When you spot a small leak in your hot water system, think about it as a warning sign and get it fixed straight away. Even a tiny leak can turn into a big leak quickly and become a disaster. A small leak can indicate a few things that can be repaired quickly or indicate a much larger problem like corrosion.
Here’s what to know, what to check and how to fix it.
What you need to know about your hot water system
- Hot water lifespans differ depending on what type of system they are. An electric hot water system can typically last between 10-15 years. Gas systems tend to have shorter life expectancies at around 8 -12 years.
- To check the age of your hot water system, look for the manufacturer’s plate on the unit, which will show the date.
- Usage can play a significant role in how much strain your system is under. While the machine is built to withstand significant temperature changes, there is a limit to how much it can handle over time. The more people in the home using the system, the more pressure the system will be under.
What to check when you’ve identified a leak in the hot water system
- Don’t panic and look at where the leak is coming from. Is it coming from the top of the bottom of the system or the pressure relief valve (PRV), or the pressure/temperature relief valve (PTRV)?
- The PRV is a valve located high on the side or on top of the tank. The valve itself consists of a flat, inch-and-a-half-long lever that lifts and lowers when water is released to reduce the temperature and pressure within the tank.
- The valve should always be in good working order to ensure the water heater is safe in extreme pressure build-up. It’s designed to open temporarily and discharge short spurts of water when the temperature exceeds about 98 degrees Celsius, and it releases pressure if the tank gets above 150 psi. It’s important to locate your hot water heater pressure relief valve so you can test it at least once a year and address leaks as they occur.
Signs your pressure valve is broken or damaged
Tiny leak: if your pressure value is leaking a dribble amount of water, this is ok, but it still needs to be checked by a plumber to ensure it doesn’t get worse. This is not an expensive fix, and only cost about $15 plus labour to replace.
Flooding: If the water is gushing from the valve, it is a major problem that needs immediate attention. You’ll need to switch off the water at the main immediately. If you’re experiencing flooding, call an emergency plumber in your area ASAP.
Excessive noise: If your water heater is rattling or emitting a high-pitched whistling noise, it’s likely the sound of steam trying to escape the tank, which is a sign of far too much pressure pressing against the inner walls. This is a case to call a plumber as soon as possible.
When do I turn off the water?
If you see a leak coming from the top or bottom of your electric, gas, or solar hot water system, turn off the electricity and water straight away. Mixing any major water leaks and electricity is potentially deadly.
The hot water heater should have its own fuse or circuit breaker on the power board. You will still be able to run power to the rest of the house. Once you’ve switched off the main, you’ll have no water, so it’s a good idea to prepare some water before doing this. Fill some buckets and pots with water, so you have some drinking water and separate water to flush a toilet until the plumber arrives manually.
How to fix a leaking hot water system.
Plumbing repairs are rarely successful with DIY repairs unless you’ve got training as a plumber and know what you’re dealing with. Depending on the cause and the severity of the leak, as mentioned above, it will determine if you need to book a plumber or call an emergency service.
The plumber will look at all the causes and be able to determine if it will be a quick replacement repair of the valve or an entire replacement of the hot water system.
If it does come down to replacing a broken hot water system, it may be time to change to a new type of system. At Murphy Plumbing, we supply and install an extensive range of hot water systems, including major brands such as Rheem, Billy, Reece and Plumbers Co-op. Our plumbers can help guide you through exactly what type of systems will fit your home and the needs of the size of household you have.
Because our Newcastle team are all fully qualified plumbers and gasfitters, we can handle any hot water heater repairs or installations.
We can install a new hot water system identical or similar to your old one or change you over to something better suited to your current family size.
We’ll also take the old unit away, so you don’t have to worry about disposing of it safely. We make everything as easy, convenient and efficient as possible for you. Contact us today!