Flooding, like fire, is one of those things that we hope to never have to deal with in our homes. But sometimes, it just isn’t up to us. If you have liquid from an unknown source and you just can’t find the leak, you might want to suspect water heater flooding.
Water heaters provide hot water to your home. Without them, you couldn’t sterilize dishes, take a bath or shower that wasn’t freezing, or wash your face in the winter without feeling like you were in danger of turning into any icicle. Modern systems have leak prevention measures, but like all preventative measures, they don’t work 100% of the time.
One of the preventative measures on newer machines is a leak pan. This goes under the tank, and collects drips from slow to moderate leaks. However, if your system develops a big leak, it may overflow the pan. Since they are also pressurized, you may find that it has sprayed right over the pan.
Because of their locations, slow leaks can go unnoticed for far longer than you would like. The best cure for this problem is prevention– have someone knowledgeable show you what to look for, and inspect your system periodically. This will help you catch leaks before they cause structural damage to your whole home.
If you find yourself experiencing flooding in any part of your home, the first thing you need to do is find out where it is coming from. While your water heater might be the culprit, it could also be a broken pipe in any number of locations. Unless you can see the leak in the system, don’t assume you know where the liquid is coming from, and call a plumber to find out.
If the leak is definitely coming from your water heater, the first thing you should do is turn it off. The machines usually have emergency shut-off valves, and most have instructions near them. If your system is very old, it might lack one or both of these things. In that case, you’ll need a plumber.
Once the leak is contained, you’ll have to either fix or replace your system. Don’t forget about potential flood damage, either. Unless the spill was completely contained by the emergency leak pan, you’ll need to assess the area that it spilled onto. If the leak has been slow but persistent, you might have mold. Consult a flood specialist if you find mold, or have other concerns.
Water heaters have a shelf life, after which, parts can be expected to start failing. This life is typically 6 to 15 years, depending on the model and the specific machine. If your system is older than this, you might consider replacing it before it fails and leaves you to deal with a mess.
Water heater flooding is one of those things that nobody wants to deal with, but sometimes we have to. The internet is a great resource for looking up specialists that can help you with both the immediate problem and the secondary issues. But if you remember your maintenance, hopefully you will never have to use them.