A Water Heater Acting Odd Could Be a Plumbing Leak
The standard water heater in most homes is what’s called a storage tank water heater. This is the familiar water heater with a large tank that uses either gas jets below the tank or electric heating elements inside it to heat up the water. Because the water in the tank gradually cools down as heat escapes to outside the tank (this is called standby heat loss), the gas jets or heating elements must come on periodically to restore the temperature, even if there’s been no demand for hot water.
You should be accustomed to the pattern of when your water heater turns on. If it starts to cycle on and off frequently when there’s no demand on the hot water, it may be trouble with the water heater. But it’s also possible that it comes from a second, unexpected source: a plumbing leak, maybe even a major slab leak.
Why a plumbing leak may affect the water heater
What’s the connection between leaks in the plumbing and the water heater? The issue is with the hot water lines that exit the water heater. Two sets of fresh water pipes extend to the taps and appliances in your home, hot and cold pipes. If leaks start in the hot water lines, it’s essentially the same to the water heater as if a tap turned on to request hot water. It will turn on to start heating up replacement water. You aren’t getting any hot water, but the water heater is working at trying to provide it to you. This means the water heater will keep turning on at times when it shouldn’t.
How can I tell a leak is affecting the water heater?
Not easily, and the best route when it comes to determining why you have an oddly acting water heater is to call for a licensed professional plumber to look into it. A pro can find the root of the problem fast and have it corrected.
But we can give you a few tips that will tell you there’s a leak somewhere:
- The sound of running water in the basement: Because slab leaks—leaks in the hot and cold water lines in the foundation of a house—are one of the most common types of leaks that will affect a water heater, you might hear the source of the problem when in the basement.
- High water bills and high heating bills: The water heater takes up a large portion of your monthly utility bills. If those costs are rising along with an unusual spike in water bills, this points toward a hot water line leak.
- Increase in indoor humidity: Water leaks will cause uncomfortable humidity spikes, and may also contribute to mold and mildew growth.
What can be done?
If the problem is a water leak, a professional plumber will use leak detection equipment to pinpoint the location, whether behind a wall, under a floorboard, or beneath the foundation. The leak can be fixed and the water heater checked to ensure the problem was addressed.
For an Acton, MA plumber to find out why you have a strangely acting water heater and then handle the repairs—whatever they are—call us.
Basnett Plumbing, Heating & AC has served the MetroWest since 1987.