LESLIE: Greg in Washington has a question about some mysterious water by the water heater. Tell us about this.
GREG: I was visiting my daughter in Spokane and, as any good father, sort of checking around her house, see if there’s anything I could do. (Tom chuckles) And I noticed there are about three to four inches of clear water pooling on one side of the water heater.
GREG: And it’s where the overflow pipe is but the pipe was dry. And there’s adequate hot water in the house and the water heater, she guessed, was around five to six years old. So I’m wondering what that means and what I should do about it.
TOM: Well, let’s think about this. There are two places that a water heater valve could leak and that’s the drain valve itself and also the temperature and pressure relief valve. Now, the temperature/pressure relief valve is the one that’s on the side and has the little lever on it. Don’t touch the lever. A lot of people like to “clean those out” by opening the lever. The problem is, it’ll never shut again; sometimes it gets stuck, get a little bit of sand in there.
But those are the two places to monitor. So, if you’re reaching your finger up inside the drain valve or the pipe for the temperature and pressure relief and you don’t have any water there, then that’s probably not the issue.
Now, the other thing that could happen is if your water heater gets used a lot – so it’s completely empty and then it refills and now it’s refilling with cold water – and then the flame comes on, you will very often get condensation because you have a lot of moisture that’s in the natural gas as it burns and it strikes the underside of the water heater and then it condenses. And you can sometimes even hear the water drip back onto the burner with that sort of (makes sizzling sound) sizzling sound as it goes down. I’ve seen that happen in a great enough quantity to collect around the water heater.
And then the other idea is that when you have it – is this in a basement
GREG: It’s in a basement.
TOM: OK. If the basement is very humid and the water heater, again, is refilling – so it tends to be cold – you can get condensation on the outside of the water heater jacket.
So those are all things that can cause leaks without the tank rupturing. So I would look in those areas. A little bit of water is probably not going to be an issue. I’m more concerned that it’s not an ongoing situation. If it just happened because she emptied it and then it refilled and you had a lot of condensation, not so much of a problem.
GREG: OK. Thank you.
TOM: Alright, you’re welcome. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.