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This Is Not A Common Place For A Water Heater Leak

This is not a common place for a water heater leak.

The most common places for water heaters to leak would be the pipe connections on the top of the unit or the TPR valve on the side.  But leaks in other places happen too.

Electric water heaters have two elements that penetrate from the sides of the unit into the water.

These each have a thermostat and are what heats the water inside.

As each element literally passes through the side of unit, they must screw in.  And over time they can get loose, or deteriorate, and leak. 

Leaks here are not as common, but they happen.

This leak has been going on for some time.  This heater is tucked away into the corner of a walk-in cellar, and not in an area where people would regularly pass by.

So if any leaks happen they would be less likely to be seen.

Of course, someone could look at this and not recognize the stains as indicative of a leak.  But you can bet that an unusual stain on the side of anything with water in it would be a tell-tale sign of a problem!

Did I take the cover off to examine it?  NO!

The screw actually looked like it had been tightened down, perhaps to seal up the plate better so leaking water could not get out!

Some plumbers might see this and pronounce it to be the worst they have ever seen; this is very dangerous; this is common; this must be dealt with right away; why there just happens to be brand new water heater right on the truck and they can take care of it now ... well, you know the drill.  But still, you have to call!

My recommendation:  it's a good idea to pass by and look at your appliances from time to time!   You never know what you might find!  In this case we found evidence of a problem.  It needs investigation.  You never know, the fix might be simpler, and cheaper, than imagined!   If one element is to be replaced, AND if the canister is still in good shape and can last a while longer, it is best to replace the other at the same time.  With good connections elsewhere doing that might extend the life span of the water heater for a long time!  That's, of course, if you get an honest assessment.  Which you might just get!

 

 

Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC  

Based in Bristow, serving all of Northern Virginia.

Office (703) 330-6388   Cell (703) 585-7560

www.jaymarinspect.com


Comment balloon 20 commentsJay Markanich • February 18 2016 02:01AM

Comments

 Good morning Jay Markanich . No it isn't. The gasket on the thermostat must've gone bad.

Posted by TeamCHI - Complete Home Inspections, Inc., Home Inspectons - Nashville, TN area - 615.661.029 (Complete Home Inspections, Inc.) over 2 years ago

I'm not sure what isn't Michael, but this house is on well water and it could be a number of things.  It's also an older unit, so most plumbers wouldn't fool with a repair.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

We have fairly hard water that causes a shorter life on our Water Heaters .

Posted by Michael J. Perry, Lancaster, PA Relo Specialist (KW Elite ) over 2 years ago

The elements are typically made of magnesium, Michael, so they attract that mineral, and others, from the water.  As they load up with minerals they get less effective, and fail.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Good morning Jay. Not seen a leak like this, but always wondered if it could happen. And, now I know. Enjoy your day!

Posted by Wayne Martin, Real Estate Broker - Retired (Wayne M Martin) over 2 years ago

Like I said in the post, Wayne, something is loose or deteriorated, but no matter what it needs investigation.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Good morning Jay,

Hope you were wearing rubber boots!

Saw one yesterday leaking( should say spurting) out of the vent tube. Told the listing agent and he asked why I was telling him!

Make yourself an astonishing day.

Posted by Raymond E. Camp, Licensed Real Estate Salesperson Greater Rochester (Howard Hanna Real Estate Services) over 2 years ago

Very strange question, indeed, Raymond!   I have rubber-soled shoes...

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

I am always concerned about not getting an honest assessment Jay. Unfortunately, it's not easy to find reliable and honest contractors who will do a great job again and again ... and again.

Posted by Andrea Bedard, M.A.; REALTOR® Silver Spring, MD and beyond (Thompson Company, REALTORS®) over 2 years ago

I surely hear you Andrea.  We had a plumber who we trusted who gave us great service for over 20 years.  Then he had the nerve to retire.  We have never found another quite as good.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

They should have that looked at... looks like it's leaking. Free assessment 

Posted by Fred Hernden, CMI, Albuquerque area Master Inspector (Superior Home Inspections - Greater Albuquerque Area) over 2 years ago

I'm pretty sure you're right, Fred.  It tasted like a mudslide freeze, but hot.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Turn the unit off, drain the tank and replace both elements just to be safe.  Probably a $40 fix

Posted by Stephen Weakley (Nationwide Mortgage Services) over 2 years ago

You may be right Stephen.  I have no idea how much elements cost.  It's an old heater though.  Might not be worth saving.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Hi Jay - We do indeed know the drill, and have been through more HVAC guys and plumbers over the years than you can shake a stick at.

Posted by Dick Greenberg, Northern Colorado Residential Real Estate (New Paradigm Partners LLC) over 2 years ago

I hear you, Dick.  Developing a relationship with honest contractors is difficult!

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Jay, I would think the type of water you have plays a big role on how well a H2O tank fairs.

Posted by Donald Hester, NCW Home Inspections, LLC (NCW Home Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

I think you're right Don.  Hard, soft, well, public, etc.  But other factors too - temperature, amount of use (6 kids or single old man), emptying the crud at the bottom.   The unit in the photo is 19 years old, and has been on well water.  Might be time to go to the water heater playground in the sky....

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

Excellent post Jay Markanich and good advice.   I've seen posts to check washing machine hoses, the back of the refrigerator and now, the water heater.   All good ideas because so often, out of sight means out of mind. 

Posted by DEANNA EARLY - ( NMLS #268590 ), Virginia Mortgage Loan Originator (American National Bank and Trust) over 2 years ago

I look behind washers when I can see it, Deanna, and the fridge.  Water heaters are essential to look at all around if possible.  Often it is not.

Posted by Jay Markanich, Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia (Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC) over 2 years ago

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