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Why Is My Water Heater Leaking From The Top? How Do I fix it?

Water Heaters

Why Is My Water Heater Leaking From The Top? How Do I fix it?

How To Fix A Water Heater Leaking From The Top?

Constant dripping from the top of your water heater can damage your property and make your building vulnerable, but it can also be a sign of a more severe issue with your water heater. Don’t worry; you can often prevent this leakage by tightening connections, replacing faulty valves, or fixing the pressure relief valve.

But the question is, why does this leaking occur, and how to fix the water heater leaking from the top without calling a plumber? If you don’t know, let’s discuss the details.

Understanding The Water Heater Leaking From The Top

Water heater leaking from the top can range from severe issues like a cracked tank to more minor problems like a faulty T&P valve. Diagnosing the cause is crucial to determine if you can repair it or if you need a new unit.

Simple solutions include replacing the T&P valve, tightening fittings, or patching small leaks. Draining and flushing the tank may also help resolve build-up issues causing leaks.

A significant challenge is diagnosing the problem, which may require dismantling components.  You need to understand the main causes of water tank leakage so that diagnosing and fixing them can be easier for you. 

What Causes Hot Water Tanks To Leak From The Top?

If your water heater is leaking from the top, there could be a few potential causes for this:

  • A faulty pressure relief valve
  • A damaged cold water inlet valve
  • Corrosion around the water outlet pipes
  • A puncture or hole in the top of the water tank
  • Faulty or loose temperature & pressure relief valve
  • Rust on anode rod port

The most common reason for a leak at the top of a water heater is a faulty pressure relief valve. Let’s take a closer look at each of these problems.

Faulty Pressure Relief Valve

The pressure relief valve is located near the top of your electric water heater tank. This valve is made to open on its own and let out extra hot water if the pressure or temperature in the tank becomes excessive.

Over time, the pressure relief valve can get stuck open or begin leaking due to mineral build-up or corrosion. A leaking relief valve will drip water from the top of the water heater.

Damaged Cold Water Inlet Valve

The cold water inlet valve delivers fresh water into the tank from the main water supply line. If this valve develops a crack or leak, it will drip water from the area near the top of the tank. You should put in a new inlet valve if the old one is damaged.

Corrosion Around Outlet Pipes

The hot and cold water pipes connected near the top of the water heater can also begin leaking over time. Corrosion causes the metal pipes to develop pinhole leaks or small cracks that allow water to drip from the connections.

Hole or Puncture In The Tank

In rare cases, a leak near the top of the tank is caused by a hole or puncture in the tank itself. When the inside of the tank is damaged, water can slowly leak through tiny cracks. A hole in the tank itself will require a new water heater.

Faulty or Loose Temperature & Pressure Relief Valve

In a water heater, the temperature and pressure relief valve is a vital safety component. When this valve is damaged or not functioning correctly, it can make water come out of the top of water heater. It is essential to check this valve If you see a water heater leaking from top.

Corrosion of The Anode Rod

A corroded or worn-out anode rod can lead to leaks in the water heater. The anode rod’s job is to draw in harmful things that can make the tank rust, shielding it from corrosion. If the anode rod is no longer effective, the tank can start to leak from the top.

How to Diagnose The Source of The Leak And Things To Know For Regular Maintenance?

To stop a water heater from leaking, you’ll first need to determine the exact location and cause of the leak. Here are some tips:

  • Visually inspect the top and sides of the tank for drips of water. Move and insulation to get a better view.
  • Trace the leak to it’s highest point on the tank to locate the source.
  • Inspect the pressure relief valve located at the upper and middle parts of the tank. Look for dripping or corrosion.
  • Inspect the cold water inlet pipe and valve on the side of the tank.
  • Check hot and cold water pipes connected to the top for drips.
  • Note If the leak seems to come from an actual hole or puncture.

To pinpoint the leaking component, pay attention to where the water drips originate. This will determine how you need to repair the water heater leak.

How To Fix A Leaking Pressure Relief Valve?

If the leak is coming from the pressure relief valve, try this:

  1. Turn off the gas or power supply to the water heater and turn off the water.
  2. Open the pressure relief valve manually with a handle or wrench to release built-up pressure.
  3. Clean the valve by flushing it with water to remove any dirt or debris. Mineral build-up and sediment can keep the valve from sealing tightly. You can call professional pipe and valve cleaner experts for this job.
  4. If flushing doesn’t stop the drip, the entire pressure relief valve must be replaced.

Replacing a faulty pressure relief valve is an inexpensive fix to prevent further leaking. Make sure to discharge any remaining water pressure before removing the old valve.

How To Fix A Leaking Cold Water Inlet Valve?

If the leak is coming from where the cold water inlet pipe connects to the tank, follow these steps:

  1. Turn off the water supply to the water heater and turn off the power.
  2. Completely empty the tank through the drain valve.
  3. Disconnect the cold water inlet pipe from the tank. Inspect the rubber gasket.
  4. Replace the inlet valve or pipe if cracked. Use pipe tape on the threads.
  5. Once more, open the water supply and verify no water is escaping from the pipes or joints.

The cold water inlet valve itself may need to be replaced if it’s cracked or broken. This will stop leaks from this connection.

How To Fix Leaking Pipes At The Top?

For a small leak from the hot or cold water pipes themselves, try tightening the pipe connections with an adjustable wrench. If the leak persists, the pipe gaskets may need to be replaced:

  1. Turn off the power and water supply.
  2. Drain the tank and disconnect the leaking pipes.
  3. Replace warm pipe gaskets and re-install pipes. Use pipe tape on threads.
  4. Gently open the water supply and inspect for any leaks.

With corroded pipes, you may need to replace the nipples or fittings with new ones to stop stubborn leaks from the connections.

How To Fix An Anode Rod Port?

The anode rod within the water heater is a replaceable part that helps stop rust by sacrificing itself. To replace it, you have to:

  • Locate the anode rod port on top if the water heater. This is usually a plug near the hot water outlet.
  • To empty the tank, shut off the water inlet and open the release valve at the base to let the water flow out. Let the tank drain completely.
  • Use a socket wrench to unscrew the anode rod port plug. The rod may be stubborn if corroded. Spray the PB Blaster or use a breaker bar for leverage.
  • Once the rod is removed, inspect it. Replace if it is corroded more than 6 inches up the rod. Apply thread seal tape to the screw spirals of the new anode rod.
  • Close the drain valve and turn the water supply back on. Check for leaks at the port plug.
  • Flushing the tank after replacing the rod will help remove sediment.

When To Replace A Leaking Water Heater?

If you have a slow drip coming directly from a hole or puncture in the tank itself, repairs are not an option. The inner tank lining is damaged and needs to be replaced.

Other signs it’s time to replace the entire water heater include:

  • Multiple leaks from several spots on the tank.
  • Significant corrosion, dents, or visible tank damage.
  • The anode rod is severely corroded.
  • The water heater is over 8-10 years old.
  • Notable decrease in hot water production.

Replacing a leaking water heater may seem costly, but installing a new energy-efficient model can save on energy bills in the long run.

Preventing Future Leaks

To help prevent leaks down the road:

  • Drain and flush the water heater tank annually to control sediment build-up.
  • Inspect the anode rod and pressure valve for corrosion yearly. Replace if needed.
  • Make sure plastic drain pans under the heater are leak free.
  • Check pipe and valve connections for signs of water.
  • Consider installing a leak detector that triggers an alarm or shutoff valve.

Performing regular water heater maintenance checks allows you to fix minor issues before major leaks occur. Watch for any puddles or drips coming from the top connections as a sign something needs adjustment.

Times To Contact An Expert For Water Heater Leaking

Contact a professional plumber if you are uncomfortable diagnosing or repairing the leak. An expert can identify the exact issue and suggest the required fixes.

Seeking professional assistance is recommended if:

  • The leak is large or coming from multiple locations.
  • There are signs of tank failure or corrosion holes.
  • Valve replacements do not stop the leak.
  • Pipe connections are severely eroded.
  • You need to gain the skills or tools to make repairs safely.

A licensed plumber has the expertise to assess the water heater and tackle repairs you may be unable to make on your own.

What To Remember

  • Malfunction of the pressure relief valve is the most frequent reason for water heater leaking.
  • Also, check the inlet valve, outlet pipes, and tank for cracks.
  • Diagnose the source before attempting repairs.
  • Fix minor leaks from valves or pipes yourself.
  • Replace the unit for corroded tanks or multiple leak sites.
  • Prevent issues through annual water heater maintanance.
  • Call a professional for significant leaks or tricky repairs.


Water dripping from the top connections of your water heater should always be addressed. In most cases, a leak originating near the top of the tank is an inexpensive fix.

Pay attention to any drips coming from the pressure relief valve, inlet pipe, or hot/cold water connections so you can address problems quickly. With routine care and maintenance, your water heater should operate for years without leaks.

Knowing when to make a DIY repair versus calling in a plumber can prevent small leaks from becoming major ones. Catching and correctly diagnosing the issue immediately lets you restore your water heater to regular working order.

You can also Call Us for a complete water heater repair or consultation. Want to hire an expert? 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is my water heater leaking from the top?

The most common causes of leaks from the top of the water heater are a faulty T&P (temperature and pressure) relief valve, loose pipe fittings, a damaged tank, or a corroded anode rod. Pinpointing the exact source of the leak is key.

How can I tell where the leak is coming from?

Trace water drips back to the highest point on the tank to locate the source. Remove the metal jacket for a closer inspection. Listen for simmering near fittings. Leaks often occur where pipes connect or around fittings.

Is it safe to repair a water heater leak myself?

Yes, many minor leaks can be safely repaired with proper precautions like turning off power and water supply. Use caution when working near hot/sharp components. Drain the tank fully before repairs. Wear protective gear. Know when to call a pro.

What are some common tools needed to fix a leaking water heater?

You’ll need wrenches, pipe tape, rags, replacement parts like relief valves or fittings, sandpaper, safety gear, and epoxy or sealants for some repairs. Have materials ready before starting.

How do I stop a leak from the T&P relief valve?

Replace the valve if faulty. Clean mineral deposits if sealing improperly. Apply pipe tape to the threads and tighten the new valve with a wrench per the manufacturer’s instructions after draining the tank. Test lever operation.

When should I call a professional about a water heater leak?

Call for major leaks, cracks in the combustion chamber/tank, when DIY repairs fail, if you’re uncomfortable doing electrical repairs, or if there are signs of excessive corrosion requiring replacement.

Why Is My Water Heater Leaking From The Top? How Do I fix it?

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