manufactured. If yours is close to a decade old, know that it’s time to replace it.
Failing to fix a leak on top of your heater may cause damage to the electrical compartment and/or to the wall behind the heater’s tank. If you can’t figure out why your heater is leaking water, or if you suspect it’s because of a corroded anode rod or rusted inside lining, call a plumber as soon as possible.
Call Plumbing Professionals in Broward, Palm Beach, or St. Lucie
At Sansone Air Conditioning Electrical & Plumbing, we are always ready to help you. If you live in Broward, Palm Beach, or St. Lucie, we can help you decide which water heater is best for your home. We can also help you flush it regularly, install a water conditioner or softener, or fix any issues that may be causing a leak.
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