If you’ve recently noticed water dribbling from your hot water system, don’t panic, it may not be a leak you need to worry about.
In the heat of summer, the valves in your hot water system can drip. In fact, hot water systems are designed to release a small amount of water (particularly on hot days) to regulate pressure in the water tank, ensuring it doesn’t over pressurise. However, if the amount of water that your system releases is more than the occasional drip, you may have a serious leak on your hands. In this case, you’ll be paying to heat water, only for it to go to waste.
How will I know if my hot water system is operating normally or if it needs repairs?
If your hot water system is dribbling water it is either releasing pressure from the water tank (which is a normal safety feature) OR the valve is faulty. Here’s how to tell the difference between the two. Hint, the main things to monitor are:
- the amount of water that’s dribbling from your hot water system
- how often it’s leaking
Pressure relief valves
If your system is only leaking every now and then, and only small amounts, it’s likely your pressure relief valves are simply doing their job. There are two safety valves on a hot water cylinder:
- A Pressure and Temperature Relief (PTR) valve
During the heating cycle, the PTR valve discharges drops of hot water to the drain line in order to relieve the pressure generated by overheating. This can also occur when the outside temperature rises (such as on hot summer days). The PTR valve is a safety mechanism designed to prevent your hot water tank from over pressurising.
- An Expansion Control Valve (ECV)
The ECV will open and release water if the pressure from the main water supply exceeds the pressure of the ECV. Unlike the PTR valve, though, the water it releases is cold, which is less energy consuming and extends the PTR’s life span. In certain areas of Australia, it is even compulsory to have an ECV fitted to the cold water supply line.
Both of these valves are designed to allow a small amount of water to drip from your hot water system (particularly on hot days), to ensure the pressure in the water tank doesn’t build up too high. However, it’s important to note that the amount of water being lost should only be minor and it should only happen intermittently. If your tank is constantly dribbling water, it’s likely your system has developed an actual leak requiring repairs.
What could be causing my hot water system to leak?
There are a number of common faults which can cause hot water systems to leak:
- If your valve is constantly dripping, there may be tiny particles of grit caught in it. More specifically, the seal in the valve is probably damaged (by small bits of sand or minerals) and will no longer seal properly. It is worth noting that PTR valve seals don’t last forever, and we recommend having them inspected once or twice a year, to ensure they’re sealing properly. Solargain can help you clear the valve or replace it if necessary and remedy the problem.
- If the water stream is stable and lasting and if you have particularly high water pressure at your house, this can also cause your system to leak. In this case, you’ll probably just need a Pressure Limiting Valve (PLV) installed. We can test the pressure of your water supply, determine if you need a PLV and install one all in the one visit.
- If a high volume of hot water is pouring from your system, there are a multitude of possible causes. Depending on whether you have an electric boosted or gas boosted system, the shutdown procedure will differ too.
In dire circumstances like this (and to save you from losing any more hot water and money down the drain), we suggest you give us a call to arrange a visit with one of our experienced technicians. They’ll inspect your hot water system, identify what’s causing the leak and have it fixed in no time.
Troubleshooting your hot water system
The simplest way to tell whether your hot water system is simply relieving pressure or if it’s faulty, is by putting an empty ice-cream container under the pipe for an hour and measuring how much water you collect. Once you know roughly how much water your system is losing, call us on 1300 73 93 55 or contact us and we’ll help you determine what’s causing the leak and will fix the issue.