The Signs of a Leaky Water Heater and How to Fix It
Your water heater is a hugely important part of your home. Your ability to wash dishes, take a hot shower, and effectively run appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine relies on your water heater. A leaky water heater is one that is not functioning well at best, and that breaks down entirely in the worst-case scenario. More than this, a leaky water heater can do real damage to your basement.
How to Spot a Leaking Water Heater
It’s understandable to think there’s no way anyone could miss a leaky water heater, but it’s not always as apparent as homeowners expect it to be. Certainly, a water heater with a serious crack or weakness can leak heavily, leading to standing water and a dramatic spray, but most of the time, leaks start small. These small leaks get worse as the damaged parts of the heater are put under more and more strain. All in all, it’s better to catch a leaking water heater before the steady drip becomes a heavy torrent. These are the most common signs you have a leaky water heater to contend with.
- A Drop in Water Pressure
If the water pressure in your shower starts to drop, whether suddenly or steadily, this is a sign that you have a leaky water heater or a leak in your pipes somewhere.
- A Lack of Water Reaching Appliances
A sign that you may have an internal leak is a sudden lack of water reaching appliances and fixtures. This can happen when an internal leak puts the pilot light out. If there is a delay in water reaching fixtures and appliances, however, it is more likely that you have a blockage of some kind.
- Water Dripping from the Pressure Release Valve
If you see water leaking from your pressure release valve, this means the water in your water heater has reached a pressure that exceeds safety limits. This can cause damage to the internal workings and requires the attention of a plumber.
- Stains or Damp Areas Around Your Water Heater
When there are stare stains or pools of water around the base of your water heater, it is almost certain that you have a leaking water heater.
If you see any of these signs, it is very likely that there is a leak somewhere in your water heater and you should look into it. After all, a leak of any kind in your home can be incredibly damaging in both the long and short term.
The Effects of a Leaky Water Heater
A leaking water heater can cause many problems in your home and end up costing you thousands of dollars in damages. In fact, a damaged or leaking water heater is not just damaging to your home; it could be dangerous to your health. The most common problems that such a leak can cause in your home include the following.
Even if the leak is minor, it can cause dampness to take root around your water heater. This will have many side effects, but if you have a wooden floor the most immediate effect could be rot and irreparable damage to the affected floorboards.
- Increased Humidity and Electric Bills
If you have a consistent leak anywhere in your home, it will cause increased humidity. A leaky water heater is arguably worse because of the heat of the water. This will enable the formation of many other problems but will also cause an immediate increase in humidity and electricity bills. After all, humid air is much harder to cool and heat than arid air.
- Mold and Mildew
Dampness, coupled with high humidity, very often leads to the formation of mold and mildew, especially where there is organic material. Organic matter like wood or cloth is a necessity for mold formation.
- Insect Infestation
Once mold has formed it is likely that insects will follow. Creatures like mold mites, termites, and cockroaches are often found where a leaky water heater has caused mold formation.
The most dramatic side effect of a leak in your water heater is flooding. A rupture in a key pipe could lead to huge amounts of water escaping from your heater into the basement or space where it stands.
These problems are bad enough for your home, but they can also affect your health. The potential problems a leaky water heater could cause you personally include the following.
- Steam Scalds
The most immediate danger when dealing with a damaged water heater is a burn or scald as a result of hot water or steam escaping from an unexpected place.
- Respiratory Damage
Mold forming as a result of a leak can be very bad for your health. Many types of mold are known to cause damage to the respiratory system after even brief exposure.
- Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
If your water heater is badly damaged, it can leak carbon monoxide as well as water and steam. This is why it is important that you have your water heater checked by a professional regularly.
What Causes a Leaky Water Heater?
A leak in your water heater can be caused by a number of things; from wear and tear to excess pressure, your water heater is sensitive to many things. In fact, the potential causes are almost endless – this is a very complex piece of machinery. Nonetheless, these are the most common causes!
- High Pressure or Pressure Relief Valve Failure
If your water heater’s pressure relief valve is faulty, or the pressure is too high for it to mitigate, this can cause multiple leaks and even catastrophic breakdown in your water heater.
- Sediment Buildup
All tap water has minerals in it, even if it’s well filtered, so it’s likely that sediment will build up over time inside your water heater. If you don’t clear and remove sediment, it will continue to build up and could eventually end up inhibiting the workings of your water heater. In fact, sediment build-up can even put pressure on the water heater levers and openings.
- Wear and Tear
As with any piece of machinery, water heaters will break down over time. Wear and tear are the most common cause of leaks and breakdowns when it comes to water heaters. After all, there are very few appliances in your home that work quite as hard as your water heater!
Let the Professionals Fix Your Leaky Water Heater
Fixing your leaky water heater should be a priority, but it also needs to be done by a professional. Unlike many home appliances, which you can repair yourself with the right know-how, your water heater can be incredibly dangerous, even when it’s not active. Aside from the obvious danger of scalds and burns, should you do something wrong, an improperly repaired water heater also poses a huge carbon monoxide and fire risk to your home.
However, if you suspect your water heater is leaking or damaged, there are some things that you can do to minimize the damage until a professional arrives. Firstly, you should shut the water heater off, or else shut off the water mains. Secondly, get rid of as much standing water as you can and call a professional. Give them all of the information you have about the situation and wait for them to arrive. This may seem frustrating if they say they cannot arrive quickly, but it is always safer to allow a professional to deal with a situation like this.
Get in contact with a Groundworks waterproofing expert if you’re worried you have basement waterproofing problems as the result of your water heater. There is no reason to wait until your water heater starts to leak before calling in a professional to inspect the area and help you understand your options. Prevention is the best possible option, after all.