How to Tell If Water Heater Is Leaking and Needs to Be Replaced
LESLIE: James in Minnesota, you’ve got The Money Pit. How can we help you today?
JAMES: Bought a house about a year ago and I don’t know how old the water heater is, because it was a foreclosure. And I had gone downstairs and took the cover off and turned up a little bit to try to get a little more hot water out of it temperature-wise. And I noticed on the inside that it seems wet, like the fiberglass insulation on the tank? So, I was wondering if that means the tank is going bad or do I need to start saving money to buy a new water heater?
TOM: The water heater is in your basement?
JAMES: Yeah, it’s in my basement. Correct.
TOM: You know, sometimes you get a little condensation inside of that. Does your water stay hot or do you – does it seem to run out quickly?
JAMES: No, it stays hot for a while. It’s just not as hot as I’d like it, so I – it’s cold here now this time of year, so I just went down to dial it up a little and I saw it was wet inside. And I don’t see anything leaking from the bottom.
TOM: OK. Well, generally, when water heaters leak, everybody knows it, OK? It’s not subtle.
JAMES: Yeah, OK. Good.
TOM: Alright. So I doubt it’s leaking badly right now. You may have a bit of condensation in there. However, what you want to keep in mind with electric water heaters, first of all, they’re very expensive to run. And so it’s a good idea to have a timer on them. Secondly, with an electric water heater, there’s two coils, not just one. So, on the outside of your water heater, you should see two panels: one up high and one down low. And each one of those has its own thermostat. And so in order to adjust the temperature, you have to open both of them up and with a screwdriver – an insulated screwdriver – you turn it very carefully until it’s about 110 degrees on both of them.
TOM: And with a 40- or 50-gallon water heater – how many bedrooms – I mean how many bathrooms do you have in the house?
TOM: So, a 40-gallon would be smallish, maybe adequate; a 50-gallon would definitely be good.
JAMES: That’s what it is.
TOM: If you’re wondering the age of it, on the label on the water heater, there’s generally a date that’s either written plainly on that or it’s coded into the serial number. So, if you look at the serial number, you look at the date, you may see a date on there and you can figure out how old this is.
JAMES: Oh, OK. Great. Thanks so much (inaudible at 0:16:41).
TOM: You’re welcome, James. Thanks so much for calling us at 888-MONEY-PIT.