How to Tell if Your Hot Water Heater is Leaking

Leaking Water Heater

Have you noticed a pool of water near your water heater? You may be wondering if your hot water heater is leaking, or if the standing water is due to a nearby pipe or appliance.

If there is pooling of water on top, around the base, or in close proximity to your water heater, then it’s worth it to complete a quick inspection of your water heater before it’s too late.

Water, rust, and malfunctioning controls are all signs that your hot water heater may have a leak, but you may not be sure which areas of your water heater to inspect.

Follow these simple steps to help determine if your hot water heater is leaking!

Where to Check For Leaks


The fittings, or connections of the cold water inlet and hot water outlet pipes, located on the top of your water heater can be a frequent source of leakage.

Check the areas where the inlet and outlet pipes connect to the hot water heater for signs of leakage. Typically, a leak in these fittings can be easily fixed by tightening the connection with a wrench. However, if the leak is prolonged and there is a puddle on top of your hot water heater, this can suggest possible internal damage.

“A lot of times there are leaks in the fittings above your water heater and they run down onto the top,” says Tom Darling of Empire State Plumbing, the Albany area’s leading experts on hot water tank installation and repair. “A fitting leak on the outside can cause premature failure, as water collected on top of the water heater can soak the insulation, and once that gets wet, it doesn’t dry out. It stays wet.”

Temperature and Pressure Relief Valve

The temperature and pressure relief valve, located either on the side or top of your tank, is another area where water may leak from.

When water is heated by your hot water heater, it expands in volume and creates pressure, a process known as thermal expansion. The temperature and pressure relief valve is a safety valve designed to relieve pressure if the pressure inside the hot water tank gets too high. When the valve is triggered, it opens and releases water from within the tank, lowering the pressure.

If your valve is the source of the water, it is either a sign the valve is functioning as intended or it’s faulty. Reduce your water tank’s temperature using the thermostat and observe. If the valve continues to leak, it is most likely defective and needs to be replaced.

Drain Valve

The drain valve is located at the bottom of the hot water heater’s tank and is used to empty the water heater. This is a common maintenance practice for those living in areas with hard water, like Upstate NY, where sediment collects and reduce’s your hot water heater’s efficiency.

If there is water at the base of your hot water heater tank, check to make sure the drain valve is completely shut off. If there is till water coming from it, the drain valve may simply be loose. If there is till water leaking after tightening the fitting connecting the drain valve to the water tank, then it is mostly likely defective and needs to be replaced.


Your hot water heater has a inner tank that holds your hot water fabricated of steel and enclosed in insulation. If there is a sizable leak coming from the bottom of your hot water heater, the tank is most likely damaged.

As common as this is, unfortunately there is no way to repair a broken tank. The only option is to get a new hot water heater.

Don’t Confuse Leaks with Condensation

One last pro-tip is to not be alarmed over every little drop of water you see.

Condensation is common around hot water heaters due to humidity and the change in water temperatures. Tiny water droplets may appear on the floor, pipes, or body of the water heater itself, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there is a leak.

If you think your hot water heater is leaking, use this simple test: Lay a paper towel over the area you noticed water collecting. Check your paper towel hourly to look for signs of seepage. If there are no signs of water after 24 hours, it most likely was just condensation. Paper towel still wet? Give your trusted plumber a call for a professional opinion.

***Do you think your water heater may be leaking? We offer 24/7 emergency service! Contact Empire State Plumbing online today or call us at (518) 213-9256 for a comprehensive consultation. We are the hot water heater experts in the Albany and Saratoga areas!

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Empire State Plumbing
3725 HWY 20
Nassau, NY 12123
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