Finding a leak around your hot water heater can be bad news. It could mean you need a replacement unit, or it could mean repairs are needed. But how do you determine if you have a hot water heater leak in the first place?

A hot water tank in a basement.

The first signs of a hot water heater leak could be water pooling up around the base of the water tank. But this doesn’t necessarily mean you have a leak. Other reasons for water showing up around your hot water heater could be:

  • Furnace drain lines
  • Water softener discharge lines
  • Condensation
  • Other pipes in the plumbing

One way you can determine if it’s coming directly from the hot water heater is to place paper towels or newspapers down on the floor of the wet area. You’ll want to be very careful because the temperature of the water could be very hot. If it dries up in the next couple of days it may not be coming from the water heater. However, if the water remains or looks worse, you most likely have a hot water heater leak. 

If your hot water heater is leaking, contact the leak detection and repair experts at Larkin Plumbing today!

Common leak areas for hot water heaters

Besides visibly seeing water on the floor on or around the base of the tank, there are other areas to check for water leaks. You would want to check this before you shut off the water valve.

External: On the top of the unit, you will see piping or valves coming into the tank. One is for cold water, the other is for hot water. Is there water around the fittings on either pipe? This situation can be easily repaired, but you don’t want to leave it because the water dripping down the tank could cause an electrical short to the whole unit.

Internal: If you see water coming from the bottom of the tank, you will want to check the drain valve. Make sure it is completely closed. If it is showing leakage, it’s possible the valve is faulty and would need to be replaced. If there is moisture where the drain valve enters the tank, you might have an internal leak in the tank. That is a serious problem, and you should call a plumber right away.

Tankless water heater: Ideally, there should be a drain pan at the bottom of a tankless unit to catch any drips coming from the pipes or valves. If you see signs of a leak, it could mean a condensation build-up caused by improper ventilation, which could cause corrosion. Another factor to consider is if your community has acidic water or hard water, which can cause corrosion over time leading to water leaks. Tankless water heaters require using low water pressure so if the water pressure is too high, it can cause the unit to wear out and leak.

Can hard water cause problems with water heaters?

The effects of hard water on water heaters can cause erosion over time. Small pinholes can develop in the metal tank or pipes from mineral sedimentation. It’s known that the water in Southern Nevada is notoriously hard. Las Vegas has some of the hardest water in the country at 278 parts per million or 16 grains per gallon. 

This is because the majority of water coming into the Las Vegas valley comes from Lake Mead, which has a high mineral content. To solve this problem, you could have your water heater or tankless water heater flushed to remove the sediment caused by mineral buildup. It will improve the efficiency of your water heater’s performance. You can also add water softener as another solution. Larkin can advise you as to the best solution.

Other ways to determine if you have hot water heater problems

Listen for odd sounds. Do you hear rattling or knocking sounds when turning on the hot water faucet? Does it take a while for tap water to get hot? Or do you run out of hot water when taking a shower? How old is your hot water heater? If it’s more than 10 years old it could need replacement. These are a few things to consider when diagnosing hot water heater problems. Larkin Plumbing can find the cause of these problems and fix them safely and efficiently.

What do I do if I find a hot water heater leak?

If you can’t determine where the water leak is coming from, or if you feel it’s too complicated to fix the problem yourself, call a professional plumber. You should first shut off the water to the tank and then shut off the power to the unit until a plumber arrives. Fixing a water leak is not always a simple process, and it’s best to have an experienced, knowledgeable plumber diagnose the cause of the hot water heater leak. 

Pipes leading from a water heater in a basement.

At Larkin Plumbing, we have served the Las Vegas valley for over 80 years. We know what it takes to fix your plumbing problems. Our professional plumbers are experts in water heater repair. We are on call 24 hours for emergencies, too. Give us a call today. (702) 382-2410