What do you do when you spot a puddle on the floor near your water heater? After determining it's not close enough to a window for rainwater to seep in and it's not dripping from an overhead pipe, there's one other option to consider – the water heater.

A leaking water heater is not something you can pretend you didn't notice and hope it goes away. Leaks tend not to fix themselves no matter what we're talking about. Just as a leaking swimming pool can harm your backyard, a water heater can cause all sorts of damage when left alone. Toxic mold and mildew would flourish as building materials making up the surrounding walls, floors, and subfloors deteriorate and rot.

Confirm It's Not Condensation

Gas-powered water heaters are known to produce condensation toward the top of the unit, especially when they are new. Look for water stains and signs of rust along the sides of the tank. A rusted tank needs to be replaced.

Condensation can form on the cold water pipes above the heater in humid weather, eventually creating puddles on the floor. Dry the floor and lay paper towel around the area in question, including the base of the tank. After a few hours have passed, you will see evidence collected on the paper towels telling you if condensation is the cause. By the same token, the wet paper towels will show you which side a heater leak is coming from.

Use Your Hands

Dry your hands thoroughly and feel around any connection points and valves along the water pipes above the heater. Sometimes a gate valve will leak from just beneath the handle. Tighten the packing nut below the handle to create a tighter seal. Check the fittings where the water inlet and outlet pipes enter the tank; sometimes water can seep out of these connections if not well sealed.

Next, feel around the temperature and pressure (T&P) relief valve located near the top of the tank, which should connect to a pipe leading to a drain. If you find a leak here, the T&P valve may need replacing.

Inspect the Electric Heating Element

First, shut off the circuit breaker for the water heater. Coming into contact with electricity and standing water is lethal.

Remove the access panels and plastic safety shield and look for visible water stains. If you don't seen anything, feel around the insulation for moisture. If you find wetness around the element, you can try tightening it or you may need to replace the rubber gasket that seals the element.

Check the Drain Valve

The drain valve is found on the side, near the bottom of the tank. Feel the inside of the spigot for moisture. If it's wet, the valve may be faulty and need replacement. For a temporary fix, you can screw on a garden hose cap or sprayer nozzle to seal the leak.

Leaks start small and they aren't always easy to find. However, you want to find the source early before a leak becomes an expensive problem. Once you have located the leak, contact your service professional to make the repair, knowing you've completed half the work.

Would you like to save some money while reducing the carbon pollution in your home? The answer is obviously yes. That's why so many homeowners explore the possibility of adding insulation to their major appliances. One of the most important ones is your water heater, and here's a guide to insulating it to improve energy efficiency.

The Why of It

As water heaters age, they begin to lose integrity. They'll demonstrate their depreciation by losing effectiveness. You'll notice this each month when you receive your utility bill. By adding insulation, you'll earn back enough money in utility bill savings to counteract the cost of the materials used. The United States Department of Energy suggests that you can save as much as $45 annually by adding insulation. They also estimate that it's a 90-minute procedure. So, that little time can save you $450 over a decade (minus the cost of materials).

By adding insulation, you'll also reduce your carbon footprint. The only concern is that you must add insulation in a way that you don't block any of the important safety outputs on the water heat. You should consider hiring a professional for this task as a safety measure.

Pre-Install Tips

Assuming that you're a skilled DIY enthusiast, you can do this procedure yourself. The first thing you must do is find the manual for your water heater. Check it to make certain that it's okay to insulate your unit. Some manuals explicitly state not to do so. Also, verify that your water heater isn't leaking. If it is, you'll want a professional to do the job instead.

Step two is to clean your appliance, particularly the top of the unit. That's where most of the tape will go, and it won't stick on a dirty surface. You'll need to buy a water heater insulation kit for your unit as well. Your utility company may sell these items for less than a home improvement store. Alternately, they might offer a rebate for using such products to improve your energy efficiency.

How to Install Insulation

Measure the entirety of your water heater, adding three inches to the width to allow for the new materials. If your measurement is too short, you'll have to jam the insulation, reducing its effectiveness. Roll the blanket on a flat surface and mark the measurements you just took on the padding. Cut at the proper marks to create the appropriately sized insulation blanket for your water heater.

Determine the edge of your blanket that will stand vertically against the tank. Cut a flap in it away from the plastic cover. Now perform the actual wrap to verify that your measurements are correct. If it doesn't, make the appropriate adjustments. Presuming the blanket fits, use your hand to find where the controls are. Cut another flap in the padding there. Tape the padding to the heater and cut a cap for the top of the heater. Then, insulate the connecting pipe from your water heater. Tape both of them, and you're done!

As you can see, insulating your water heater isn't difficult. Simply follow this guide and you'll enjoy cheaper utility bills and a more energy-efficient home.

Like you, your water heater is relieved that summer is finally here! Your water worked very hard this winter making sure that you and your family had enough hot water for long showers, doing dishes, and preparing those amazing holiday meals.

Now that winter has passed, it's a good time to check your water heater to make sure it's functioning properly. Here are four tips for maintaining your water heater during the summer.

Safety

Safety is of the utmost importance, so it's first on our list. Check to make sure that your water heater's safety relief valve and emergency shutoff valves are working properly. The emergency shutoff safety feature ensures your water heater doesn't overflow. According to the American Society of Home Inspectors, the temperature pressure relief valve is the most important part of your water heater, as it keeps the pressure at a safe level and prevents explosions.

Temperature

As summer temperatures creep up, so does your utility bill. Whether your household uses fans, air conditioning units, or a central cooling system, chances are you'll be cranking these devices to stay comfortable in the summer heat.

To save money in the summer, the United States Department of Energy recommends that you turn your water heater's thermostat down. When it's hot outside, you won't want or need such hot water running through your house. Also, turning the thermostat down to 120 degrees can save your family a bundle. So adjust that thermostat and feel more comfortable indoors and with your monthly utility bill.

Cleaning and Replacement Parts

Your water heater runs by using a number of systems. First, if your water heater uses a pilot light, make sure it is working properly by extinguishing and relighting it. You'll also want to check the burner assembly unit to make sure that the heating system is working efficiently and not using unnecessary amounts of power.

Be sure to clean around your water heater. Any excess debris, dust, cobwebs, and clutter has the potential to catch fire if too much heat builds up, if there is a gas leak, or if there is a malfunction of the pilot light. Check your filters and replace them as needed. A clogged filter can lead to hazardous problems and an inefficient system.

Water Pressure and Quality

Draining your water heater once a year is a good way to make sure that your water quality and pressure stays at its highest. Flushing your water heater system allows you to check for sediment buildup and get rid of any deposits, if needed. This will make sure that sediment deposits don't restrict your water pressure or interfere with the system's ability to heat the water.

Schedule these annual maintenance tasks at the end of winter to ensure that the cold months and high demand for hot water haven't taken a toll on your system. By maintaining your water heater properly, you'll ensure that your family's water supply is safe and working efficiently as temperatures rise into summer.