Showers are an important daily ritual for many people. Whether you prefer a refreshing morning stream or a soothing one in the evening, there is nothing more annoying than leaks getting between you and your daily dose of bubbles.
A shower that leaks is usually easy to fix, and you can keep showering even if you have to mop a puddle when you’re done.
But what if the leak concerns the water heater?
You can generally keep showering if your water heater has a minor leak, but this situation must be temporary. Fixing the leaking heater promptly is essential to prevent permanent damage to both your property and the appliance. If there is a large leak, turn off the water heater immediately and avoid showering. Large leaks could sometimes cause your heater to explode.
Is It Safe To Shower If The Water Heater Is Leaking?
A leaking water heater is always a cause for concern. However, it is generally safe to shower if your heater has just started to leak.
Once you take the morning shower, however, it is recommended to call in a plumber or installer to fix the problem.
Sometimes, you may be able to fix the issue on your own, depending on what’s causing the leak.
Is A Leaking Water Heater Dangerous?
A leaking water heater isn’t necessarily dangerous, but it can be.
Minor leaks are rarely dangerous. They are usually caused by a loose-fitting or broken seal and are quick and inexpensive to fix. An open drain valve can cause a flood, but it rarely affects hot water usage.
However, a malfunctioning T&P valve could cause leaks and is usually dangerous.
This valve regulates the temperature and pressure inside the appliance, preventing your water heater from overheating and over-pressurizing.
Overheating could create a scalding risk and also damage the internal components of the appliance.
Too much pressure in the heater could lead to an explosion. Although this is rare, you shouldn’t take the risk. If you suspect that this valve is faulty, turn off the water heater immediately and call in a professional to repair it.
What Are The Risks Of Showering When The Water Heater Leaks?
Although it is generally considered safe to shower if you notice a minor leak coming from your water heater, there are a few risks you should be aware of: scalding, explosion, fire, gas leak, and flooding risks.
As mentioned above, leaks in water heaters can happen for reasons ranging from a loose-fitting to a broken temperature and pressure valve.
Sometimes, the broken component could damage the heater’s thermostat or temperature detector, causing the water to overheat. If your shower only has a hot water inlet, the risk of getting burned increases exponentially.
Gas Leak/Fire Hazard
Although a water leak in a heater isn’t always an indication of a gas leak, it could sometimes signal a bigger problem.
If you have a gas water heater, the part that allows water to leak may also affect the gas system and let natural gas escape. Gas leaks can lead to fire hazards.
Generally, you can identify a gas leak by smell. In this case, turn off the heater immediately and call your HVAC company.
We already mentioned the T&P valve that regulates the temperature and pressure. If this valve is broken, it could lead to increased pressure in the system.
When the pressure gets too high, some of the fittings might burst and lead to leaks. Burst fittings allow some of the pressure to escape (this is actually a good thing), but sometimes, there could simply be too much pressure in the system. Or you could build up additional pressure when using the shower.
Although rare, too high pressure can sometimes cause the water heater to burst. An explosion will likely damage your property, but it can get even worse if a gas water heater catches on fire after an explosion.
One of the biggest risks of a leaking water heater is flooding, and this risk increases if you’re using the shower.
Due to the volume of water that passes through the heater and increased water pressure, a small leak could become a bigger problem while you’re washing yourself.
Depending on the type of heater you have and its location, a large leak could damage your expensive floors or even create structural damage to the property.
What To Do If My Water Heater Is Leaking?
Before deciding whether you should shower or call a plumber, you should check if the leak truly comes from the water heater and take steps to assess the damage.
Here’s how to do it.
1. Determine If Your Water Heater Leaks
Finding a puddle under the heater or signs of moisture on and around it might make you believe the appliance is leaking.
However, all that moisture could be a sign of condensation – which can occur even when a water heater works properly.
The first thing to do is to look closely at its exterior. Do moisture droplets cover the entire surface? If yes, it’s condensation, and you don’t have to worry about it.
If you’re unsure, wipe away the moisture with a rag and let the surface dry. Look for new signs of moisture that could indicate a leak.
2. Turn Off Electricity And Water
If your water heater is truly leaking, you must determine what’s causing it.
Before investigating, turn off the electricity and the cold water supply – you can turn them back on afterward if the leak is minor and you decide to use the shower.
3. Inspect The Pipes
Start with the obvious and check for signs of leaks where the water pipes enter and leave the heater.
Both the cold water inlet pipe and hot water outlet pipe are located on top of the heater, and they are one of the most common reasons for water heaters leaking from the top.
Check the connections and tighten or replace any loose fittings.
4. Check The Temperature And Pressure Valve
The temperature and pressure (T&P) valve is generally located on the side of the water heater.
As explained above, it regulates the temperature and pressure inside the tank, showing the set parameters and the current ones on a display (older heaters may have an analog valve).
If water is leaking from this valve, check the set temperature first. This shouldn’t be higher than 120°F, and you should input a lower temperature if it is set too high.
If the set temperature is correct, but the valve still leaks, the valve might be faulty. You should also check the pressure according to your heater’s manual.
If this valve is faulty, avoid showering and call in a plumber to service your appliance.
5. Check The Drain Valve
The most common reason for a water heater leaking from the base is a faulty drain valve. Rust and corrosion might also damage the bottom of the heater, causing holes in the metal.
To identify the culprit, touch the area near the drain valve and check for moisture. If it’s damp, make sure the valve is closed properly. Sediment build-up might prevent the valve from closing completely.
If the valve is dry, the most likely culprit is rust or corrosion. There is little to do in this case, and you’ll have to replace the heater.
If you want to keep showering until you fix the issue, place a waterproof tarp under the heater and rags or a bucket to contain the leak.
Taking a shower when the water heater is leaking is generally feasible. However, you should first check what’s causing the leak and ensure that it is safe to do so.
Never use the shower – or other hot water fixtures in your house – until you’ve solved the problem if the culprit is the T&P valve.
A faulty valve could lead to scalding and could make the water heater burst. If you’re not sure how to diagnose the issue, don’t hesitate to hire an expert.