What To Do If Your Water Heater Is Leaking

No one wants to come home to a leaking hot water heater, especially if it means no hot showers for awhile. Fortunately, a leak doesn't always mean that you need a new hot water heater—sometimes a simple repair will suffice. The following is what you need to do if you spot a leak, so that you can ensure the repair process can occur quickly.

Shut down the water

First and foremost, you need to turn off the water supply to the water heater. There should be a shutoff valve near the heater itself. Only use this valve if the leak is slow and there is no escaping steam or streaming hot water, as you do not want a burn. Wear eye protection and heavy gloves just to be safe. If you are concerned about approaching the hot water heater, you can shut off the main water supply to the house instead. Wait for the leak to slow, then turn off the valve to the water heater. This way you can turn the house water back on so you can still use the cold water service in the house.

Turn off the power

You can turn off power to an electric hot water heater by flipping the controlling circuit breaker switch to the off position. For a gas water heater, you need to close the gas valve that feeds the heater. It's more important to shut off the gas than it is the electricity, since a water heater that isn't in proper working order could pose a safety hazard if the gas valve malfunctions.

Contain the leak

You don't want to deal with water damage on top of water heater repairs. Use a wet-dry vacuum or a mop to clean up the water around the heater and to remove any excess water from the drip tray beneath the water heater or overflow valve. With the heater and power safely turned off, you can then place towels around it to absorb any further water that leaks from the holding tank. The other option is to drain the heater via the flush valve, which is located on the outside of the tank. Simply hook up a hose to the valve, route the hose outside or to a drain, and open the valve. Shut the valve off once the water is done draining.

Call for service

With the emergency tasks out of the way, you can now call a water heater repair service to come and inspect the tank. Leaks most often occur near water or drain valves or at the pressure release valve at the top of the heater. These are a quick repair. In some cases, a cracked tank is the cause of the leak, which means you may need a replacement. Your service person can advise you on the best course of action.