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While there are countless tank-style water heaters, most tend to suffer from the same issues. When you understand how to troubleshoot water heater problems, you can diagnose and solve a water heater leak fast and get back to business quicker.

The first step is to turn the tank heater off before beginning. For electric units, switch the heater off at the service panel and test with a voltage tester to confirm there is no electrical current active. If you have a gas model, turn the thermostat to “off.” Now you are ready to start investigating what is wrong.

4 Common Causes for a Water Heater Leak and the Solution

Water leaks are the most common issue with tank-style water heaters. Here’s a list of the most common sources for a leak and what to do about it.

Pressure Relief Valve

The pressure relief valve is an important safety feature of the water heater. If you see water coming out of the relief valve, there are two likely causes, either the seal is faulty, or the valve isn’t working as it’s intended. Both are serious and need immediate attention.

Solution: Replace the valve to stop the leak.

Ball Valve

Ball valves have a lever that opens and shuts the valve. If you see water dripping from the handle or valve, this could be the source of your leak.

Solution: Tighten the nut that holds the handle in place. However, if the leak worsens, you will need to replace the valve.

Loose Connection or Stripped Threaded Nipple

If none of the above are the cause and the tank is leaking from the top, it could be a loose connection or stripped threaded nipple.

Solution: Call a professional plumber to replumb.

Drain Valve

A leaking drain valve is not always a complicated problem. Sometimes it gets bumped and loosens. To check it, run a cotton swab around the valve. If it’s wet, then you’ve located the source of your leak.

Solution: Tighten the valve with an adjustable wrench in small increments. Overtightening can make it worse. If that doesn’t help, replace it.


Condensation is often mistaken for a water heater leak. Some condensation is a normal occurrence. Excessive condensation, however, is not.

Solution: If you notice condensation,

  1. Shut the heater off for a few hours.
  2. If that resolved the issue, lower the thermostat temperature.
  3. Not resolved? Call a plumber.


A water heater leaking from the bottom not related to any of the above usually means you need to install a new water heater.

Solution: Call a professional plumber to assess the health of your commercial water heater.

If you aren’t completely comfortable assessing your water heater, please call a professional plumber.

Order a New Commercial Water Heater

Tank-type water heaters are fairly simple to troubleshoot. Many times, you can fix some of the simple issues yourself. If it’s a problem with the water tank itself, a new commercial water heater is usually the only solution.

Wallingford Sales offer the best prices and easy online shopping for commercial water heaters, commercial plumbing and washroom equipment, as well as any parts and supplies.

Shop Now!

Need more? Check out our past articles.