Discovering a leak in your hot water heater can be a troubling event. It can be even more troubling when you don't know how to handle it. As a new homeowner, understanding how to respond to these events is important, because your actions in the minutes following a leak can have a significant effect on the level of water damage your home suffers. Here is a look at the best action plan for responding to a hot water heater tank leak.
Eliminate The Risk Of Electric Shock
Everyone knows that water and electricity are a bad combination, but few people think about shutting the power off on the hot water heater when they discover a leak. Before you do anything else, you should always cut the power supply to your hot water tank if you've discovered a leak.
Electric hot water heaters require a hands-off approach to shutting off the power in the event of a leak. This is for your own safety. If you have an electric hot water heater, locate the circuit breaker in your breaker panel that controls the hot water tank and turn that breaker to the off position.
Let Gas Hot Water Heaters Cool Down
The heat generated in a hot water tank can be uncomfortable and may actually scald you. Before you can address the water, you need to make sure the tank isn't heating the water. With an electric hot water tank, shutting off the power will actually accomplish this at the same time. For gas hot water heaters, all you need to do is shut off the pilot light. The thermostat should have three settings on it. One for the pilot light, one to turn the hot water heater on, and one to turn it off. Turn the thermostat to the "OFF" position to cut the power and stop it from heating.
Turn Off The Water Feed
Especially if the leak is due to a crack in the tank or a leaky valve, you need to stop any more water from feeding into the tank. To do this, shut off the water supply. Look for the cold water line on the hot water tank, which is usually located near the top. Follow that line to the shut-off valve, which should be located just before the tank. Turn that valve to the right to close it. Keep turning it until it stops so that you can be sure that it is completely closed.
Drain The Existing Water
Once you've stopped any more water from flowing into the tank, it's time to get rid of the water that's already there. The more you can drain from the tank, the less will end up on your floors. To do it, you'll have to find the drain valve along the base of your hot water tank. Screw a hose to the valve. Your garden hose should do fine. Then, put the other end of the hose into a tub, sink, or floor drain. Open the drain valve to allow the water to flow through the hose. It may be a spigot that you have to turn to the left to open, or it may be a screw valve that requires a screwdriver to open. Once the valve is open, the water will start to drain slowly. You can speed up the process by opening up a hot water faucet somewhere nearby. This breaks any vacuum that exists in the line, allowing the tank to drain faster. Shut off the valve once the water has drained.
After you've drained the tank, that eliminates the emergency response. From there, you can call a local plumber for hot water heater repair services.