Why is water leaking from the bottom of my water heater?

In the US, water leaks in the average home waste 10,000 gallons per year. Worse, 10% of US households have plumbing issues so bad they waste 32,850 gallons each year. So, if you’ve noticed your water heater leaking or dripping, it’s best to get to the bottom of the issue ASAP. The sooner you do, the sooner you get to save water, money, and even the water tank itself.

Water damage can be tough to repair and cost a lot of money. Ready to put a stop to your hot water heater leaking water and wasting so much money?

Determine If You Have a Water Heater Leak

If your water heater tank seems to be leaking, it may just be moisture from the air that has condensed and formed water droplets on the outside surface of the tank. To confirm if you have a faulty tank (or any other possible leak), conduct a whole-house leak check. You can do this by monitoring your water meter.

After you find the meter, make sure everyone at home stops using water. Shut all taps, toilets, fixtures, and water appliances. Your meter should have stopped moving.

If it’s not the case, chances are you have a leak!

Confirm If It’s Your Hot Water Heater Leaking

Water Heater Leaking

To determine if your water heater is leaking, wipe the tank dry and then shut the power off. On electric water heater, turn off the power. For a gas water heater, simply shut off the gas.

Next, clean the valves and supply lines. Once the tank is all clean and dry, pay close attention to its exterior. If moisture develops evenly throughout the surface, then that’s likely condensation.

If you see a water heater valve leaking, this is a sign of a problem with the tank. If water seeps out of a specific spot on the tank or its water supply line, this is also a sign of a problem. In some cases, the damage may be small and it may take time for the water to seep out.

If you don’t see immediate leaks, you can check for signs of dampness by covering the area under the tank with paper towels and checking them every couple of hours. If the towels become moist or wet, this indicates a leaking problem.

If the water heater is leaking from the bottom, this is normal since any leak will find its way to the bottom of the tank inside the housing.

How to Repair Your Water Heater Leak

If your tank is leaking, turn off the water by closing the shut-off valve. This will stop more cold water from flowing in and potentially damaging the tank.

If you turned the heater back on, be sure to turn off the power again before working on the shut-off valve. The shut-off valve is usually located above the water heater, on the cold water supply line.

It may be a gate valve that you need to turn or rotate, or a handle that you can easily pull down.

Fix the Leak

Depending on the severity and location of the leak, you may be able to fix it yourself. If the leak is at the top of the water heater, it may be an easy fix. If the leak is more severe, you may need to call a licensed plumber.

Leaking Water Connections

There are two pipes that connect to your tank top – the cold water inlet and hot water outlet. If these become loose or detached, water can leak from them. To fix this, you can use a pipe wrench to secure the connections. However, before doing so, make sure that your water heater doesn’t have power, as this can be dangerous if you’re working with the hot water outlet.

Cold Water inlet pipe leaking

A Leaking Drain Valve

The “drain valve” near the bottom of your water heater tank is the component that lets you drain your tank for maintenance purposes. You should flush and clean your tank at least once a year to get rid of sediment buildup. The drain valve can become loose over time, which can lead to leaks. To fix this, use a pipe wrench to slowly tighten the valve.

If the water heater is still leaking, you may need to replace the valve. This is a more complex job, so it might be best to leave it in the hands of a professional plumber.

Water Heater Drain Valve Leaking

A Leaking Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve

The temperature and pressure relief valve (T&P valve) on your water heater is designed to release steam or water if the temperature or pressure inside the tank gets too high. If the valve becomes stuck in a partially-open position or otherwise defective, it may allow water to leak out.

In this case, it is best and safest to call a plumber. You are dealing with leaks, temperature, and excessive pressure. A mistake can cause severe hazards.

Water Heater Pressure Relief Valve Leaking

A Leaking Water Heater

Insulative materials cover the internal tank of a water heater. An outer skin then wraps around this entire part. If the inner part starts to leak, the most common symptom would be a leak that escapes from the bottom of the tank.

If this is the root cause of your water heater woes, then you’d need to replace the water heater. Unfortunately, these leaks are often non-repairable, as they’re usually a sign of deterioration.

Preventing Water Heater Leaking

Even if internal tank leaks are inevitable, the good news is that you can postpone them. With routine and preventative maintenance, you can make your water heater last longer.

Here are a few ways to delay the onset of costly internal water heater leaks :

Install a Powered Anode Rod to Prevent Water Heater Leaking

We suggest installing a Corro-Protec powered anode rod to prevent corrosion and limescale buildup. This rod is easy to install and has a 20-year warranty. Corro-Protec anodes have been on the market for over 20 years and are now protecting over 70 000 water heaters all around North America.

Replace the Magnesium Anode Rod Before It Completely Corrodes

Inside your water tank is a sacrificial part called “sacrificial anode rod.” In any case, an anode rod sacrifices itself to protect the interior of a water heater tank. It attracts elements in the water that can corrode and destroy the other metal parts of the tank.

You can think of the anode rod as a magnet. It draws in minerals and metal ions that can otherwise cause oxidation and rust in the heater.

If you don’t install a powered anode rod or never change your magnesium rod, you will have a water heater leaking in your home after only a couple of years.

Sacrificial magnesium anode rod is hard to install and doesn’t last long (only last 2 or 3 years). They are called sacrificial because they sacrifice themselves to protect the tank. Because of its purpose, an anode rod has a shorter life than the entire tank. This is also why you need to replace the anode rod before it gets completely eroded.

Don’t Forget to Maintain Your Water Heater

If you don’t want to deal with a water heater leaking in the future, make sure you are doing a proper maintenance. Aside from draining your water heater and change the anode once a year, be sure to give all its parts a thorough cleaning too. Wipe your tank’s exterior as well as its valves and water connections. This way, you can get rid of dust and debris build-up, which can contribute to reduced performance.

We all like to take hot showers or the occasional bath. And, of course, running the dishwasher is a lot easier than washing dishes by hand. We depend on our water heaters to provide hot water when we need it. Most of us don’t give them much thought when they are working correctly.

But once you discover a puddle near your water heater, it’s likely all you can think about. At Plumbing By Jake, we also think a lot about leaking water heaters. That’s because we’re fixing them on an almost daily basis. So, if your water heater is leaking, call us, and we’ll schedule a service call right away.

How a Storage Water Heater Works

A one-family storage water heater can hold up to 80 gallons of electric- or gas-heated water, according to Energy.gov. When you turn on your hot water, your water heater pulls it from the top of your tank and sends it into your home’s water lines. 

To replace this water, cool water comes into the bottom of your tank through an inlet pipe called a dip tube. This tube directs the cold replacement water to the bottom of the water tank to be warmed by the gas burner or other thermal device that heats the water.

While it’s heated, the heavy, colder water stays separated from the lighter, hotter water that eventually floats to the top to be used for your appliances and faucets.

Causes of a Water Heater Leaking From the Bottom

There are a few reasons your water heater is leaking from the bottom or appears to be. In all these situations, we refer to the conventional storage-tank water heater like the one mentioned above. 

And as with any serious repair or replacement, we recommend that you call a licensed plumber to take care of these issues.

The Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve

If you find a small puddle or wet spot near your water heater, you may not have a leak. Properly installed water heaters have a temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve on the tank’s side (or top). 

This valve will have a long, narrow pipe attached that runs down to a few inches above the floor. If the only water you see is under this pipe, the T&P valve is your problem.

This valve helps prevent potentially dangerous issues from occurring if the water inside the tank gets too hot or if excessive pressure has built up. The T&P valve relieves the pressure by letting water out of the tank. 

This water then drips down the attached pipe and onto the floor. If you have a closed-loop system, you may also have an expansion tank or need one installed. A failure of the expansion tank can cause more water than normal to discharge through the T&P valve.

Replacing the T&P valve or adding or replacing an expansion tank is an easy repair.

The Drain Valve

The drain valve on your water heater is located near the bottom of the tank in the front. This valve is for draining water from your tank so that your water heater can be replaced or maintained. 

You or a plumber should regularly drain your water heater to discharge sediment that builds up inside your internal tank. If these deposits are not routinely drained, they can damage your tank. If you notice a pool of water near the bottom of your water heater, you may have one of two issues:

  • A faulty drain valve: If the valve is partially open, water may leak onto the floor. Check to ensure it is completely closed before assuming it’s defective. If the nozzle continues dripping, you will need to have it replaced. To be alerted against future leaks, consider purchasing a water leak detector.
  • A leaky drain valve: You will also need to replace your drain valve if you spot water seepage at the valve base. This type of leak will progressively worsen until you have it replaced. 

The Internal Tank

Conventional storage-tank water heaters have an external skin or a metal wall that you can see. They also have an internal water storage tank that you don’t see. When you turn on the hot water tap or shower, the fuel source for the water tank kicks on, then heats the water in the internal tank.

If the internal tank is leaking, you won’t be able to see it, but you will see water pooling beneath your water heater. If it’s been leaking for a while, you may have water damage to your subfloor or drywall, depending on where the water heater is located.

The average water heater is built to last 10 years or so. After that, it’s only a matter of time until the internal tank starts leaking. If you have extremely hard water, the bottom of the inner tank can start deteriorating before that. 

That’s because the sediment in hard water settles at the bottom of the tank and speeds the deterioration. If the internal tank is leaking, a water heater replacement is the only fix.

Water Heater Replacement

If water is leaking from the bottom of your water heater and it’s a result of corrosion in the internal tank, you will need a water heater replacement. First, however, you want to make sure that you get the right water heater for you and your family.

Plumbing by Jake can help you decide on the best size and model for your household. In addition, we’ll ask you questions about your hot water usage habits, whether you have a dishwasher, a washing machine, or other appliances, and how many people are in your home. 

We’ll also ask you if your current water heater heats water with gas or electricity. Based on your answers, we can give you recommendations on the correct sized water heater.

If you’re interested in a tankless water heater, we will go over the pros and cons of tankless and demand water heaters with you to make an informed choice.

Call Plumbing by Jake for Water Heater Repair and Replacement

If water is leaking from the bottom of your water heater, your best course of action is to get it checked out by a local plumber. No issue is too small or too large for our team of experienced plumbers. 

We offer 24-hour emergency services and a 100% satisfaction guarantee to residential and commercial clients. And be sure to ask about our plumbing maintenance plans! Call Plumbing by Jake today, and we’ll diagnose the issue and let you know your options.