On average, a standard hot water tank will operate efficiently for 8 to 12 years. Tankless water heaters have a much longer lifespan. If you have a standard hot water heater that's nearing 10 years of age, you may notice that it doesn't work quite as well as it used to. You may also notice water on the floor around your heater. If your tank is leaking, it must be repaired -- at the very least -- and may need to be replaced. Following are causes of hot water tank leaks and how to address them.
Leaking Drain Valve
The plumbing going to and from your hot water heater, much like the rest of the plumbing in your house, can develop leaks. Leaks can occur anywhere, but are most often found at the drain valve. If you see water dripping or a steady stream of water coming from your drain valve, it needs to be tightened. If you tighten the valve until it's snug, you will usually stop the leak. If you can't get the leak to stop or can't find the origin of the leak, call your local plumber for assistance.
Increased Internal Pressure
Heated water creates pressure. Think about a boiling pot or pressure cooker. When the internal pressure of a hot water tank becomes to great, water will escape from the temperature pressure relief valve. If you see water coming from this valve, the temperature setting on your hot water tank is likely to high. You may also have a defective thermostat. While you can lower the temperature yourself, you will need to hire someone to troubleshoot the problem further if lowering the temperature doesn't help.
If the water seems to be coming from the surface of the tank itself, you likely have a condensation issue. Condensation, while annoying, is not indicative of a larger problem and does not require intervention.
Rusty Old Tank
If the water seems to be coming from the bottom of your tank, rust and corrosion may be undermining the integrity of your tank. What starts out as a slow drip will eventually turn into a torrential tide, so it's vital that you replace your tank right away if you suspect it is leaking.
As you can see, there are several things that can cause your hot water tank to leak. If you notice a water leak, have your unit inspected today by a licensed plumber. If they can't fix the issue on the spot, they will be able to recommend a new unit for you.