How to Troubleshoot a Leaking Hot Water System
Maybe you were doing some gardening and noticed water pooling around the hot water system. Or maybe the shower pressure is not what it used to be. Either way, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing a leak somewhere along the way. These simple steps can help you locate the source of the problem and advise on the best course of action. Here’s what you need to know about leaking hot water systems:
For urgent plumbing repairs, call the team at Mr Emergency. They have fully qualified plumbers in your area who are available 24 hours a day.
More Reading: 10 Fun Ways to Drink More Water
Step 1: Identify the Hot Water Leak
Unless you’re dealing with an emergency, the first step should be to identify the source of leaking water. This won’t always be obvious, and nobody expects you to know the hot water system’s internal components. However, identifying the source of leaking water can help diagnose the problem much easier while saving time and money when seeking repairs from a plumber who charges by the hour.
Step 2: Shut off the Water Supply
Next up, you’ll want to shut off the water to isolate the leak. This should be the first step if you’re looking at a severe leak or burst pipe. Isolate the water supply by closing the tap that feeds the hot water system. If you cannot locate the tap, shut off the supply at the property’s water main. This is the tap located at the water meter.
The water meter can be found in the front yard or at the side of a freestanding house. Unit and apartment dwellers may want to consult strata management or their landlord regarding the location.
It may feel like going overboard – shutting off the water for a small leak. But according to the Queensland Government, even a slow drip can waste 9,000 litres of water each year. Before shutting off the water to your property, fill some water bottles and buckets, so there’s a reliable supply on hand until the hot water system gets repaired.
Step 3: Turn off the Electricity and Gas
As a safety precaution, the next step involves shutting down the entire system by turning off the electricity and gas. The power isolation switch will be found on your home’s circuit breaker housed within the meter box, or there’s a PowerPoint located by the water heater.
If you’re relying on natural gas or LPG for hot water, close the gas isolation valve that feeds the unit. This will be a brightly coloured or metal valve found on a pipe running from your home to the water heater.
You can tell the type of system in use by the number of connecting copper pipes, the size of the unit and whether or not there’s a pilot light within the access panel.
Step 4: It’s Time to Call a Plumber
There are few leaking hot water repairs and little maintenance that can be carried out without the aid of a licensed plumber or gas fitter. These residential professionals know the difference between a tempering valve, overflow pipe and anti-corrosion anode and are legally capable of completing the work, often with same day service.
Avoid DIY mistakes by going straight to the source of reliable repairs and replacements. Call a plumber to fix the leaking hot water system and get it repaired right the first time.
Step 5: Repair or Replace Hot Water Systems?
Energy Saver reports that the average lifespan of a hot water system is between 10 to 15 years, depending on the type of water heater and frequency of service. When a system falls within this age bracket, it can be more cost-effective to replace it rather than seek a quick fix.
Have a chat with your plumber who can seal the leak returning your water to normal, or they may suggest an energy-efficient replacement that could eliminate the likelihood of further problems arising. But, of course, it all depends on the condition of the hot water system and the cause of the leak.
5 Common Causes of Hot Water System Leaks
There are many causes of a leaking hot water system. Here are five of the most common:
Wear and Tear:
A leak from the hot water tank itself could indicate damage. Whether it’s corrosion caused by rust or fractures from some form of physical damage, either of these could cause water to leak from the tank. It’s imperative that you seek urgent repairs before the damage worsens, and purchasing a new hot water system becomes the only viable solution. Reoccurring harsh weather could also be the cause of damage that results in dripping water.
Pressure Relief Valve (PRV):
A faulty pressure relief valve is a common source of water leaks. The PRV is essential for limiting the pressure that reaches your faucets, but the natural minerals and salts in a water supply can build up, blocking the valve and causing it to leak or burst. The good news is that pressure relief valves can be replaced without too much hassle.
Loose Pipe Joints:
It’s a no brainer that pressurised water can leak from loose pipe joints. Pipe joints can loosen from wear and tear or if they were not installed correctly. A professional plumber should tighten or replace the length of the damaged pipe to get the hot water system back up and running.
Oxidised Sacrificial Anode:
Sacrificial anodes are removable parts of hot water systems specially designed to attract rust so that the remainder of your system remains rust-free. The anode should be replaced every five years. Otherwise, an oxidised rod can become a source of leaks. There’s also potential for rust to spread to the hot water tank if it’s not replaced.
Australian regulations state that water pressure for new homes cannot exceed 500 kPa. Higher pressure results in banging noises in pipes and can lead to leaking hot water systems and burst pipes. A pressure limiting valve is a straightforward way to limit pressure. However, only newly built homes are required to comply. So, existing homes could experience leaks due to excessive pressure. A PLV could fix all your problems.
Concealed Hot Water Tank Leaks
Not all hot water leaks are visible. Some may occur further along your plumbing network within the walls or under the house. Here’s a simple solution for determining the likelihood of a leak.
Write down the current numbers reading on your water meter just before bed. Then, turn off all taps and ensure no one uses water throughout the night. Then, recheck the numbers in the morning. If they’ve increased, then you may be experiencing a leak.
If this is the case, your best solution is to call a reliable local plumber who will take the necessary steps to get your home back on track and reduce the chances of further damage and higher running costs.