My Water Heater Is Leaking! What Should I Do?

So, now that you know for a fact that your tank is actually leaking, what’s your next step, you may ask. If you’re not a hundred percent positive that your tank is leaking, I suggest that you go ahead and check another blog post on this site that explains how to confirm a hundred percent that your tank is leaking. Often times tank leaks can be coming from other areas. They can be coming from underneath the tank, they can be coming from other sources, they can be pressure-relief valve problems or a variety of other things. So, the first step is confirming that your tank is leaking.

If you know for sure that the tank is leaking, then first and foremost you’re going to want to get the water shut off. There are a couple of different options for this. The first spot that you want to check is on the cold water line above the tank. On the top of the tank, it actually might indicate and it might say hot and cold. If you put your hand on the pipe that says “cold” and you follow that pipe up, you will most likely find a small shut off – either a lever or a knob to screw in, or some sort of device that will stop the water from going into the tank.

Word of warning at this point – often times, those knobs that shut off the water into the tank are not working and you can’t always tell if they are actually fully stopping the water.

The problem is the fact that if the water is still flowing into the tank but you think it isn’t because it’s off, and the water from the bottom of the tank is flowing onto somewhere in your house that does not have a proper drain, you can have damage to your home.

So, the next spot that you’ll want to check is where the main water comes from into your home. This can often times be found near the tank (for example a pipe coming out of the floor), and it has a similar shut off mechanism to shut the tank off. Sometimes this mechanism needs to be screwed down to the bottom, or a lever must be turned perpendicular to the pipe to shut it off. It all depends on your model.

A lot of the times, the main water shut off for your home is in very inconvenient locations, like the back of a crawl space, the back of a closet, behind the furnace, behind the hot water tank, and sometimes it’s extremely difficult to access. If the tank can’t be shut off from above the tank and let’s say you can’t find the main water shut off for your house, then in that case the only other option that you have is to shut your house’s main water off, which can be quite inconvenient. It usually requires a plumber because it usually requires special tools.

The plumber would need to go with a key somewhere on your front lawn or driveway and find a small access. If the original access for your water has been buried or damaged, then it usually involves someone from the city having to come out and either dig up your front lawn to find it or shut it off at an even further point. So, the preferred option is to shut it off at the tank and go from there.

Once the water is shut off you’re going to want to shut the gas off. There are three spots that you can possibly shut the gas off from, and they are the following:

    • The first is at the tank itself. There is a small button or knob on the top – that says ON, PILOT and OFF. It would be pointing to the ON position. Turn that around until it goes to the OFF position.
    • Following the gas pipe back, that connects to that gas valve, you should see another shut off, with likely a lever that turns perpendicular to the pipe to shut the gas off.
    • The other option is shutting the gas off at the meter, which usually requires a present wrench. But it’s something that you should be familiar with by now. Contact your gas utility provider for instructions at how to shut that off.

Last but not least, you want to drain the hot water tank.

One small addendum to this post – sometimes, people don’t have gas water heaters and instead they have electric water heaters. So, there won’t be any gas to shut off and instead you’re going to want to go to your breaker panel in your house. Find the breaker marked “water heater” and shut that off. A lot of the times the breakers can be marked wrong, so you’re going to want to call a professional on this point, to make sure that everything is shut down correctly, and get the tank swapped out.

How Can I Tell If My Hot Water Is Leaking

So you think your water heater has sprung a leak. What should you do about it? The first thing that you’re going to want to do is to make sure that it’s actually the water heater that’s leaking. Coming from a contractor’s perspective, we’ve more than once, swapped out a tank, only to discover that there’s actually a pipe or some other water problem near the hot water tank that’s actually causing the water to leak all over the floor.

The second thing that you’ll want to do is to try to find out where the water is coming from. There’s a little cover on the bottom of the tank. I would suggest that you pull that cover off, and look at the bottom of the tank to see if it’s filling with water.

If that’s the case, you’d know for sure, 100%, that the water is coming out of the tank, and not just some other water source making the floor wet. The other thing that you’ll want to check is the dip tube on the side of the tank – it’s the long pipe coming down on the side of the hot water tank. See if it’s wet, coming out of the end of that tube. If it is, again, the actual tank itself is not the part that’s leaking.

There’s another part, called a temperature and pressure relief valve that can cause the water to shoot out and go all over the floor. A temperature and pressure relief valve spilling water can have a lot of other causes, like the pressure being too high in your house or a broken pressure reducing valve or a variety of factors.

The next thing that I would suggest to do is you should start looking around the outside of the tank, rubbing your hands along the side of it to see if you feel any bubbles, rusting or bulges. They are all indicators that the tank has blown. Tanks come in a pre-packaged format. The actual tank that contains the water is on the inside and the part that you see is just an outer shell. So, if you see any damage or rusting or bulging on the outer shell, that means that the inner shell is definitely broken.

Moving from the side of the tank to the top of the tank, you will see some various circles or ports. Again, if you see any leaking or rusting or bulging around there, that means that the tank is blown.

Alternatively, once in a while, on a rare occasion, there could be water coming down the chimney from the roof, or from another source, and that can be causing water to end up on the top of the tank. But as long as it doesn’t look like that, and there is rust on the top of the tank then you know for sure that the tank has blown, and that that’s your problem right there.

Moving outside of the hot water tank room, there are some indicators that will tell you if a hot water tank is blown or not. Sometimes, rusty water will start coming out of the tap, but it may not be rusty but just a little bit brownish. Don’t take this as an indicator that it’s blown for sure. Sometimes, it can just be an indicator of sediment, nothing more, nothing less. If you suspect that it might not be blown but sediment, you can go down and screw a hose on to the bottom of the tank, and try to flush it to get the sediment out of there. So, here are the steps to do this:

  • You put the hose on the tank.
  • You run it to a drain.
  • You open up the drain port at the bottom of it to try to flush it out.

Word of warning – at this point, that may cause the tank to blow, if it was already partially blown or just very unstable.

If you definitely think it is the tank that is leaking I would suggest that you shut the water off from the top of the tank. There should be a little handle that you can use to turn it off at the top of the tank on the cold water line. I would also suggest, if it looks simple enough, to follow the gas line back and turn the gas OFF, or if you can’t see where that is coming from, there should be a knob on the control, at the bottom of the tank, with three positions – ON, PILOT and OFF. Turn that to OFF.

With gas and water off the next step would be to figure out how to connect the hose to the bottom of it, run a hose from the hose bib to a drain and let the tank drain.

One small addendum to this blog – if you have an electric hot water tank, you won’t have gas to shut off, and instead, you should be shutting the breaker off at the panel. So, go to your panel, and there should be a breaker marked “hot water tank” that you’ll need to shut off. At that point, just call a professional to get the tank swapped out.

Hot Water Tank Vs Tankless – Advantages & Disadvantages

A question that we get asked about quite often is “Should we put in a hot water tank or a tank less hot water heater, and what are the advantages and disadvantages of either choice?”. So, today we decided to answer this question with this short article.

The obvious answer is that the the upfront advantage of having a hot water tank over having a tankless option is the price tag, which can sometimes be as much as 75% less expensive. The downside is the utilities are considerably different.

It depends on the cost of the utilities in your area, but often times it’s about 1/3 of the cost of utilities going from a gas tank to a gas tankless. If you’re planning on moving in the next few years, I would say probably just put a tank in because you’re not going to recoup your money. In order to actually make a profit you’ll need to use it for a period of, let’s say ten years at least. However, the life span of tankless can be as long as 20 years, or even 25 depending on the water in your area.

Something else that we get asked about quite often is putting in an electric tankless to replace their electric hot water tank. Electric tankless versus gas tankless is not a very good option in any way, shape or form. They’re expensive and they are  maybe10% more efficient than an electric hot water tank, so totally not worth it.

On the comfort side of things, there’s a difference between how the two operate. A tank can almost run an unlimited number of faucets, so let’s say you have four bathrooms in the house and two kitchens. You can turn on everything in the house BUT it will quickly drain the tank down. You could probably run it for about ten minutes and the whole thing will be drained.The advantage of the tank is the fact that you have an unlimited amount of faucets that you can run simultaneously. The problem is that they run out quite quickly.

The tankless option has the opposite problem. It can run a limited number of faucets, sometimes as low as two and as high as six or seven, again depending on the area of the country that you’re in. If you’re in the southern United States or somewhere where the ground water is warmer you’re going to get more hot water that comes out of your tap because the starting temperature is higher.

If you’re in the northern states, you’re going to have less output out of it because the starting temperature of the water is colder. Everything in general is going towards tankless water heaters, as a general rule, so probably in 10, 20 years they’re going to be the dominant option.

For right now I think you really have to consider your current situation:

  • If you’re going to be moving quite soon then stick to the hot water tank that you have at your disposal.
  • If you’re going to be in the place for a long time and you want to invest for the long term, then sometimes the tankless is a better way to go.

But regardless of your choice, you need to take into consideration that if you choose the tankless option you’ll also need to get them serviced, so you’ll have to spend X number of dollars every year in order to get them serviced. That does make this option more expensive

FurnaceUSA can install and repair both tank and tankless water heater systems. Request a quote today!: