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  • Writer's pictureMatt Weber

Water Heater Tray Full of Water! What's My Next Move?

A water heater tray or "pan" is a plastic tray which sits right beneath your water heater tank to catch any water that leaks. It serves as a first line of defense for your flooring in the event that something is wrong with your water heater.

If the pan is collecting water, it indicates a problem. Check for these issues.

Loose plumbing connection: If you spot any dripping pipe connections, you can try tightening the fittings with a wrench or call a plumber to do it for you. Tightening a threaded connection might solve the problem.

Problem with a valve: A tank-style water heater has a drain valve and a temperature-pressure relief (TPR) valve. The drain valve at the bottom of the tank opens to remove any sediment buildup.

Check the drain valve by wiping it with a paper towel. If it dampens the towel, carefully tighten the valve with your hand. If the water stops, then the valve was partially open, and closing it should solve the problem. If the valve is still dripping after you’ve tightened it, you’ll need to replace it.


A leaking TPR valve could be a bigger problem. The TPR valve should open automatically to release hot water when the tank gets too hot or too much pressure builds up, so avoid touching it with your hand.


The TPR valve is found near the top of the tank and is connected to a pipe that runs down toward the floor. Touch the bottom of the downpipe with a paper towel. If it dampens the towel, the valve should be replaced.


Tank corrosion: Inspect the water that’s collecting in the pan. If it has a rusty color, this could indicate internal tank corrosion. If water is breaching the corroded tank, then it's only a matter of time before the problem worsens. It's best to replace the water heater before the tank empties inside the house. The tank can be drained by first disconnecting the power and water supply, connecting a garden hose to the water heater's drain valve, and running the hose to a drain or a downhill slope outside the house before opening the valve.


Flue condensation: On gas-fired water heaters, combustion causes water vapor which should flow through the flue, but if the flue is too long and doesn't get hot enough to cause evaporation, the vapor will condense and drip when the water collects. Condensation can lead to corrosion in the water heater, so if signs are present, call an HVAC technician.


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