A hot water heater is essentially a big tank of water, plus a burner. Like any tank of water, it has the potential to develop leaks. And a leaky hot water heater is not something to ignore. So, what should you do if you think your hot water heater is leaking?
If the Leak Is Coming From a Top Valve
There are two valves on the top of most hot water heaters. The first is the fill valve which controls the flow of water into the hot water tank. The second is the valve that regulates the outflow of hot water to the taps in your home. Having either of these valves leak is not ideal, but it's also not an outright emergency. Since the valves are located on top of the tank, they will not leak very quickly. Contact your plumber, tell them what is happening, and schedule an appointment within the next couple of weeks. They can likely replace the leaky valve without having to touch the rest of the tank. In the meantime, soak up the drips of water once or twice per day to prevent mold growth.
If the Leak Is Coming From a Bottom Valve
Hot water heaters also have a drainage valve towards the bottom of the tank. You can open this valve to drain a little water from the tank in order to remove sediment. Sometimes this valve will start leaking, causing you to see a little water on the ground around the hot water tank.
If the drainage valve on your hot water tank is leaking, put a cup or container underneath it to catch the drips. Contact your plumber promptly. This is not exactly an emergency, but you do want to have it taken care of ASAP. These leaks tend to be faster than those from top valves since water drains down through the leaky spot.
If the Leak Is Coming From the Tank Itself
Sometimes hot water tanks will develop holes and the water will leak out through those holes. This usually occurs due to rust. A leak in the tank can get larger in an instant. So your best approach, in this case, is to turn off the water supply to the tank, then turn on some hot water taps to drain the water out of your hot water tank. This way, you won't end up with major flooding. Contact a plumber ASAP. They will likely need to replace the tank.
Some hot water heater leaks are bigger deals than others. Follow the guide above, and if you have any other concerns, contact a water heater repair service.