Q: Our water heater suddenly started leaking from between the top and the tank itself. It's not coming out of any of the pipes, but from...
Q: Our water heater suddenly started leaking from between the top and the tank itself. It’s not coming out of any of the pipes, but from under the “lid.” It’s like it doesn’t know it’s full, and it keeps filling.
To stop the leak for now, we turned off the power, turned off the water coming into the tank and relieved the pressure by letting some water out of the drain at the bottom. What component of the water heater knows when it’s full and stops it from filling? Is that the thermostat? Is this something we can fix ourselves?
A: Your tank is pressurized by the incoming water. When it is full, the incoming water is held back by pressure in the tank. Every drop you take out of the tank at a fixture is immediately replaced by incoming pressure. Since the tank lining was leaking, water continued to come in. When you closed the valve on the incoming water, you eliminated the pressure and prevented more water from coming in. And when the bottom drain was opened, you lowered the water level to a point beneath the rupture. You did all the right things.
Bottom line: You need a new water heater. Replacing it is fairly simple if you feel comfortable with electrical and plumbing connections. Everything you need is available at a full-service hardware or home-supply store.
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A: I have covered this issue before, but it slipped my mind for this application. Thanks for the heads up!
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Darrell Hay is a local home inspector and manages several rental properties. Send home maintenance questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Sorry, no personal replies. More columns at www.seattletimes.com/columnists.