Your hot water heater serves a self-evident purpose in your home. And if you want to keep taking warm showers, you’ll want to keep it in tip-top condition. So what happens if you spot a leak in this all-important appliance? In this article, we examine a very specific source of water heater leakage and cover some related issues that might also be the source of this problem.
Unfortunately, water heater leaks are not always simple to identify and resolve. Leaks from the top of your water heater may be caused by many issues, as the top of your water heater has many things connecting to it. Generally speaking, a leak from the top of your water heater will be from the cold-water inlet valve, the expansion tank, the TPR valve, or the anode rod port. Each of these is caused by different variables, which is what we’ll examine below.
What Would Cause a Hot Water Heater to Leak from the Top?
A water heater leak could be a result of many different issues. In this article, we’re focused on leaks from the top section of your water heater. Here are the potential issues that could be arising:
Leak from Anode Rod Port
To understand a leak in your water heater’s anode rod port, it’s important to understand the purpose of the anode rod. The anode rod attracts corrosive materials inside your water heater. The rod draws the corrosive materials in the water heater as opposed to corroding the tank itself. The rod is sacrificing itself, which is why it’s often called the sacrificial anode rod.
The anode rod eventually reaches a point where it completely corrodes. Because of this, water may be able to sneak out of the top of the water heater through the anode rod port. Of course, this means it’s time to replace the anode rod, which is a relatively straightforward task (but you might want to contact a professional).
Be sure to take care of this as soon as you spot the issue. Without the anode rod, the corrosive materials in the water will attack your water heater tank instead. If the tank corrodes, it will result in a much more expensive repair!
Leak from TPR Valve
The TPR valve (temperature and pressure release valve) is situated on top of your water heater and serves a very important purpose. As your water heater heats the water, the water expands, thus increasing the pressure inside the water heater. If the pressure reaches dangerously high levels, the TPR valve activates, releasing some of the pent-up pressure inside the tank.
The TPR valve connects to a discharge pipe, which carries away any excess water released during the normal course of a TPR valve release. As a result, water shouldn’t be leaking from the top of the device. However, it can occur if the valve doesn’t close itself properly, allowing space for hot water to escape.
Therefore, if you spot water leaking from the top of the TPR valve, it’s the sign of a faulty valve. You will likely need to get the valve inspected and replaced by a professional. In most cases, it will be more efficient to replace the valve than to fix whatever is wrong with it.
The Expansion Tank is Leaking
The expansion tank typically connects to the top of your water heater. It is about the size of a basketball and resembles a small propane tank connected to your water heater via a connecting pipe. Not every water heater has one of these tanks, but it will be easy to identify if they do.
Sometimes, the expansion tank was not connected securely enough, and you might notice leakage at the point where the tank screws on, which can also be accompanied by corrosion if enough time has passed.
Additionally, the expansion tank could be leaking due to age. Because it deals with high pressure for extended periods, the rubber lining on the interior of the tank can break down, and the tank itself can eventually leak.
In either case, you’ll probably require a new tank, which should be installed by a professional. But if you’re lucky, it may just be a matter of tightening the connection ports on the expansion tank with a wrench and preventing any further leakage from the seams.
The Cold Water Inlet Valve is Leaking
The cold water inlet valve is, you guessed it, where cold water from your water supply enters the water heater.
There are numerous points along with the cold water inlet piping that could leak. The most common areas include the valve itself and the pipe fitting (the area that connects to the water heater).
Once again, the potential fix depends on the source of the leak. If you’re lucky, it will simply be a case of loose connection. You can tighten this connection with a wrench to stop the leak. If the valve itself is leaking, it’s likely a faulty valve, which will need to be replaced by a professional.
The Importance of Doing it Right The First Time
As you can see, many leakage issues stem from the fact that any of the components feeding to and from the water heater may be installed improperly, which speaks to the importance of having everything installed correctly the first time. Unless you have sufficient expertise in this area, you should hire a professional to do repairs and maintenance on your water heater. Minor issues can develop into major problems and extensive repairs/replacements, and you want to avoid these issues before they arise.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our guide to understanding common leaks on your water heater. Be sure to routinely check the unit to see if you can spot any of these issues. With consistent care, you’ll have a functioning water heater for years to come!