What to do if your hot water heater is leaking

December 1, 2008
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December 10, 2008

What to do if your hot water heater is leaking

water damage on basement floor
It’s what every home owner dreads. You walk into your basement and see water on the floor. After further inspection you realize that the water is coming from your hot water heater. First things first. I know it’s hard but DON’T PANIC. Some plumbers and water heater companies like to scare you and make you think that you have a ticking time bomb and if you don’t do something about it your water heater is going to burst open flooding your basement. This is far from true. If you have a floor drain near by (that is fully functional) you’ll be fine. The leaks in water heaters are generally just drips and although they are wasting water down the drain there’s no need to shut anything down. Just keep an eye on it. You have time.

water heater relief valve
First, try and see where the leak is coming from. If it is coming from the relief valve (the valve on or near the top of the water heater with a funny metal handle) it can be repaired. Most any other spot and your looking at replacement. Most times you can’t see where it’s coming from because the leak is inside the jacket and dripping down and out the bottom of the heater.

water heater rating tag
What do you do? Look to see what year the heater was made.  In order to find out the manufactured date you need to find the serial number. the first numerical digits of the serial number are the manufactured date. For instance on the tag above the serial number starts out with the numbers 1291. It was manufactured in December of 1991. Once you know the year it was manufactured you can see if it is still under warranty. Most heaters have at least a six year warranty on them but the warranty can go as high as 12 years on some models.

Next call a licensed plumbing professional. When I say this I don’t mean the guy from your church that dabbles in everything. Call someone who knows what they are doing and is certified to do it. There are a lot of people who can solder but not every person knows how to deal with the gas line and more importantly the venting of the heater. A licensed plumber will do it correct the first time without the fear of gas or exhaust leaks. If you live in the Maple Grove/Plymouth Minnesota area give us a call at 763-551-8990.

Next, make sure you buy a good water heater. I would recommend getting a Rheem (http://www.rheem.com/) it will pay for itself in the end. Get a heater that will fit your needs. 40 gallons is enough for most smaller families and empty nesters. Get a 50 gallon if you have a larger family that is using more water or if you have a hot tub/juccuzi that needs to be filled. For more on which water heater to buy check out this post: http://levahnbros.com/2010/10/19/which-water-heater-should-you-buy/
What if your heater has more than just a drip? If this is the case there needs to be more immediate action. First shut off the water coming to the heater. This is done by turning off the valve that is on the cold water pipe located above the heater.

water heater shut off valve
Once you’ve done this you should shut off the gas going to your water heater. To locate the gas line shut off valve follow the piping coming from the temperature control valve on the front/ bottom of the heater.

water heater gas shut off

After you’ve turned the gas off you should hook up a garden hose to the water heater drain valve located at the bottom of the heater. Open up the drain valve and drain heater into your floor drain. If there is no floor drain or the floor drain isn’t functioning follow the same steps from above and drain it into a bucket instead. For more on how to drain a water heater check out this blog post: http://levahnbros.com/2010/06/29/how-to-drain-a-water-heater/

If you have any more questions about water heaters contact us at 763-551-8990 or stop in and ask in person. We are located at 12700 Bass Lake Road in Maple Grove, MN. You can also visit our web site for more about us at http://www.levahnbros.com/plumbing.html

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