Fixing Your Plumbing To Fix Your Life

Puddle Under Your Hot Water Heater? Don't Panic; Follow These Steps!

Coming downstairs to find a puddle under your hot water heater is surely disheartening. If you're like most homeowners, your mind will instantly start assuming the worst -- Will your basement flood? How much will this repair cost? Luckily, if you've caught the problem when it's just a puddle, chances are good that you can take care of it before you have any major flooding and damage. And although a puddle might sometimes indicate that your hot water heater needs expensive repairs or replacement, there are just as many times when all you need is a simple, low-cost fix. Follow these steps to get to the bottom of the issue and solve it before it gets worse.

Step 1: Check the pipes leading in and out of the unit.

Sometimes a puddle of water under a hot water heater is not an indication of a problem with the heater itself, but rather with the pipes leading in or out of the tank. Look at these pipes. Do you see any little cracks that are leaking water?

If you do see a crack in your pipe, you can repair it temporarily by obtaining some plumber's putty and molding it around the leaky area. This should stop the leak and allow you to keep using your hot water heater. Place a bucket under the leaky area, just in case the plumber's putty does not hold up. Then make a call to your plumber, who can come replace the leaky section of pipe.

Step 2: Check the inlet and outlet connections.

The places where pipes attach to the water heater are also common sources of leaks. If you see any water seeping out from where a pipe comes in or out of the water heater, take a wrench and try tightening the bolt between the pipe and tank. In most cases, this should stop the leak. If the leak persists, it is time to call a plumber, as you may need a new section of pipe or to have the joint sealed.

Step 3: Take a look at the temperature and pressure relief valve.

All hot water heaters have a temperature and pressure relief valve located at the side of the tank. It typically attaches to a vertical pipe leading down to the floor. This valve is designed to let water out if the temperature or pressure within the tank climbs too high. If the water that's puddling under your water heater is coming from the temperature and pressure relief valve, then the valve is just doing its job. However, you will want to get to the bottom of why the temperature or pressure within your tank is too high.

Start by turning the temperature on your unit down to either 120 or 140 degrees F, depending on your preferences. If your tank has been running hotter, turning the temperature down will reduce the pressure in the unit and cause the release valve to stop leaking. If the release valve keeps leaking after your unit is turned down to 120 or 140 degrees F, then the thermostat is probably not working properly, and you'll need to have a plumber come out to repair it.

Step 4: Examine the bottom of the tank.

If the pipes, connections, and release valve are not to blame for the leak, then it's time to take a serious look at the bottom of the tank. Do you see any corrosion or holes through which water could be leaking? Sadly, this kind of damage is expensive to repair, so your best bet in this case will be to replace the unit. Thankfully, hot water heaters are not as expensive as you might imagine. Expect to pay around $950 for a 40-gallon unit or $1,200 for a 50-gallon unit, including installation.

If your water heater is leaking water, don't ignore the problem. Left unaddressed, leaks will only get worse and may lead to flooding damage.

For more information and assistance, contact a local water heater repair company, like StateWide Mechanical II Inc..