Miriam is having a problem with her hot water heater leaking. If you’ve ever been forced to take a cold shower in February, you know that any trouble with a hot water heater is serious. She writes:
“So, I’ve been living in my two-bedroom ranch in Citrus Heights, CA for going on 15 years this summer! Not to brag or anything, because I’m FAR from being an expert, but I’ve learned to be pretty darn handy around the house. I’ve been able to tackle some quick plumbing fixes when pipes have started to leak in the past. This time, though, I think I’ve come across a plumbing problem that exceeds my modest skills.
My water heater is on a stand in the back corner of my garage, about 18 inches or so off the ground. Recently, I started noticing that the hot water in my shower doesn’t last as long as it used to, which at first I didn’t think too much of. Then, I was out in my garage one day getting ready to go for a bike ride when I noticed an unusual pool of water on the floor. I looked underneath my water heater and that’s when I discovered the leak.
Why is my hot water heater leaking from the bottom, and does this mean I’ll have to shell out the money for an entirely new water heater? If so, I wouldn’t mind knowing a bit more about my options from an experienced professional plumber such as yourself!”
You were right to reach out to us, Miriam. Yes, an unusual pool of water beneath your hot water heater is never a good sign, nor is your shower not having as much hot water for you to enjoy as it usually does. But it sounds to me like you’ve already figured that out. So, let’s get right down to the nitty-gritty of answering your questions about your hot water heater leak so that we can get your garage floor dry and, more importantly, your showers hot again!
Why Is My Hot Water Heater Leaking from the Bottom?
Hot water heaters often leak from the bottom for one of two reasons: there is either a problem with your drain valve or there is a leak in your tank. The drain valve is a relatively simple and easy to fix issue, while the tank itself can be much more difficult to repair.
Let’s take a look at how to tell what the cause of the leak at the bottom of your hot water heater is—and how to get a fix for either scenario:
- A leaky drain valve: If your hot water heater is leaking from the bottom, cross your fingers and hope this is your issue because it’s so much cheaper and easier to repair than if it is a leak stemming from the tank. The valve should be easy to locate. It’s a spigot on the bottom of the tank that doesn’t look all that different from the spigot you use to water your lawn outside. If you’re as handy as Miriam is, you’ve probably even used it to drain your water heater of sediment in the past. You can usually see water dripping from the spigot if the drain valve is, in fact, the problem. Generally, a drain valve leak occurs because the washer inside of it has become broken or damaged. The valve will need to be replaced, but the good news is that the cost is far less than that of replacing galvanized pipes, or other major plumbing dilemmas. It is, however, a bit complicated, so you’ll want to have a professional plumber out to make sure it’s done right.
- A leaky water tank: When trying to find the cause of your hot water heater leak, the second place you’ll want to look is on the tank itself. If you see water leaking anywhere from the tank, chances are very high you’ll have to replace the entire hot water heater. My sense is that Miriam—who described a noticeable pool of water on her garage floor—has this issue because more water tends to drip from a leak in the tank than it would from a drip in the valve. Replacing your water heater is not as costly as upgrading the plumbing in an old house, for example, but it is far more costly than just simply getting a new drain valve. As with the leaky drain job, you’ll want to call a professional plumber to get this fix done—or risk installing your new hot water heater improperly. A professional plumber can also make sure you pick a model that is energy efficient and fits the size and needs of your home and family.
Water Heater Replacement Options
I won’t belabor this point because I’ve talked about picking a tankless water heater in the past, but I do strongly recommend choosing an energy efficient tankless model if you must replace your old hot water heater when it springs a leak. There are just too many benefits to the new tankless hot water heater models for homeowners to go any other route.
Some of the most enticing benefits of tankless hot water heaters are:
- Comfort: In Citrus Heights, CA where Miriam lives, as well as throughout the Sacramento area and Northern California, we have what’s known as a Mediterranean climate. This means our summers are hot and dry, but our winters can be damp and chilly. And, there’s nothing as soothing as a nice hot shower on a cold winter morning. One of the main benefits of a tankless water heater is that it provides instant and continuous steaming hot water. No more showers going unexpectedly cold. Doesn’t that sound nice?
- Savings: Tankless water heaters tend to be between 24 and 34% more efficient than their standard counterparts, according to energy.gov. A more efficient appliance means a lower utility bill because your water heater will need to use less fuel to heat your water.
- A longer lifespan: Conventional water heaters have a lifespan between 10 and 15 years. Tankless water heaters, however, last up to 20, making them a great long-term investment.
So, Miriam, my advice is to go ahead and pinpoint exactly where your hot water heater is leaking, but also realize that knowing this is mostly for your own piece of mind. Either way, I highly recommend calling an experienced professional plumber. He or she will be able to tell you exactly where your leak is, and they’ll be able to fix it on the spot or help you start the process of having it replaced with a more efficient model.
I highly suggest you go with Bell Brothers for all your plumbing needs. We’ve been doing this sort of work for years, and our plumbers are bonafide experts in tankless water heater installation. In other words, it’ll be no time at all before your water bills are going down and the temperature in your shower is going up!
Contact the plumbing professionals at Bell Brothers to have your leaky water heater checked or to learn more about upgrading to a tankless water heater today. We’ll offer recommendations and upgrades that are sure to increase your year-round efficiency— and decrease your water bills.
Wondering how to finance a new HVAC system, windows, or plumbing? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
Image courtesy Minerva Studio