What to do when your hot water system leaks

14 Jul, 2022

A reliable hot water system is essential all year round. It is only when something goes wrong with your hot water system that homeowners stop and think about their system, as most people take their hot water system for granted. Due to most hot water systems being kept in discrete areas such as inside enclosed spaces or even outside, problems such as leaks easily go unnoticed. When leaks are left unattended they can lead to pooling which creates the perfect environment for mosquitoes and other insects as well as dampness which results in mould and deterioration of materials. It is important to invest in hot water system repairs quickly, to rectify the problem and prevent further damage. This article looks at hot water system leaks, how to address them and what to do when they do happen. What can you do in order to avoid problems with your hot water system? You do not need to wait until you have no hot water, regular maintenance and checking of your hot water system is a proactive way to get the best out of your hot water system and make sure it lasts as long as it is supposed to. 

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Hot showers are therapeutic, all year round.

Is the leak a problem or normal? 

While most hot water systems tend to outlast their expected lifespan of 10-12 years, eventually, they will show signs of deterioration and age. Leaks indicate an issue that your system or part of it is in need of repair or replacement. When you first notice a leak, the first step to take is to find out where this leaking is coming from. This gives you an idea about the type of repair that needs to be done and the potential cost implications for this. Keep in mind that not all leaks are signs of a problem, some are normal parts of the working system. 

The most common cause of a leak in a hot water system is the pressure relief valve. Hot water systems have a pressure relief valve (PRV) that every now and again will release a little bit of water which is normal, therefore if your gas hot water system is leaking a small amount, it may not be an issue because PRVs are designed to relieve pressure off your hot water system once the pressure inside gets too high. Try lifting the lever a couple of times. After doing so, the passageway will be cleared. If you notice a small leak, chances are it is from the PRV and that is normal. 

If the leak goes beyond a few mls, it may be that your pressure relief valve is faulty and that part of the system needs to be replaced, on average PRV last between 3-5 years.  If you notice that the leak is coming from the bottom of the tank, around the base and not the PRV, this is an indication that the leak is coming from the tank itself.  A hot water system repair plumber will diagnose where the leak is coming from and can repair it for you. 

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Whether you are experiencing leaks on your tank or not, periodic maintenance checks for your hot water system should be a must.

Is the leak a problem or normal? 

While most hot water systems tend to outlast their expected lifespan of 10-12 years, eventually, they will show signs of deterioration and age. Leaks indicate an issue that your system or part of it is in need of repair or replacement. When you first notice a leak, the first step to take is to find out where this leaking is coming from. This gives you an idea about the type of repair that needs to be done and the potential cost implications for this. Keep in mind that not all leaks are signs of a problem, some are normal parts of the working system. 

The most common cause of a leak in a hot water system is the pressure relief valve. Hot water systems have a pressure relief valve (PRV) that every now and again will release a little bit of water which is normal, therefore if your gas hot water system is leaking a small amount, it may not be an issue because PRVs are designed to relieve pressure off your hot water system once the pressure inside gets too high. Try lifting the lever a couple of times. After doing so, the passageway will be cleared. If you notice a small leak, chances are it is from the PRV and that is normal. 

If the leak goes beyond a few mls, it may be that your pressure relief valve is faulty and that part of the system needs to be replaced, on average PRV last between 3-5 years.  If you notice that the leak is coming from the bottom of the tank, around the base and not the PRV, this is an indication that the leak is coming from the tank itself.  A hot water system repair plumber will diagnose where the leak is coming from and can repair it for you. 

Common causes for hot water system leaks 

A rundown of the most common reasons for hot water system leakages. Click here for further information on other causes of a broken hot water system

The pressure relief valve needs repairing or replacing

The pressure relief valve (PRV) as mentioned above, is the heart of your hot water system. It reduces the incoming pressure from your water supply source. When you take care of things, not only do they last, but they will save you money in the long run by preventing the need to replace parts or the entire system. To release the pressure from your PRV, simply lift the lever 3-4 times to remove build-up pressure or debris, this will oftentimes address a small leak. Some factors to that influence if your PRVs need replacing or just repair are their age (the spring located in their diaphragm can lose its tension over wear and tear), presence of noises such as a hammer or dripping (usually points out that there could be a hole in your valve), and most importantly, water pressure is reduced or stopped completely. If these signs manifest in your tank, it’s time to invest in replacing your PRV which is a minor repair and expense. 

Pipe fittings have come loose

Loose pipe fittings can be the culprit for a leaking system. Over time with high pressure, the pipe fittings can deteriorate, especially with large fluctuations in temperature. Loose pipe fittings can be a little more involved to repair and replace than PRV, as they require more labour and skill. 

The tank itself is damaged with cracks and rust

When there is a significant leak with pooling at the bottom of the tank, this could be an indication of a more severe problem with your tank. With age and under high pressure, the tank itself is under pressure and will show signs of deterioration such as cracks, which leads to rust, which then leads to leaks. Replacing the tank itself is costly but once the cracks are present, it is the only long-term solution. 

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Protect your family and home from underlying health and structural hazards brought upon by unnoticed tank damage.

Water pressure is too high 

Same as blood pressure for humans, early diagnosing of high water pressure is key to the prevention of damaged pipes and tank itself. Your tank is designed to withstand a certain amount of pressure, when the pressure exceeds this amount over a prolonged period, this is when problems happen. A simple addition of a pressure limiting valve (PLV) is inexpensive and a proactive way to preserve your hot water system. 
So once you have identified where the leak is coming from, turn the water off from the mains to prevent further leaks, especially if the pipes are involved. Now it is time to get your Ipswich plumber on site to fix the problem and get your hot water system running, leak-free and to its optimum capacity.

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