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Why is My Water Heater Leaking?

Written by Vaughan Comfort Services on . Posted in .

water heater leaking onto the basement floor

The problem of a water heater leaking might be one of the last concerns on your mind as a homeowner. Yet, a water heater left unattended could cause serious damage to your property. It’s common for homeowners in South Jersey to take their water heater for granted. When functioning properly, it delivers hot water on demand for bathing, washing dishes, and running loads of laundry.

But when something goes wrong with the water heater and causes it to leak, it’s a problem that you’ll want to address as soon as possible. Allowing your water heater to continue leaking can lead to serious damage to your home and to a much larger plumbing repair job than if you take care of it at the first signs of trouble.

Indeed, you might not think about the heater until one day, you happen to notice a leak coming from a particular area you infrequently visit.

The water heater experts at Vaughan Comfort Services are trained and experienced in diagnosing problems and coming up with a personalized repair solution and an estimate for our work. Our professionals have been serving South Jersey homeowners since 1937, handling all their HVAC and plumbing needs with efficiency and attention to detail.

Worried about further damage to your home? Contact the professionals at Vaughan Comfort Services to repair or replace your water heater.

How Serious is a Hot Water Heater Leak?

A water heater is a significant part of your home’s plumbing system. So, if it starts to spring a leak, you should consider it to be relatively serious. It’s not just inconvenient to be without a reliable source of hot water for an extended period of time. It can also be dangerous for your family and neighbors.

You should always keep safety top of mind regarding water heaters. A water heater leak can turn into an emergency situation. In rare circumstances, the buildup of water pressure can lead to an explosion. While uncommon, you must still take a water heater leak seriously since it must be repaired or replaced.

Consider a water heater leak’s dangerous nature and bring in professionals to remedy the situation. There’s a potential for fire hazard, injury from scalding water, and water damage from flooding.

Fire Hazard

A water heater leak signifies an underlying problem, which in worst-case scenarios, could indicate there is a gas leak, which is a major fire hazard. If you suspect a gas leak, locate the gas shutoff valve, shut off the gas, and call for emergency HVAC services.

Scalding Water

With less water in the hot water tank, the heater will still deliver the same amount of heating power, which means that you could encounter a situation with scalding water. For this reason, always approach a leaking water heater or a heater with excess pressure with an abundance of caution.


An unattended water heater that has sprung a leak poses the potential for flooding. The area or room where your water heater is situated would be overwhelmed by water, leading to a huge water heater repair and cleanup bill.

Can I Still Use a Water Heater if It is Leaking?

The short answer is that yes, your family can still use the water heater if there is evidence of leakage today. For example, if you’re late for school or work and need to shower for a quick rinse, a minor leak should not prevent you from getting cleaned up, and the water temperature will likely be stable enough for your morning routine.

You probably will not want to run appliances for significant periods while you are still sorting out the cause and extent of the leak. So, avoid running the dishwasher or putting up a load of laundry until a professional plumber has investigated the leaking water heater.

A major leak can indicate that significant trouble is brewing, from the potential for an explosion to flooding and the ensuing property damage that will occur. The professionals at Vaughan Comfort Services recommend that you stop using the water heater immediately and look for the source of the leak.

Since a leaking water heater can cause property damage as well as damage the heater itself, you should fix it in the immediate future.

Keep in mind that if your water heater is more than a decade old, you’ll want to consider replacing it now before you have to deal with a flooding emergency, as noted by a report from the U.S. government’s Energy Star program. Installing a new water heater means your system will operate more efficiently for lower energy use, which reduces utility bills.

What Should I Do if My Water Heater is Leaking?

person adjusting the dial settings on a water heater

If you notice a leak in your water heater, here are the steps you need to take.

1. Shut Off the Power

Make sure that your family knows how to shut off the power, so they can take care of this problem if you aren’t home when the water heater starts leaking.
As noted by Bob Vila, a gas water heater will have an “On/Off” switch or a dial close to the gas line connection. For electric water heaters, head over the electrical panel fuse box. Switch off the corresponding circuit breaker.

2. Identify the Location

Determining the location of the leak is your next crucial task. (You need to verify if the internal tank is leaking, or if there is some other issue with your plumbing system or water supply).

3. Drain the Tank

Homeowners dealing with a leaky water heater need to get rid of water in a controlled manner. You’ve turned off the power and identified exactly where the water is leaking from. At this point, you need to open a couple of hot water taps, such as in the kitchen and bathroom.

Then, connect a garden hose to the water heater’s drain valve and move the hose outlet to a suitable place to drain the water, such as your front lawn or a drain.

After opening the drain valve, the water will take approximately 10 minutes to drain out completely. You’ll then be able to disconnect the garden hose and shut off the valve (and the hot water taps inside your home).

What Can I Do to Fix a Leaking Water Heater?

You will want to see where the leak is coming from. It may be coming from the top of the water heater, bottom, or connector.


Rule out condensation first! A puddle on the floor just be from condensation. So double-check if a relatively small puddle is just from the changing air temperature.

Side Leak

A side leak can indicate an issue with the temperature pressure relief valve. This safety feature enables dangerous steam and hot water to escape from the water heater in case pressure has built up to a dangerous level (or it might explode, hurling metal shrapnel and potentially scalding your loved ones).

Top Leak

See if there is a leak at the top of the heater, which is not always immediately apparent. Be careful if you need to stand on a step stool, especially around slippery, wet surfaces.

When water is leaking at the top, one of the more common reasons is that it is coming from the cold water inlet that allows water to enter the tank or from the hot water inlet that moves heated water to the rest of your home’s fixtures. The point between the cold water supply and the tank is common for failure to develop.

Bottom Leak

A larger puddle than can be attributed to mere condensation is one of the most common symptoms of a water heater leak. When corrosion is not the issue, you might be able to fix the problem by tightening connections at the bottom of the tank with a pipe wrench.

Tank Connections Leaks

Places to look for leaks include the pressure relief valve, pipe fittings that may have grown corroded or come loose, and the water inlet and outlet connections.

How Long Will Water Heater Last After It Starts Leaking?

Under normal conditions, homeowners can anticipate that a water heater has at least a decade-long lifespan. However, if your water heater begins to leak and you choose not to repair or replace it, you cannot expect to get much more service out of the system.

Professional plumbers estimate that a water heater in this condition will last for about one more week, but how long it might endure depends on the kind of leak and how extensive it is. Remember, catching the leak sooner rather than later might improve your chances of repairing the water heater instead of replacing the whole unit.

Common Causes of a Water Heater Leak

One of the most common causes of a water heater leaking comes from the drain valve or the pressure relief valve. Here is an overview of the more common causes of water tank leaks we’ve encountered at our customers’ homes.

Old Water Tank

Just how old is your home’s water heater? Older tanks will have suffered from more wear and tear. Your old water tank could have grown so corroded that the metal gives way, forming a hole or crack which allows water to leak out. Rather than repairing the leak, a licensed plumber may recommend outright replacement of the tank. If it’s so old that it is breaking apart and allowing water to flow from the tank, you’ll benefit from a more modern unit that will be more energy efficient.

Drain Valve

The drain valve may be corroded or otherwise compromised, allowing a small leak to occur at a point where you would open the tank whenever needing to drain water from it. Therefore, it’s common to find leaks in water tanks.

Faulty Pressure Relief Valve

A temperature and pressure relief valve, also called a T&P valve, is designed to help normalize the situation when pressure builds in the water storage tank. An explosive situation could develop if the T&P fails to bring down pressure. A plumber may determine that you only need to tighten the valve. Or, it might be broken and need to be replaced.

Anode Rod

An ingenious part of the water heater, the anode rod attracts corrosive materials in the water, so they don’t build up inside the tank. But if your water heater is fairly old and the anode rod has become depleted through advanced corrosion, you may start to see leaks occurring at the place where the anode rod once protected the tank. Homes with water softener systems can experience less corrosion.

Sediment Build-Up

In locations where the water supply has a higher level of sediment, your home will have a greater likelihood of sediment building up inside the water heater. Over time, sediment accumulates on the bottom of the water heater. If you do not drain the tank periodically to help eliminate this buildup, the sediment will develop into a real problem, with cracks starting to appear in the bottom of the tank, leaking water onto the floor.

Water heater thermostat on the ground with sediment buildup

Can a Water Heater Leak From an Overflowing Pipe?

Indeed, your water heater can leak from an overflowing pipe amid evidence of too much pressure. This can indicate that your temperature and pressure relief valve needs to be changed. If you lack experience in evaluating components such as pressure relief valves, it’s time to contact a professional plumber from Vaughan Comfort Services for assistance.

The Importance of Maintaining Your Water Heater

Prudent homeowners will arrange for ongoing water heater maintenance. Regular maintenance helps prolong the unit’s life and prevent more expensive fixes that come with disregarding problems. Putting off maintenance often results in homeowners needing to budget for outright water heater replacement much sooner than they might have anticipated.

Here are a few tips for keeping your water heater in top shape.

Annual Flush

Flushing your water heater annually could help prevent a buildup of minerals or sediment. To help you remember to do this annually, take care of the water heater flush when you spruce up your dwelling during spring cleaning tasks.

Continuous Inspection

Catching a small leak or initial signs of damage, before they become evidence of more significant issues that will be vastly more expensive, can be crucial to your water heater maintenance. Inspections of the water heater should take place frequently. Make a habit of observing if there are any signs of leaks when you are near the water heater.

Ideally, you will schedule regular inspections from professionals, such as the experts at Vaughan Comfort Services.

Need a Repair or New Water Heater? Vaughan Can Do That!

There’s no need to suffer from a lack of hot water or a problematic water heater. If you live in or near Magnolia, New Jersey, we can repair or replace your water heater depending on the problem you have with it. Let us send out a pro to take a look.

If your water heater is over 10 years old, it’s likely much less efficient than water heaters currently available. We will be happy to advise you on your best options for a more efficient unit, which will help lower your family’s carbon footprint, use less energy, and therefore reduce your monthly utility bills.

Hot Water When You Need It Most

Your family deserves reliable access to hot water whenever you need it. Achieving this goal is easier when you hire our plumbing experts to look after your water heater and the entire system that delivers water to your home. If you don’t want a traditional water heater and are more interested in a tankless water heater, speak with our experts about your options today.

Vaughan Comfort Services is proud of our excellent reputation in the industry, which we owe in part to our many years of experience since opening our doors in 1937. From our Magnolia, New Jersey headquarters, we serve all of South Jersey. We will listen to your concerns and inspect the water tank to diagnose the problem and then devise a solution for repair or replacement.

A properly functioning water heater is essential for the health and comfort of your family. Our experts know how disruptive it can be to your schedule when the water heater isn’t working as designed.

To learn more about our approach to hot water problems or to arrange for inspection, maintenance, repairs, or a new installation, call us today at 856-627-0303. You can also connect with our water heater installation professionals by using the online contact form.

NJ LIC. NO.13VH01727600
Robert W. Vaughan,
Master HVACR Contractor Lic. # 5842
Thomas J. Weaver,
Master Plumber Lic # 9521

Contact Info
212 Barrett Avenue
Magnolia, NJ 08049

© Vaughan Comfort Services