Hot water heater leaking from the top?

Homeowners will agree that leaking appliances are among their worst nightmares!

Not only do they make for an ugly sight, but they also invite several other related damages, fixing which can cost hundreds of dollars, and a leaking water heater is no exception. Given their utility in our day-to-day lives, we understand the urgency to get them fixed.

That’s why we have compiled this list with the key reasons behind water heater leaking from top vent.

So, let’s get down to business!

What Causes Water Leaking From Top Of Water Heater?

Okay, so before walking you through the details of what causes water heater leaking from top seam, here’s some good news: a leak originating from the top is better than one from the bottom, but that doesn’t mean that you can overlook it.

Since water always runs downhill, it can cause significant damages to the heater, floor, or drywall. Not only that, but a seemingly harmless leak can also lead to short circuits. That’s why it’s important to detect a leak from the get-go. And for that, you’ll need to know what contributes to water coming out of top of water heater in the first place.

So, in the following sections, we’ve listed the various reasons for a leaking heater and their fixes.

Leaking Valve

Leaking valves are one of the most common reasons behind hot water tank leaking from top. Generally, most water heater models employ a ball valve and an in-line valve to turn off the water flow. You can easily identify it as a joint with a handle.

When the handle is kept parallel to the pipe, the valve is open for water flow. Similarly, the valve is switched off when the handle sits perpendicular to the line. In case you see any dripping from this area, you can tighten the nuts that keep them in place. However, severe leaks may need valve replacements.

Leaking Temperature And Pressure Relief Valve

As you may already know, the temperature and pressure relief (T&P) valve is located on the top of the water heater. It basically acts as a safety mechanism to release any excess air pressure or water during over-pressurization or thermostat failure. If this valve develops a leak, we’d advise changing it altogether.

For this, the first step is to drain the heater by flushing it or turning on all the hot water faucets in the home. Next, lift the lever on the valve to get rid of the extra pressure and use a wrench to remove it slowly. You can then install the new valve by turning it clockwise and using a wrench to fix it in place.

Once done, turn on the water supply to check if the valve is working properly and switch on the water heater. You should be good to go!

Leaking Joint

Much like leaking valves, leaking joints are also among the primary causes of water heater leaking from top element. Anything from a loose connection to a stripped, threaded, or corroded electric nipple may trigger a leak.

Fixing them won’t require a herculean effort per se. In case of the latter, make sure to drain water from the T&P valve and towel dry the pipes before putting on the new ones. That said, if the tank has copper tubing instead of threaded pipes, then calling for professional help may be the right thing to do unless you have adequate plumbing knowledge.

You may also choose to re-plumb the tank with threaded or water-rated PVC for simplification purposes. Here again, don’t forget to turn off the water and power before starting.

Leaking Threaded Pipe

If the threaded pipe joint is leaking, it’s most likely due to a loose connection. The first step in tightening it is to locate and disconnect the female coupling. For the unversed, a female coupling is a special female-to-female fitting that goes over the two pipe ends. It uses a couple of nuts integrated with washers to create the seal.

Remove the coupling to tighten the offending joint (with the right-sized wrench) and then reconnect it.

Rusted Anode Rod Port

The anode rod port is a steel wire that runs along the length on the inside of the heater and is screwed to the top. With prolonged use and due to a process called electrolysis, the water in the tank comes in contact with the anode line to corrode it instead of hitting the protective metal lining.

After some time, the water crosses the threshold of the anode line and starts rusting the interior of the heater. If left unchecked, it can eventually cause the heater to burst. That’s why it’s best to have it replaced by professional and licensed plumbers.

Corroded Exterior Pipes And Interior

Corroded and damaged exterior pipes can cause electric water heater leaking from top sooner rather than later. Hence, it’s a good practice to keep the corrosion from intensifying.

To clean minor corrosion on the exterior pipes, there’s a simple DIY solution. All you need to do is mix one gallon of distilled white vinegar with one cup of table salt. Apply it to the corroded parts, let it sit for a few hours, and then wipe it off with a clean and dry cloth.

If you can’t find a leaking spot on the exterior surface, it’s highly likely that the inside is corroded or damaged. Turn on any hot water faucet in the home and check for rusty water flow, especially for older heaters. If it’s more than a decade old, it’s probably time to install a new one.

Final Words

It’s not unusual for water heaters to start leaking after extensive use. But with proper maintenance, you can prolong its service life to the best possible extent, and that would require a blend of DIY and professional maintenance. So, get it professionally checked from time to time. Besides, if you spot no apparent reason for the malfunctioning, we’d strongly recommend calling the professionals.

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