Water heaters generally operate well under most circumstances with regular care, maintenance and cleaning, but as with almost any home appliance, problems can occur. One such problem is if the water heater is leaking, either due to a corroded water tank, loose valves or even just condensation during particularly cold temperatures. Several dangers exist that are associated with a leaking water heater.
If the leak is caused by a buildup of water, it should be controlled by the temperature pressure relief valve, which is designed to release excess water when pressure builds up in the water heater. However, if the water temperature is set too high, the water pressure is too high or the relief valve is broken or damaged, the pressure may build up in the tank and the tank could explode.
Broken Heating Element
A leak on an electric water heater may be due to a damaged or broken heating element gasket. If the heating element is suspected, turn off the water and power and drain all water out of the water tank before replacing the gasket. Run hot water in a sink before turning the power back on to the unit to prevent further damage to the heating element.
If the leak around a water heater is due to a rusty pipe, there is additional danger to the water supply, as water that is exposed to rust may absorb bacteria and rust. This water will then be distributed throughout the home from the water heater, which exposes users to potentially harmful chemicals or bacteria in the water.
One of the most basic dangers of a leaking water heater is the damage to the surrounding floor and walls. This can lead to mold and can even seep down to the foundation of the home, which can ultimately weaken the foundation and lead to other problems. Any water around a water heater should be cleaned up thoroughly as soon as possible, and the area should be monitored well for potential mold or mildew that may grow as a result of water exposure.
Meredith Jameson writes early childhood parenting and family health articles for various online publications. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from San Francisco State University.