What Causes a Water Heater Leak?

Illustration of a water heater leak

Water Heater Leaks & Overflowing – Causes and Prevention

Most homeowners in Ann Arbor and throughout SE Michigan know that nothing is more damaging to a home than water. What if your water heater leaks or overflows? If caught early on, the damage may be kept minimal; if it goes unnoticed, you could experience severe damage such as rotting, mold, stains, and other issues in floors, carpets, even walls.

Leak Causes

The average life span of a water heater typically ranges between eight and 15 years. The chances are that at some point, it will leak or overflow. The most important thing you can do is to avoid substantial water damage by adequately maintaining your heater’s pipes, overflow valves, and overflow pan. This will help mitigate more extensive damage that could result in costly repairs.

The valves and pipes of your water heater should be regularly checked for any drips or leaks. Also, check beneath the water heater to see if the tank’s bottom shows any presence of rust or corrosion damage. When sediment and corrosion build up inside the heater’s tank, it can result in water leaking continuously into the overflow pan. It is possible to minimize corrosion and remove the sediment by pouring out some water at the bottom of the tank from the spout occasionally. Before doing this, be sure to turn off the power (electric or gas) so that the water can cool off some. The valve for incoming water should also be turned off before this procedure; drain the water to the outside of your home or into a bucket depending on your circumstances.

Your water heater tank could potentially explode if the pressure/temperature valve is not functioning as it should. This is a safety feature designed to release water in the event the tank’s pressure or the temperature gets too high. If the valve is working as it is supposed to, hot water will come from the overflow pipe when the valve is pushed down or pulled up. The valve should be checked regularly for any problems that could result in leaking, especially considering issues are more common in old or defective water heater valves.

Preventing Leaks

It should be possible to prevent the majority of water heater floods and leaks once you begin checking for overflow pipe leaks regularly and establish a proper maintenance routine. Even then, there are steps you can take beyond these measures.

Water heater overflow pans are relatively cheap and are useful when placed under the tank for catching water should you experience leaking pipes or water heater overflows. If particleboard is the material around and beneath your water heater, you may want to consider removing it and replacing the particleboard with plywood, which is more water-resistant and less susceptible to damage. The addition of a water sealant on the floor beneath the tank mitigates potential damage even further; however, be sure to turn off the electric or gas power, so there is no danger of a fire.

Steps to take when you have a water heater overflow

If you notice a water heater overflow early on, you can take action immediately and get the problem under control with a few basic steps before calling in the professionals.

  • Put on protective gear, including gloves, rubber boots, and goggles. A raincoat or vest is also a good idea if a profuse rush of water comes from the heater.
  • Take a good look around the area. It is a bad sign if steam is thick in the room, as you need to be able to see clearly to check for electrical wires or outlets that may be beneath the water level and could shock you. Also, make sure the water is not scalding hot before taking further action.
  • Turn off the water supply to the heater. A water leak means your tank won’t fill up, so the water supply won’t shut itself off, which will lead to further flooding. The cold water pipe usually comes from the main water line and continues to the top of the heating chamber. Once you locate the pipe, find the water flow control valve and turn clockwise as far as it will go.
  • Turn off the gas or electric heating immediately. If your water heater is powered by electricity, flip the switch in the breaker box that provides the heater’s power. If gas powers the water heater, shut off the line that corresponds to the heater. This is particularly important when the thermostat malfunctions and causes the water overflow, because the heating element will not shut down on its own. This could pose a fire danger and also wastes energy. In the event, your water heater is powered by gas, remove everyone from your home if you notice a gas smell.
  • Record everything about the incident, including photos, if areas of your home or belongings/furnishings experienced damage due to the water heater overflow. Document every detail you can remember about the events to ensure you won’t have problems if you need to file an insurance claim.
  • Have professionals come in to clean up after water damage. Not only may the structure of your home and belongings be damaged, the musty smell isn’t pleasant – and your family could be susceptible to bacteria, mold, mildew, and other hazards.

If your water tank leaks or you have other issues that you prefer to leave to the professionals, give Haley Mechanical a call today. Serving all of Southeast Michigan, including Ann Arbor, Dexter, and surrounding cities.

5 Tips That May Save You From Buying a New Water Heater

Bathroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Water Heater Not Working Efficiently? 5 Tips That Could Prevent Replacement

If you’re an Ann Arbor area homeowner who feels it may be time to replace your water heater, there are a few things you can do that may improve its performance before you shell out your hard-earned money. Maybe it seems that it’s taking the water longer than usual to heat up, or you’ve had an unwelcome surprise when the shower water suddenly turns cold.

Before you replace, give the following 5 tactics a try:

  • Perform a quick maintenance check. It could be something as simple as a pilot light or burner not working. Make sure your thermostat is functioning properly and considering flushing out the system.
  • Sediment that settles in the tank could not only damage it but interfere with performance.
  • Seal up any drafts. When your water heater is located in an unheated space such as a basement, the cold drafts can make it harder for your water heater to do its job. Seal around window frames and other sources of cold air with caulking or weather stripping.
  • Consider an insulating blanket. A water heater that’s warm to the touch is not as energy efficient as it could be. There are insulating blankets which are specifically designed for water heaters – but be sure to follow instructions carefully, particularly if your water heater is fired by gas or oil.
  • Inspect the dip tube. Dip tubes, especially those in a water heater that’s older, can break or crack. This tube is what allows cold water to enter at the bottom of your water heater’s tank while the water at the top remains hot. A crack or break could be letting cold water in, which means what should be hot water is only warm.
  • Insulate your pipes. When water pipes are not insulated, they are cold – which means the water running from your water heater to your shower, sink, dishwasher, etc. could be cooling before it reaches its destination. Install pre-split foam pipe insulation tubes on the water pipes that connect to the tank. At a minimum, insulate the first six feet of both the cold and hot water pipes.

Try the tips above, and you may be surprised to find that you won’t have to replace your water heater after all!

At Haley Mechanical, our job is to keep southeast Michigan homeowners’ homes running smoothly, whether you have problems with your water heater, air conditioner, or other equipment. Live in Ann Arbor, Dexter, Ypsilanti or surrounding communities and have questions about your water heater? Give us a call today.

Differences Between Direct Vent and Power Vent Water Heaters

Nick O'Neil Demonstrating the difference between water heater types

At Haley Mechanical, we understand that given the various terms used to describe them, choosing the right water heater can be difficult. There are several variations, and determining which is best for your situation can seem like an overwhelming task.

Two of the most popular types of water heaters today include the direct vent and power vent. Basically, the difference between the two is that the power vent water heater removes combustion gases from the atmosphere via a powered venting fan, while a direct vent water heater vents these gases into the outdoor atmosphere using a chimney or exhaust pipe.

Direct Vent Water Heater

When using a direct vent water heater, water is heated by the heat of fuel combustion. A direct vent system typically results in lower water heating costs, because the exhaust gases are vented vertically, with no extra power required as is the case with the power vent water heater.

Power Vent Water Heater

A power vent water heater uses a blower or fan to exhaust gases by pushing them through vent pipes that are horizontal. In some situations, this may be the only type of water heater that makes sense, because a chimney or vertical vent is not necessary. Some locations don’t have access to a chimney or vertical vent, so your options are limited.

The primary advantage of a power vent is that the water heater can be located in any area and does not require a vertical vent or chimney. It could be that the location where you want to install your hot water heater is not near the chimney, or your home does not have a chimney. Either way, a power vent can be vented by simply running inexpensive pipe horizontally. However, the drawback to this type of water heater is the total cost considering the blower/fan portion of the vent requires electricity to operate, the cost of the actual blower or fan, and running a power line to the fan. Essentially, because the power vent requires a fan/blower to operate, the costs of heating water will be higher over the power vent’s life span.

Noise is another disadvantage with a power vent, as there is a slight sound some homeowners notice when the blower or fan runs as the hot water heater is operating. For most people, the noise is not that noticeable or distracting, however it’s something you should be aware of should you consider this type of vent. When installed properly, the noise can be minimized or nearly eliminated.

There are several differences between a power vent and direct vent hot water heater, and it’s obvious a power vent will result in higher cost – but sometimes it simply cannot be avoided. When you don’t have access to a vertical vent or chimney, a power vent may be the right solution for you.

In need of a new water heater for your southeast Michigan home? At Haley Mechanical, we can help determine which type is best for your particular situation and your budget. Give our plumbers a call today!

The Pros and Cons of Popular Water Heater Styles in Ann Arbor

Bathroom in Ann Arbor, Michigan

When you are familiar with the advantages and drawbacks of the various types of water heaters available to Ann Arbor homeowners, choosing is easier. What are the most popular styles on the market, and their pros and cons? It is a good idea to consider energy efficiency, size, and other factors along with whether there may be available rebates on a model that will be suitable for your Southeast Michigan home.

Most Popular Water Heater Styles in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Traditional stand-up water heaters. This type has been around for decades and is popular among homeowners because of its affordability. Anyone who has this kind of water heater knows it is a large tank that requires substantial space. The tanks store about 30 to 50 gallons of water that is pre-heated, so you have hot water for showering, laundry, dishes, etc. The lifespan of a traditional water heater is about 10 to 15 years.

What are the cons? Constant heating of the tank increases energy costs. Considering the tank holds 30 to 50 gallons, it is inconvenient to run out of hot water when the members of your family shower or you run the washing machine or dishwasher simultaneously leaving everyone to wait for the water to heat up again.

Learn more about traditional water heaters.

Hybrid & heat pump water heaters. Equipped with multiple settings, the newest in water heaters are popular with homeowners due to the considerable energy savings; in fact, you can save as much as 60% on your monthly water bill. Additionally, you may be eligible for rebates or tax incentives by installing this eco-friendly water heater.

What are the cons? To operate correctly, hybrid water heaters must be located in an area that maintains a temperature of 40 to 90 degrees consistently due to the fact they extract hot air from their surroundings. Most Ann Arbor homeowners know that while temperatures in summer months can soar to uncomfortable levels, winter temperatures can get downright frigid. A hybrid or heat pump water heater may not be ideal given the extreme temperature fluctuations in our area.

While hybrid water heaters do offer attractive tax incentives and energy savings, in most cases homeowners choose tankless and traditional models in Southeast Michigan. This energy efficiency calculator can help you decide which model would save you most following installation.

Learn more about heat pump water heaters.

Tankless water heaters require far less space and deliver hot water “on demand” so you never worry about running out of hot water. Tankless heaters heat the water when you need it, so you enjoy not only an unlimited supply but lower monthly utility costs as well. This type of water heater can last for 20 or more years depending on the model you choose.

The cons? The only drawback to a tankless heater is the purchase price and cost to install. Because of the installation time required or the necessity to retrofit, upfront costs are higher. If you live in SE Michigan and are considering a tankless water heater, discuss it with an experienced plumbing contractor before purchasing to ensure this type of water heater is compatible with your home’s electrical and plumbing systems.

Learn more about the advantages of a tankless water heater.

Regardless of whether you choose a traditional, tankless, or hybrid water heater, we advise homeowners to discuss the options with one of our expert Ann Arbor plumbing contractors to make certain the model you are considering is compatible with your electrical and plumbing systems.

Water Heater Maintenance – Neglected Over the Winter? Nows the Time!

Hot water from faucet

As trusted plumbing professionals servicing southeast Michigan areas of Howell, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor and surrounding communities, we know that homeowners rarely give their water heaters a second thought – unless there is a problem.  If you neglected your hot water-heater over the winter months, now is the time to have your technician perform a little maintenance.

What does water heater maintenance involve?  It’s really not too complicated.  Here’s what you should expect from your technician:

Check heating elements in electric systems.  Your technician will check the elements (which are responsible for heating the water) and replace if necessary.

Check combustion.  The hot water tank must have a good draft to ensure that dangerous levels of carbon monoxide are not generated; your technician will check this after cleaning the pilot orifice and burner.

Testing the thermostat.  The most common water temperature is 120 degrees unless a homeowner requests that it be set higher.  Your technician will check to ensure that the thermostat on your system responds to hot water demands, and registers water temperature correctly.

Inspection of fuel connections.  Water heaters that heat using natural gas or other fossil fuels should be inspected to ensure connections are tight.  Your technician will also inspect the fuel lines to make sure there are no potential leaks or other damage.

Flush and insulate tank.  Every six months the storage tank on your water heater should be flushed to remove sediments; your technician will also insulate your tank with a jacket made specifically for the purpose of reducing heat loss if you choose to do so.

Inspect the thermocouple operation.  While you may never have heard of it, this component is a safety device that ensures your water tank will light safely.

Check and test T & P (temperature and pressure) valve.  This is an important aspect of water heater maintenance, as too much pressure or temperatures that rise too high can result in busted pipes or worse, a tank that bursts.  Either could result in injury to your family members or serious damage.  Your technician will open the T & P valve to remove any blockages and sediment and test it to ensure proper operation.

Haley Mechanical has provided outstanding plumbing, electrical, and HVAC services to customers in southeast Michigan 15 years!  Call us today to have your water heater inspected and any necessary adjustments made.

Corrosion Caused by Water and Your Hot Water Tank

Hot water from faucet

Water is a precious natural resource, yet it can be so damaging. Water erodes away bits of rock, corrodes metal, and is the most damaging element of all when it comes to your home. While there are some breathtaking sights in our country that we can thank erosion for such as the Grand Canyon, when it comes to your hot water tank, corrosion equals ruin.

Essentially, water particles can corrode or “eat away” at the inside of your water heater in as little as five years, resulting in substantial replacement costs over the years. In fact, over your lifetime the money you spend to replace your hot water tank because of corrosion can be up in the thousands. Considering the technologically advanced world we live in today, is there not a way to slow down or stop the damaging effects of water on the inside of our tanks? Of course, there is.

Could a simple aluminum or magnesium rod that exists in your hot water heater be the solution?

For more than 60 years, a simple rod crafted of magnesium or aluminum has been used in hot water heaters to attract malicious water particles responsible for corroding the inside of the water tank. These rods, or “sacrificial anodes,” are submerged in the water and held in place by screws. These anodes’ purpose is to prevent your hot water tank from corroding by attracting the particles to itself. Instead of replacing your entire water tank and spending hundreds of dollars, you can simply replace the anode – a relatively cheap component!

When is it time to replace your anode?

There is no specific time period in which to judge whether an anode has reached its lifespan. Generally speaking, most do their job for about three to five years. Factors that determine how long your sacrificial anode will last include the water quality in the area where you live, and the quality of the anode you purchase. To make it as easy as possible, inspect your anode rod on the third year after it has been installed, and every year after the initial inspection. This can be accomplished simply by opening up the tank and visually inspecting the rod after shutting off your water supply.

  • A perfectly clean anode is not a good thing. If your anode still looks clean after two or three years, it is not attracting the corrosive water particles. Replace your sacrificial anode immediately.
  • Does the anode look as though it has been chewed up? While you may think this a bad sign, this is exactly what you want. The rod is working and will continue to work effectively until you begin to see a thin metal wire (the core).
  • Can you see the core of your rod? If a thin metal wire is visible and the anode is chewed up, time to replace. Your anode has reached the end of its useful life.
  • No chewed up rod – in fact, no rod at all? If all you can see is the core and no rod, it’s time to replace the anode now. When the rod disappears, it is no longer useful or effective.

Keeping a check on your hot water tank’s sacrificial anode can help you avoid costly replacement. At Haley Mechanical, we are happy to inspect your anode to see if it’s in good working order, or if it may be time to replace. If your hot water tank is already corroded or has other issues that prevent it from working properly, our highly skilled technicians can repair or replace. Serving the southeast Michigan areas of Howell, Ann Arbor, Dexter, Ypsilanti, Chelsea, and Livonia for more than 15 years, we are happy to assist you with your hot water or other plumbing needs.

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