Hot water heaters, whether gas or electric, will last you about 10 – 12 years if you take good care of them. Even so, there’s always a chance your water heater could leak. This isn’t the end of the world – most small hot water heater leaks can be patched up pretty easily. And the best part? There are a number of things you can do before you call a plumber to make it even easier!
Cut the power
The first thing you should do when you find a hot water leak is turn off the fuel source leading to the water heater. If you have a gas water heater, find your thermostat. You should see a little knob with three settings: ON, OFF and PILOT. Switch it to OFF or PILOT to shut off the gas and make the heater safe to work on. If you have an electric water heater, go to your breaker panel and find the breaker labeled “Water Heater”. Turn it off to cut the power to your unit.
Shut off the water
All set? Next, you want to turn off the water, which is easy to do. First, you’ll need to find the cold water line leading to your water heater. There should be a valve on the line – turn it to the right until it closes. This will cut off the water and allow you to move on to the next step: draining the water heater.
Drain the water tank
In many ways, draining your hot water heater is the most important step – and it’s certainly the most involved! First, find the drain valve near the bottom of your hot water heater and attach a garden hose to it. Run the hose to a floor drain or sump pit. Once you’ve got the hose in place, open the valve. On older hot water heaters this may look like an ordinary spigot, while many new hot water heaters have a drain stem with a slot for a screwdriver.
Once you open the drain valve, you may notice water either doesn’t flow or doesn’t flow very well. This is because there’s a vacuum in the water heater. To break the vacuum, open any hot water faucet in your home. This will let air into the water tank and allow it to drain more easily. Once you establish a good flow, the whole tank should drain in about an hour.