Water heaters are among the most beloved--and indispensable--of both home and commercial appliances. Unfortunately, the heavy use to which a water heater is exposed more often than not leads to the development of certain problems, with leaks being one of the most serious and common. If you would like to learn more about how to troubleshoot a leaky water heater, here are the whys and hows of a leaky temperature and pressure relief valve.
The T&P Valve
The temperature and pressure relief valve is a vital part of your water heater's in-built safety system. Commonly abbreviated as the T&P valve, the job played by this component is easy to understand. If something should go wrong inside of your furnace, and either the temperature or the pressure grow too high, the T&P valve automatically opens up. This allows some of the water to escape, thus alleviating the excessive pressure. Without the T&P valve, if the pressure were to build high enough, it could cause your water heater to blow up.
Why Leaks Occur
As you can imagine, even under normal conditions the T&P valve is subject to a lot of pressure from within the tank. As the years go by, this pressure can eventually cause the seals inside of the valve to become damaged, thus allowing water to begin leaking out around them. A T&P valve is more likely to start leaking if it has opened up in the past as the result of excessive pressure. That's because the valve does not always close perfectly.
Sometimes this can be fixed by adjusting the valve, while other times it may necessitate that a new valve be installed. Yet it is important to acknowledge that sometimes a leaky T&P valve is not the result of problems within the valve itself. Rather it may be an indication that your water heater is either running too hot, or is being subject to dangerously high pressure levels.
Troubleshooting A T&P Valve Leak
It's best to eliminate the simplest causes first when troubleshooting a leaky T&P valve. Thus, take a look at your water heater's temperature setting. If it is set above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, it is possible--though not likely--that this is the cause of the leak. Try turning the temperature down below this threshold to see if the leak stops. If not, it may be the case that the pressure is too great. This is generally the result of extreme pressure coming from your municipal water supply. Consider checking the pressure inside the tank using a screw-on pressure gauge, or contact a professional plumber to help you get to the bottom of the problem.