How To Fix Water Heater Leaks Caused By The Pressure Relief Valve

If you see a pool of water around your water heater, you'll want to take immediate action—it's vital to shut off the water and fix the leak as soon as possible.  The most common reason a water heater leaks is related to the pressure relief valve.  Here are a few reasons why pressure relief valves cause the water heater to leak and how to fix them. 

Initial steps

The first thing to do is to turn off the main valve that shuts off the water supply in your house.  It will likely have a red handle and you will need to rotate it clockwise to turn off the water.  If the valve is hard to turn by hand, you can use a set of pliers to make the job easier.  If the water is leaking from the heater itself, look for a supply valve, which will be located directly above the heater.  Turn that off as well by rotating the handle in the clockwise direction.  

Find and fix the leak

The pressure relief valve is located at the very top of the heater itself.  A small pool of water at the base of the heater indicates that the pressure valve has released water.  When too much pressure builds, the valve relieves the pressure by pouring out water.  This prevents your water heater from exploding because of excessive pressure. 

One of the reasons for the increase in pressure is that the heater temperature is set too high.  Consult the directions that came with your heater and set the temperature at the recommended setting. 

The valve can also get clogged by sediment and start releasing water because it mistakes the sediment for high pressure.  You can test this by opening and closing the valve a few times to loosen the sediment.  Then, turn on your water supply to see if the leak is still there.

How to replace a broken pressure relief valve

If you see water dripping from the valve itself, or if it looks rusted, it is time to replace the valve with a new one.  Pressure relief valves cost less than $20 and are available to purchase at any hardware store.  Follow the instructions below to replace your valve.

  1. Shut off the water supply.
  2. Turn off the power source.  This can either be gas or electricity depending on the type of heater you have. 
  3. Run hot water at any faucet to drain the water from the heater.
  4. Pull up the valve lever.
  5. Now, remove the old valve by rotating it counterclockwise.
  6. Take your new valve and align it with the pipe thread.
  7. Screw in the new valve and make sure to tighten it well.

After finishing the repair, don't forget to to reignite the pilot light after you turn the water supply and power source back on.  For any extra help, contact a professional like Biard & Crockett Plumbing