A leaking hot water system is one of the biggest worries that can pop up at home. Not only does it mean you’re left with no hot water, but there may also be a risk of serious water damage.
Even if everything looks minor at first, a leaking water heater will get worse over time. That means there should be no delay in finding the cause and organising repairs.
It’s typically best to call a plumber for any major leak. However, there are a few simple steps you can follow to prevent immediate headaches from worsening.
You won’t be on your own when faced with a leaking hot water system.
Step 1. Identify the Type of Water Heater
Depending on how much attention you do pay to a hot water unit, you may or may not know what type you have. Take a moment to quickly identify what you have, as it could be a:
- Solar hot water system
- Electric storage tank
- Gas instantaneous/continuous flow system
- Gas storage hot water tank
- Heat pump hot water unit
Each type of fuel source or style of hot water system could determine the steps it takes to stop a leak.
Step 2. Confirm Where the Leak is Coming From
Is the water leaking from the tank or cylinder, from a valve or pipework around the system? The location of the leak may not necessarily be as important to you, but it will be to the local plumber. It may also indicate how much trouble you’re in.
Assess the situation to see whether the leak is coming from the top or bottom of a tank. A leak from the bottom of the tank is problematic because a large amount of water is spilling out with intense pressure pushing down.
Meanwhile, a leak in a wall mounted continuous flow unit could easily be stopped by turning off the water supply. There is different pressure being placed on the unit, and a different set of circumstances.
A leaking pressure/temperature relief valve (PRTV) or pressure relief valve (PRV) is another scenario. And in each case, you may be in luck as a leaking valve is quite common and easy to replace or fix.
Also be sure to check any other exposed plumbing if it looks like there’s no water running from a water heater. The problem may be further down the pipe where leaks aren’t as noticeable. Just take the time to investigate the whole system if you suspect – or see – water.
Step 3. Turn Off the Water Supply
Once you identify the leak and the severity, you’ll have to turn off the water supply. To do this, head to the main water meter at the front of your property and turn the tap off. You’ll find the water meter in the front yard, potentially near the driveway or along the boundary fence with the street.
Shutting off the water mains means you can prevent any problem leak from getting even worse. There’s no risk of additional flooding or invasive water damage.
Sometimes you can get away with keeping water at the mains on. There are hot water systems that have an inbound tap with a specific knob you can turn off to stop the direct flow of water. If you can directly shut off the water supply without having to cut off the whole home, that’s a big plus.
Step 6. Shut Off the Electricity or Gas Supply
If your hot water system is electric or solar and there is a risk of electrical shock, switch off the power supply at the switchboard. The exact switch or circuit breaker should be clearly labelled so you can safely isolate the hot water system circuit. You can maintain power for the rest of your home as a result and avoid further disaster from a leaking hot water tank.
Additionally, gas hot water systems should have the gas isolation valve to the hot water heater turned off. With both the gas and water supply off, you can remain confident that any leak risk is minimised.
Step 7. Call a Licensed Plumber
With everything in order, give your local plumber a call. They’ll arrive on site and will either repair or replace the hot water system, depending on the overall issue.
And if your water heater is leaking and you couldn’t stem the flow, they’ll be able to shut it off with precision. They will assist in any way possible and can install a new hot water system with no delay, or fix an existing leak.
Also, check to see if the unit is still under the manufacturer’s warranty. This may mean you’re still covered by them for any repairs and replacement and will require an authorised plumber so the warranty is not voided.
But no matter what, if you’re in doubt, always contact a plumber. They’ll be your best bet for fast and efficient hot water system leak repairs.