Water heaters are nothing short of essential for a comforting hot shower. In the colder months, it’s great to reward yourself with a long, hot soak in the tub. No doubt, water heaters make washing and bathing much more comfortable, But they can also be stress-inducing when they leak. A water heater leaking from the relief valve is a problem you don’t want to have, especially during winter.
If you do find yourself in this situation, there’s no need to get too frustrated. Licensed plumbers can assess your problem accurately and provide the best fix.
How to Troubleshoot a Water Heater Leaking From the Relief Valve
Water heaters have a temperature and pressure valve (TPV) that works like a relief valve. This valve prevents your heater from overheating. It also keeps your unit from undue pressure, which can lead to heater damage.
When pressure builds up inside the tank, the valve opens up. When this happens, a little water will drip from the valve. This is your cue that the TPV is working.
However, constant leaking can be an indication that something’s wrong. It’s also a cause for concern when the valve of the water heater makes weird noises or the water leaking contains solids.
The following can contribute to a leaking TPV.
High Water Pressure
While TPV leaks can be concerning, they don’t automatically mean the valve is broken or malfunctioning. It could be designed that way, and it’s actually doing its job. You can confirm this by checking your unit’s water pressure.
The process is simple. You’ll need a pressure gauge, and you’ll need to attach it to the hot or cold water pipe. Similarly, you can attach the gauge to a hose faucet for outdoor units. Then, you need to turn off all your faucets and outlets.
When you check the pressure reading, what’s considered normal is within the 40 to 80 psi range. If you get a reading of 150 psi and above, your water pressure is too high and might be the cause of your TPV leak.
A closed system might be the culprit. A closed system happens when the pressure has nowhere to go as heat goes up. The TPV then has to open up to release the pressure.
To solve this, you can have a professional install an expansion tank, which helps keep the pressure within normal range. Another way is to have a plumber assess the pressure and provide the necessary solution.
High Water Temperature
Another cause for a leaking TPV is high water temperature. While this is less common than high water pressure, it is something you can’t disregard. The water will need to get as high as 210 degrees for the TPV to leak, but it won’t hurt to check.
You can check the temperature by running a hot water faucet for about a minute. Then, measure the water’s temperature with a thermometer. A reading of 120 is considered normal. Anything higher than that, however, warrants a check from a plumber.
Incorrect Valve Installation
There’s a chance that the wrong type of pressure valve was installed. This can happen when the technician uses a valve designed for another appliance. While this is also quite uncommon, mistakes can happen. The valve can look and function similarly, but may have a lower psi requirement.
For instance, broiler pressure valves only require 30 psi to activate. If your technician mistakenly installs it on your water heater, it will leak almost immediately. If you’ve had your heater for a long time, and the leaks happened after you installed a new valve, the valve itself might be incorrect. It’s best to contact a plumber to have it checked and replaced accordingly.
Over time, water heater TPVs can wear down and start to not work as intended. This can be another potential cause of the leak. Unfortunately, the only solution to this problem is to replace the valve. Fortunately, valves don’t cost that much–you can find ones for as low as $30.
If the valves were unused for years, this can also weaken them. If this is the case, the leak may be a temporary thing. It’s still best to have a professional check it, though.
It’s not always easy to pinpoint the cause of the TPV leak, especially if you lack the necessary troubleshooting skills. To remove all doubts, have a professional check them. A professional plumber has the necessary tools and expertise to identify the issue. If there needs some fixing or replacements of your water heater, the plumber can do so as well.
What Does It Mean When a Water Heater Is Leaking From the Side Panel?
You should be concerned when your water heater leaks because it damages your water system and can also cause direct damage to your home. Flooding is one obvious effect, but there’s also mildew growth, rusting and warping of materials. You need to act quickly and contact a professional when this happens.
If your water heater is leaking from its side panel, you can look into the TPV or the temperature as the main cause. As a safety device, the importance of a TPV can’t be overstated. As mentioned, once the pressure reaches 150 psi, the valve opens up to normalize the pressure again. Similarly, the valve lets out heat when the temperature reaches 210 degrees.
There’s nothing to worry about when you have a bit of leakage, as this happens when the TPV opens up. What’s alarming is when you begin to see puddles of water beneath the heater. Two things are most likely happening: either the tank holds too much pressure or the TPV is not functioning properly.
When this happens, it’s best to have an expert handle the problem. A professional plumber can replace the TPV and prevent additional damage. One thing you can also do is set regular checkups to keep your heater and valves well-maintained.
How to Prevent Sediment in Water Heaters
Water heaters are durable and can last up to 10 years. But its lifespan can drastically shorten if there is sediment buildup. Sediment buildup is one of the main causes of water heater damage. Water can contain minerals, and over time, this can accumulate and settle at the bottom of your tank. Sediment can damage your check valves and circulating pump, hindering unit efficiency.
Professionals are trained to prevent sediment buildup. The plumber will flush out your tank and remove any dirt or grime. It’s ideal if you can schedule a water heater flushing every year. Plumbers follow this procedure when they flush out water heaters.
Turn Off the Unit
Your plumber will first turn off your heater. If your heater runs on gas, they will set the thermostat to “pilot” to cool the water inside the tank. Before proceeding, they will make sure that no one is using any water.
Turn Off the Cold Water Valve
Your plumber will then turn off the valve for the cold water. When this valve lets cold water into the tank, it forces the hot water to flow throughout your home. Without any new water entering the tank, the plumber can then proceed to drain it. They will also let the hot water left in the tank cool. This will allow them to flush out the tank safely.
Drain the Tank
When the water is cool, the plumber will attach a hose to the drain valve. You can usually find this valve on the side of the heater. They’ll make sure the hose is tightly screwed. After that, they will place the other end of the bucket over a drain or container to prevent spilling on your house floor.
After this, the plumber will open several faucets in your home, set them in hot, and let them run. This is to prevent a vacuum inside the pipes. Using a screwdriver, the plumber will turn the valve and empty the tank.
Your water heater should be free of sediments once your plumber drains the tank. After this, they will turn the drain valve off, detach the hose, and turn on the cold water valve and the heater. As the water flows back into the tank, the plumber will keep a couple of faucets still open to check if the flow goes back to normal. Usually, this will take about half an hour.
While you can try to do this yourself, it’s always best to let a professional handle it.
Contact the Pros for Your Water Heater Woes
A leaking water heater is a serious concern for homeowners, but there’s always a quick way to address it. If you feel that your troubleshooting doesn’t yield any results, call in the professionals. Licensed plumbers will have your water heater running safely and efficiently so you can enjoy hot showers again.
ABC Can Help With All Your Water Heater Service Needs
Water heater problems can cause large disruptions in your day-to-day life. If you’re experiencing issues, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our licensed professionals will efficiently fix any water heater issues you may be having.