What to Do if Your Water Heater is Leaking From the Bottom

Discovering a leak from the bottom of your water heater can be an alarming experience for any homeowner, especially in Arkansas, where the changing seasons can strain your household appliances. 

Before panic sets in, understand that while a leak may indicate a problem with your unit, there are several steps you can take to diagnose and potentially resolve the issue before calling in a professional for a repair job

At Anderson Air, we aim to teach customers so they can avoid the panic and make the best decisions for their air care. This guide will help demystify the reasons behind water heater leaks and offer you actionable advice on what to do next. Keep reading to learn more. 

First, make sure it’s not just condensation or a leak from another source

Despite what it seems like, there’s a chance it may not be an emergency. It’s quite common, especially during colder months or when a new unit is first installed, for condensation to form due to the difference in temperature between cold water inside the tank and the warm air outside. 

Here’s how to rule this out as a possibility: 

Identifying condensation on a gas heater 

On a gas system, condensation typically accumulates around the tank and vent pipes where the temperature differential is most pronounced. 

Observe the tank and connecting pipes for moisture while your heater warms up. If condensation is present, clean the area with a dry towel and monitor it over a few days. Consistent moisture could indicate a leak, but temporary or minimal dampness is likely just condensation.

Identifying condensation on an electric heater

On electric systems, you’ll often notice condensation on the tank or inlet/outlet connections, especially if it’s in a colder room. Inspect these sites carefully for moisture that disappears or decreases as the day progresses, wiping the areas with a dry cloth. Again, minimal water may not be cause for concern, but a lot of water might indicate a leak issue. 

Check that the leak isn’t coming from elsewhere 

Sometimes, what appears to be a leak from your water heater might stem from another source, such as an AC unit, sink, faucet, or another system near your water heater.

Before making the assumption, check other appliances, pipes or fixtures in your basement (or wherever your system is) for moisture or leaks

Next, shut off the power and water supply 

Turning off the power to your water heater as soon as you notice a leak is an important safety measure. Whether your water heater is electric or gas-powered, this step prevents any risk of electric shock and avoids further damage to the system while troubleshooting the issue. 

Gas shut-off valve

Locate and turn off the gas valve. You can typically find the gas shut-off valve near the water heater, often on the gas line leading to the tank. Turn the handle to the OFF position. 

Refer to your water heater’s manual for precise instructions on locating and operating the valve. Ensuring the gas is off prevents potential hazards while assessing and fixing the leak.

How to find your power breaker

For electric systems, identify and switch off the corresponding breaker in your home’s electrical panel. The breaker is usually labeled, but if you’re unsure which it is, consult your water heater’s manual or the labeling inside your electrical panel. 

Switching off the breaker ensures there’s no electrical current to the heater, eliminating risks of electrical shock during a repair or inspection job.

Avoid the mess: turn off your water supply

Turning off the water supply prevents further leakage, reduces water waste, and avoids the risk of water damage to your home and the surrounding area. 

Potential causes of water heater leaks

If you discover that your heater is leaking, here’s a list of issues that could be causing your water heater to leak from its base:

  • Faulty or broken drain valve

In our experience, a faulty or broken drain valve is one of the most common reasons for water leaking from the bottom of a water heater. This valve empties the tank to remove sediment or during maintenance. If it gets damaged, it can begin to leak, potentially causing a steady drip of water to accumulate at the base of the heater.

  • Failed tank (cracks, corrosion or rust)

Over time, your water heater’s tank can suffer from cracks, corrosion, or rust due to constant exposure to water and varying temperatures. These structural failures compromise the tank’s integrity, leading to water leaks. Often, such damage is irreversible and indicates that the water heater might need to be replaced.

  • Excessive pressure within the tank

If the temperature is set too high or if the pressure relief valve is malfunctioning, your heater might be overpressured. This can strain your unit’s structural components, forcing water to escape through weak points such as seams or valves, eventually leading to leaks at the bottom of the tank.

  • Age-related wear and tear

Water heaters, like many appliances, have a lifespan typically ranging between 8 to 12 years. Over time, regular wear and tear can cause the deterioration of internal components and the tank itself. This natural process can result in leaks, often signaling that the unit is approaching the end of its useful life and may require replacement.

These are potential causes. For a more detailed and specific diagnosis, contact one of our experts to come have a look.

The importance of maintenance

​​Regular maintenance and routine water heater inspections serve as the first line of defense in preventing leaks and ensuring the system operates at peak efficiency. 

By scheduling regular servicing appointments, an expert technician can identify and rectify small issues before they develop into major ones, such as leaks or system failures. This preventative approach aids in early leak detection, allowing for timely repairs that significantly reduce the risk of water damage and loss. 

Maintaining your water heater enhances energy efficiency – a well-tuned system requires less energy to heat water to the desired temperature. 

Adhering to a maintenance schedule, including checking the pressure relief valve and monitoring the system’s temperature, ensures the longevity and reliability of your water heater, ultimately saving time, energy, and money.

Need a repair or replacement? Contact Anderson Air

Maintaining your water heater’s efficiency and safety requires professional assistance for both service and installation to ensure quality and reliability. 

With 50 years of experience behind us, Anderson Air’s team of certified technicians has the tools, knowledge, and expertise needed to provide you with the highest level of service, whether you need a simple repair or a complete replacement. Things can get expensive, which is why we offer excellent services at affordable prices. 

We’re proud to serve northwest Arkansas, including the Prairie Grove, Farmington, and Fayetteville regions, so don’t hesitate to reach out to us for professional advice and support. 
To schedule an appointment or for more information about our services, contact our office and connect with a specialist today. Trust us to keep your water heating system running smoothly.

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