Finding out that your hot water heater is malfunctioning can be an intimidating scenario, but don't panic. If your water heater's pressure relief valve is leaking, this guide will help you to figure out why, what you can do about it, and whether you should bring in a professional repairman.
Why Valves Leak
While it might seem like a malfunction, a leaking pressure relief valve is purposefully designed to leak when the pressure or heat in your water heater becomes too intense. Without the overflow valve, the pressure in your water heater would become so intense that it could explode or become permanently damaged, so never attempt to plug the end of the pipe. If the pipe is leaking from the bottom of the pipe and lasts more than a day, call a repairman: this may be a signal that there's something seriously wrong with your water heater.
When It's Not The Pressure
Sometimes a leak is just a leak: check the pipe to see if it's leaking from the top of the water heater where it's screwed into the heater. If the leak is where it connects to the heater, it just needs to be covered with fresh pipe joint compound.
To do this:
- Completely turn off the water heater. If your heater is gas-powered, you'll need to turn off the gas valve handle, which will cut the flow of gas to the heater. If it's electric, there should be a switch or breaker in your electric box: flip it to the off position.
- Pull the handle on the release valve upwards to release the stored water. Once the water and pressure are completely released, disconnect the pressure valve using a pipe wrench.
- Once unscrewed, apply the pipe joint compound to the threads of the pipe and reconnect it. Let this dry for at least one full day before pulling the release valve back up and turning the heater back on.
When It Becomes An Emergency
If your water heater is only leaking but there's still water in the heater, chances are it's just releasing pressure. However, if you notice a large amount of water on the ground and there's no water in the heater itself, the safety valve has blown and you must turn off the heater immediately. Once it's off, call a repairman immediately: the valve or the entire water heater may need to be replaced.
If the pressure valve continues to leak or applying the pipe joint compound doesn't fix the problem, you'll need to call a repairman to replace the pipe. Thankfully, this is a fairly minor repair and your water heater is doing what it should to prevent serious damage to your home and pipes. For more information about water heater issues, contact a company like McDermott Plumbing Service and Repair.