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How to Tell if Your Hot Water Tank is Leaking

Is water pooling around your hot water tank? Follow these steps to determine if your tank is leaking.

You look into your mechanical room/basement or closet and notice there is water on the ground by your hot water tank. Your first reaction may be that the hot water tank has a leak somewhere but that is not always the case.

Sometimes the hot water tank and the surrounding pipes form condensation (water vapour in the air turns to liquid water) that can accumulate until it falls onto the floor.

How do I know if my hot water tank is leaking?

The first time you see some water under or around the hot water tank, follow these steps:

  1. Wipe it up and try to see if you can determine where the water came from.
  2. Closely inspect the hot water tank and its fittings/connections for signs of water leaking. 
  3. If you cannot source the origin of where the water is leaking from, lay down a cloth or paper towel over the area where the water was and check in every couple of hours to see if the water returns.
  4. If the water reappears and you cannot identify any other sources where the water is coming from than the hot water tank is likely the culprit.

What do I do if my hot water tank is leaking?

First thing to do when you determine your hot water tank is leaking is turn off the power supply. If you have an electric water heater this is especially important as electricity and water don’t mix. If you have a natural gas hot water tank, there should be an on/off switch and turn the switch off. Avoid turning of the gas shut off valve as they are susceptible to wear and tear.

However if the hot water tank is leaking significantly, turn off the water supply at the cold water shut off valve that is locate above the water heater. The valve will either have a handle that you pull down or one where you turn it clockwise to close. Shutting the water off should slow down or temporary stop the water from leaking. If you don’t know where the leak is coming from, leave the water supply on as it will help in locating the leak.

How do I find the location of the leak?

There are a number of things that can cause a hot water tank to leak so performing a quick inspection to find the source is best before calling a professional plumber.

  1. Check the cold water inlet and the hot water outlet connections. This is where the inlet and outlet pipes connect to the hot water tank at the top of the unit. If this is where the leak is coming from the repair may be no more than tightening a loose connection with a pipe wrench.
  2. Look at the temperature and pressure relief valve. All hot water tanks have a temperature and pressure relief valve located on the side of the tank with a pipe running down to the floor. This valve is there in case the water is heated too much, or there is too much pressure in the tank, the valve will let water out of the tank to relieve the pressure. Inspect the area where it enters the tank, on the side of the water tank near the top to see that it is watertight.
  3. Check the valve. If this is the source of the leak, then water will be flowing down the pipe attached to it when the valve is in the closed position. This either means the valve is defective, or it is working properly and there is excess pressure inside the tank that is forcing it to open. A leak from here is usually repairable but you may need to call a professional if you do not know what to do.
  4. Inspect the drain valve near the bottom of the tank. Make sure that it closes (and is closed) completely, and that its point of entry into the tank is watertight. A leak from here is not a major concern and is repairable.
  5. Check the bottom of the hot water tank. The tank is wrapped inside insulation and is enclosed in an outer skin and any leak in it will not be visible from the outside. If your hot water tank has an internal leak, water will likely escape from the bottom of the tank. Most hot water tank leaks are from the tank itself and are due to age and wear. The only solution is to replace the hot water tank.

Hot water tanks usually have a life span of 8-12 years, which depends on a variety of factors such as severity of local weather, tank design, quality of installation and the level of maintenance the hot water tank has received.

Need a plumber to fix your hot water tank in Vancouver?

If you need a licensed plumber to repair/replace your leaking hot water tank, please give us a call or schedule an appointment online!

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