Water heaters can hold 50 gallons or more of water, so when yours springs a leak, you could potentially have a big mess on your hands if you do not act quickly. Your first thought may be to drain the water heater, throw it out, and buy a new one — but sometimes leaky water heaters can be fixed quite easily. It all depends where the leak is coming from. Here's a look at some common sources of leaks and how each one might be repaired or otherwise dealt with.
The TRP Valve
The TPR valve, or temperature/pressure release valve, is designed to let water out of the tank if the pressure gets too high inside. So if this valve is leaking, it could mean the pressure inside your tank is too high. Try turning the temperature down to see if that stops the leak. If it does not, then you can call a water heater repair company and just have them replace the valve. It should take them less than an hour. They'll drain the tank, remove the old valve, put a new one in place, and fill your tank back up. The part itself is cheap, so you'll mostly be paying for labor.
Your water heater has a valve near its base called the drain valve. This valve is meant to allow you to drain the water tank and remove sediment every so often — although many homeowners skip this maintenance. It should never leak, and when it does, it can create a big mess since it's located right near the top of the tank. Luckily, replacing it is not any harder than replacing a TPR valve — it's an easy afternoon job for a water heater repair contractor.
The Tank Base
The final possibility is that your water heater tank itself is leaking. Water may be coming through a pinhole-type gap in or near the bottom of the tank. This is the only common cause of a leak that can't be fixed. Typically, by the time the tank starts leaking, it is pretty rusty inside, and even if a repair company were to patch the leak, you would have a new one within months. Your best bet is to just have the tank replaced.
Water heater leaks are not always the calamity you assume they would be. Talk to a water heater repair contractor to learn more.