3 Common Causes Of Water Heater Emergencies

It's easy to forget to have regular maintenance performed on something that works reliably, like your water heater. The problem with forgetting is that the inevitable issues that arise due to neglect always seem to happen at the most inconvenient moments, like the middle of the night or the weekend. This is often the case when a water heater leaks and floods, forcing homeowners to call a 24-hour emergency plumber. Here are four common causes of water heater leaks that you should watch out for in order to avoid that frantic emergency call in the middle of the night.


Traditional tank hot water heaters function by storing hot water in a metal cylinder that typically holds between 40 to 60 gallons of water. The outside of the cylinder is covered in a layer of insulation, such as polyurethane foam, and by an outer shell. The tank stores hot water and uses a thermostat to detect when the water needs to be heated and a device to measure when the water in the tank needs replenishing. There's also another device, something called a sacrificial anode rod. Because the tank is made of steel, which contains iron, it can rust. The sacrificial anode rod is made of aluminum or magnesium and it stays suspended in the water to prevent this corrosion. However, if your water heater is old enough, the rod itself will begin to corrode and then it's only a matter of time before the tank does. The most common sign of this problem is hot water that comes from your tap with a brownish and rusty hue.

Sediment Buildup

Your water contains minerals. Though the level of mineral content differs depending on where your city gets its water, all tap water has minerals even if you've paid to have a water softener installed in your home. Water softeners leave in a certain amount of minerals because they are healthy for you. Throughout the years of use, those minerals build up and collect at the bottom of the tank. It may insulate the water in the tank from the burner. When this happens, your tank can overheat and corrode further. Too much pressure buildup can cause your tank to burst or leak. The most common sign of this problem is noise like popping and knocking sounds.

Leaking Valves

There are several valves on a tank water heater that could fail and cause leaks: the temperature and pressure relief valve, at the drain line, or at the nipples, the devices that connect the tank to the cold water inlet pipe and also the hot water exit pipe. Two of these, the nipples and the T&P valve, are typically located at the top of the tank, but the drain is at the bottom. Leaking in any of these areas may start small but will only get worse.

To learn more about when you should call an emergency plumber, contact a company like Bud's Plumbing, Heating, Air Conditioning & Electric.