leaking-hot-water-heater-pic1A leaking hot water heater, is this bad news or what? It could be, on the other hand it may not be that serious. What do you have a 40, 50 or even a 60 gallon hot water tank? That's a lot of water.

Your water heater has water lines entering and exiting. Fittings can leak and the tank itself can leak. There are several possible sources for leaks on a hot water tank. There is information below that will help to track down the issue.

Do you have another problem with your water heater? See the article 'Electric Water Heater Troubleshooting' and 'Troubleshooting Gas Hot Water Heater Problems' for a listing of all the issues that can come up with a water heater. The articles will point you to resources to solve the problem.

Not All Drips Are Leaks

Several years ago I installed a new hot water tank in my home. I was thoroughly proud of myself when I fired it up. It was a big job, it went fairly well and I was quite confident that it was a success. After a few minutes I noticed water dripping onto the floor. I checked all of the fittings, no leaks. What could it be?

I was devastated, it appeared to be coming from the tank. A brand new hot water tank and I managed to get a defective one. I found a phone number in the manual, good deal, I was going to do some venting. This was the early eighties and technology was not what it is today. I got an automated response system with a not convincing computer generated voice. After several minutes and a plethora of questions I got my answer. Condensation, the tank was filled with cold water and now it was heating up. By the next morning there was not any sign of water dripping.

Leaking Hot Water Heater - Information

What Can You Save?

Not sure how to answer this. Tightening a fitting could be a $100 experience. Finding out that your tank is leaking and you need a new one, well that is going to cost a lot more. Let's hope your problem is simple and you are going to realize it is nothing or be able to fix it within a half an hour. Go with the $100 figure. Great pay if you can do it in a half an hour.

How Hard Could It Be?

Fixing a leaking hot water heater by tightening something is not that hard. Finding out it is just condensation is even easier. Replacing a hot water tank is hard and not the subject of this article.

These repairs will have a Difficulty Level of: A Bit of Work
These repairs require a Skill Level of: Handyman
For and explanation of the terms in this section, see 'How to Use This Site'.

Check the Simple Things!

Condensation is the easiest thing. Is the tank filled with cold water? Then it is condensation. Tightening the drain valve is also pretty easy.

What Can Go Wrong?

Old corroded fittings can be difficult to work with. You may think you will just tighten something up and bang, you break it. When the tank is leaking you are living on borrowed time. Forty gallons on hot water on your floor can make a big mess and damage other things. Being without hot water will irritate the family, especially if it lasts any length of time.

Troubleshooting a Leaking Hot Water Heater

The water heater drain valve is a common culprit for water heater leaks. The article 'Leaking Water Heater Drain Valve' will give you some tips on what to do with it.

Another item that is prone to leaking is the pressure relief valve. They are designed to open when a dangerous pressure is reached. An older valve may open before the pressure is high enough. You can review the article 'Leaking Pressure Relief Valve' by following this link.

You have cold water pipes leading into and hot water pipes leading out of your hot water tank. It could be that some of these are leaking. See the article 'Leaking Water Heater Pipes' for more information.

Condensation is not a leak at all, although it might appear to be. When there is a lot of cold water in the tank, condensation can occur. The article 'Water Heater Condensation' tells you when this can occur and what to watch for.


The worst leak of all is that tank itself. Water heater tanks are glass lined and made of cast metal material. They cannot be repaired when they crack. Replacing it may have be your only option. To review this subject, see 'Leaking Water Heater Tanks'.


Were you able to take care of your leaking hot water heater? I hope it was something simple. Changing a drain valve or a pressure relief valve is a little work. Tightening the fittings can also be a little tough.

Or did you find out it was something really easy like condensation. Nothing to do at all. I'm afraid to ask, was the news bad? Is your hot water tank terminal? Is the tank leaking? Are you sure it is not condensation? This is not good news. Replacing it means a big expense and a lot of work. Sorry.