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Prevent a Flood: Check Your Water Heater

With water pipes running behind your walls and unpredictable storms beating down on the roof, there are clearly plenty of places a water leak can develop. For this reason, it’s wise to keep flood prevention tips at the back of your mind. Start by checking individual appliances for leaks or signs that a leak could develop in the near future. Here’s what you need to know about checking your water heater to prevent a flood in your home.

How to Check Your Water Heater for Leaks

The flood prevention steps you should take depend on the type of water heater leak that’s occurring:

  • If water is pooling around the base of the heater, make sure it’s truly a leak and not just condensation. Water can drip down the side of the tank when cold water enters, but disappear when the water has a chance to warm up. Condensation can also come from gas water heater vents. Tankless water heaters shouldn’t have condensation problems since they don’t store water.
  • If you determine the water pooling on the ground is not from condensation, check the temperature-pressure relief valve on or near the top of the tank. This valve is designed to open and release water if the pressure inside the tank gets too high. A leak here means the valve needs to be replaced.
  • If the temperature-pressure relief valve is fine, check the drain valve near the bottom of the tank. Tighten the valve and see if the leak stops. If not, the valve may be defective, which means you need to replace it.
  • If water is spraying from pipes or the water heater itself, shut off the water mainline immediately until you can get to the bottom of the problem.

How to Locate and Shut Off the Water Mainline

Water enters your water heater from the mainline. If you discover your water heater has a leak, the fastest way to prevent damage is to locate the water mainline and shut it off immediately. The location of the water mainline depends on what type of home you live in:

  • If your home has a basement or crawlspace, the valve is probably in one of these areas near the front of the house.
  • If your house is built on a slab, the valve could be located right behind the water heater or in the garage.
  • If you can’t find the water mainline entrance point on the inside, look for a covered box buried in the ground outside your home.

The method for turning off the water mainline depends on where it’s located:

  • For a valve located inside your home, simply turn the valve clockwise to stop the flow of water.
  • For a valve located outside in an underground water meter box, you must first remove the security bolt with a pentagonal “meter key,” pliers, or crescent wrench and screwdriver. Once inside the water meter box, turn the valve clockwise to shut off the flow of water. You may need a wrench to turn a stubborn valve.

Deciding if it’s Time to Upgrade Your Water Heater

If you’re dealing with a leaky water heater and potentially costly repairs, it could be time to consider a replacement so you don’t have to constantly worry about the possibility of a flood. Just keep in mind that you’ll need to comply with new water heater regulations that went into effect last year.

The new regulations, while aimed at saving energy and bringing water heating costs down, could require increased upfront costs in terms of higher purchase prices and more complicated installations. With this in mind, now could be a good time to go tankless. Many tankless water heaters already met the new standards before they went into effect and can provide you with unlimited hot water and lower water heating bills.

While flood prevention is the best option, Rainbow International® is here to help you recover if your water heater floods your home. Contact us for a free water damage mitigation estimate or for immediate assistance if you need help in the aftermath of a flood.