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Is Your Hot Water Cylinder Leaking? Here are 7 Possible Causes

Leaks are never planned and when they happen, the timing is always bad!

This guide will help you identify where the leak may be coming from and what could have caused your hot water cylinder leak.

Whether you use Hot Water Cylinders NZ to do the repair or not, by asking the right questions and/or providing the right information, you will save hundreds if not thousands in repairs or replacement depending on system type and size.

Cause #1: Damage Caused by External Forces

External damage may cause a leak within the hot water system. If your hot water cylinder is relatively new (7 years or less) then the probability of a leak resulting from wear and tear is low.

Some questions you may want to ask yourself are:

  • Have any works taken place on my property? This includes any renovation works etc.
  • Have I repaired or replaced a plumbing fixture? This includes minor upgrades such as replacing a tap to larger upgrades such as replacing a shower. Often such upgrades can result in leaks to your hot water system. Our specialists will quickly be able to investigate through a process of elimination to determine the cause.
  • Has local Council done any upgrades? Watercare can often upgrade public watermains introducing more pressure onto a private property. This added pressure may spring a leak within the hot water system.
  • Is your hot water cupboard often used for storage or drying laundry? It may well be that pipework has been knocked resulting in a loose connection. If this is the case, please don’t attempt to repair this yourself. You may risk the pressure blowing the fitting off which will become very difficult to isolate and will cause flooding.

The good news is that most hot water cylinder leaks can be repaired, keeping your cost low. Time is often of the essence.  If you quickly identify or suspect one of the above external forces to be the likely cause, please let us know at time of booking.

Cause #2: Recent Electrical Repairs or Element Replacement

When the immersion element is damaged due to age, electrical failure or otherwise, an electrician or Limited Electrical License holder such as a plumber will need to replace the element and/or the thermostat.

When this occurs you need to be aware of several things:

  1. Your tank has been under pressure for a long time. This pressure has been consistent but when the element is replaced the tank will “decompress” which results in the movement of all components internally, including the welded seem. Often, cylinders that have had no issues prior to this decompression will start to leak once the cylinder undergoes repressurisation. This expansion and contraction is more than enough to crack a welded seam under certain circumstances.

    We always advise consumers to think carefully about an investment that could require a full replacement a few months later. Often it’s better to make this investment into a new hot water cylinder system than into a repair that represents a third of the total cost. View our “*Is Your Hot Water Cylinder Leaking?” section for more info.

  2. Once the element is replaced, if you find a leak in the vicinity of the element, then the element seals have not been installed properly or could be faulty. This information comes in handy if you recently had your element replaced and have spotted a leak.

  3. Always make sure that your contactor replaces the element with an equal wattage e.g 2kW should be replaced with 2kW and not the more common 3 kW. 3kW elements are cheaper to purchase and corners could be cut which may end up costing you more.  A higher kW rating means more load on your existing wiring and HWC which again due to age may fail.

Cause #3: Safety Valves May Be Operating

We have some great information about cold water expansion valves. Here are a couple of resources:

Cause #4: Vacuum Relief Valves or Open Vents may be Overflowing

If you possess a Low Pressure Hot Water Cylinder then your installation will either include a vacuum relief valve or an open vent.

Cause #5: Age of Your Hot Water Cylinder

If your hot water cylinder is ageing and has sprung a leak, our recommendation is that you save any money you intended to spend on an investigation or repair. Having completed over 5,000 installations to date, our records show that 2 out of 10 repaired hot water cylinders end up being replaced within 3 months of the repair. This of course will depend on the fault, cylinder & environment, but in most cases a plumbing company will charge a fee to investigate and/or attempt a repair if you’re agreeable. It’s best to make sure that you will not be charged before they despatch a technician.  

TAKE NOTE: To attempt to repair a cylinder of this age including replacement of the element may result in unintended additional damage. Element threads are often seized and too much force will crack the internal tank. Low pressure hot water cylinders are often made of copper which is a relatively soft material. It will not take much force to cause a leak.

Cause #6: Watercare & Council Watermain Upgrades

If road works are visible from your home, then there is a high chance your home is affected. Particularly if you notice a leak during or after these works are complete and you didn’t have the necessary protection in place such as a pressure reducing or limiting valve which regulates your incoming pressure.

An increase of pressure may result in:

  • Safety valves suddenly discharging water
  • Open vents overflowing
  • Burst hot water cylinders

To add to the strain, often debris will find its way into households causing other issues such as hot water fluctuation or blockages on valves such as toilet inlet vales and hot water system valves.  If you intend to install a pressure reducing valve, it is highly recommended you also install a strainer which will isolate any unintended debris from entering your home.

 

If you would like more information about Watercare compensation for watermain leaks and processes, please visit the following article: Watermain Leaking? Here is What You Can Do.

Cause #7: Dissimilar Metals & A Failed Sacrificial Anode

Every steel hot water cylinder contains a specialised Hot Water Cylinder Sacrificial Anode. Over time they break down so your hot water cylinder doesn’t. But what happens when are fully broken down? What will protect your hot water cylinder?

Whilst this is one of the causes a cylinder may leak, you may ask your, “well isn’t it a bit late once my cylinder is leaking?” You are absolutely right! This information won’t help if your cylinder is leaking but it will provide you with some knowledge around why it may be and what you can do to prevent it from happening again.

For other faults such as electrical faults or no hot water at all, please visit the following resources:

The above is a short list of causes that apply more than others. We also come across dozens of isolated causes which we have not included due to their rarity.

If you are unsure what may have caused a fault on your hot water cylinder, why not give us a quick call and speak to our highly qualified hot water cylinder specialists?

In many cases we can identify the fault over the phone at no cost to you. Alternatively, in 80% of all cases, we are able to identify the fault over the phone and immediately advise of repair and/or replacement costs. Hot Water Cylinders are New Zealand’s #1 hot water specialists and are ready to assist 24/7.

Manual vs Auto-Reset Cylinder Thermostats

Cylinder thermostats are energy-saving, safety devices. They control the heating element of your hot water cylinder by measuring the temperature of the water inside and switching the heat supply on and off to ensure water temperature stays within the acceptable range.

If the water temperature falls below the required minimum temperature, the heat supply (boiler or electricity) will start up. The New Zealand Building Code requires the minimum temperature inside a hot water tank to be 65oC. This is hot enough to inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria like Legionella. Once the desired temperature is reached, the thermostat will turn off the heat supply again.

On the other hand, if the temperature exceeds the maximum setpoint, the cylinder thermostat will switch off the heat supply to avoid unnecessarily overheating your water. This saves a lot of energy and obviously money on your energy bills.

As the water in the tank sits unused, it will start to lose some heat. If the temperature drops below the low limit, the thermostat will kick in to reheat the water and maintain the temperature.

Some hot water tanks will have either a manual or an auto-reset thermostat. So what’s the difference?

Manual-reset thermostat

Standard domestic electric water heaters’ control circuit consists of a manual-reset high limit switch, a lower thermostat, an upper thermostat, two heating elements and wires.

The upper element is energized when power is initially turned on to the unit. This heats the water in the upper third of the hot water tank, where hot water is drawn when you open a tap inside the house. When the desired temperature is reached in the upper third of the tank, power is switched to the lower heating element which continues to heat the water in the lower part of the tank until the lower thermostat setting is reached.

If the temperature inside the tank reaches 85oC (170oC), the high limit switch will be tripped. To ensure the over-temperature and energy cutout is set, you need to press the ‘reset’ button on the thermostat. See samples below:

manual_reset_thermostat_1manual_reset_thermostat_2

Auto-Reset Thermostat

Just as the name suggests, an auto-reset thermostat has the capability to reset itself.

This is often offered as an upgrade feature for solar and hot water heat pump applications. Generally, solar water heaters generate tons of heat and have a tendency to heat water beyond the thermostat settings. This would result in frequent tripping of the high-limit switch, hence the need for an auto-reset thermostat.

Manual-reset thermostats may be used in split solar hot water systems, but it would need replacing every few years.

Some modern hot water cylinders also provide auto-reset thermostats as an option, allowing the water to remain within the ideal temperature range without any intervention.

The ‘reset’ button

The thermostat isn’t the only part of your electric water heater that can trip the reset button. If you are finding yourself having to reset the water heater too often or if you run out of hot water frequently, one of the following might be to blame:

  • Loose wiring. A loose wire in the heating element cause excess heat that will activate the high-limit switch.
  • Faulty high limit switch. If this device starts malfunctioning and consequently overheats the water, the switch will trip.
  • A short in the heating element. The thermostat may still work if there’s a short in the heating element, but the water will continue to be heated beyond the recommended temperature and trip the high-limit switch.
  • The problem may also be the electrical setup in your home.

If you suspect any of these, you should get a professional in to inspect your water heater.

More information about thermostats

If your hot water cylinder doesn’t have a thermostat or has a faulty one, do not attempt to install or replace it yourself. This is a job for a licensed and qualified tradesperson. There are electrical wiring and plumbing regulations and standards that must be followed. Also, it can be dangerous to an untrained person. Be sure to have the minimum limit set to 65oC to disinfect your water supply of harmful bacteria.

Please remember that setting the thermostat to a higher setting does not make the water heat up faster. Your heating system is designed to heat up water at a predefined rate, and raising the setting too high will simply result in wasted energy and even risks of scalding.

Since a temperature of 65oC may be too hot for most people, it is advisable to install a thermostatic mixing valve. This device mixes hot and cold water so you will get the right temperature from your taps and showers.

For more information about hot water cylinder thermostats, call the experts at Hot Water Cylinders NZ on 0800 429 546.

Read Before You Light Your Gas Cylinder

If you have a gas hot water cylinder in your home, sometimes you may have to shut the gas off or the pilot flame may extinguish which will require you to re-ignite your gas hot water. Here are the “dos and don’ts” before you apply ignition, taken from instructions supplied with gas cylinders.

igniting_your_hot_water_cylinderDO NOT LIGHT HEATER UNTIL FULL OF WATER

Gas water heaters are designed to operate reliably and safely as long as the operating instructions are followed exactly. You must comply with these lighting instructions at every stage.

A. The water heater is equipped with an igniter button which lights the pilot. When lighting the pilot follow these instructions exactly.

B. Before lighting ensure there is no smell of gas around or in the vicinity of the water heater and the burner opening. Be sure to smell next to ground level as some gases can settle there

C. WHAT TO DO IF YOU SMELL GAS

    • Do not try to light the water heater
    • If the gas small is throughout the room, turn the gas control knob clockwise to the “●” (off) position and then turn off the ignition valve on the gas line to the water heater.
    • Leave the room and call Rheem Service or a qualified service technician.

D. Use only your hand to turn the gas control knob, never use tools. If the control knob will not turn by hand, don’t try to repair it, call a qualified service technician. Force or attempted repair may cause a fire or explosion.

E. Do not attempt to operate this water heater if it has been damaged. Call a qualified service technician.

LIGHTING INSTRUCTIONS

  1. STOP, READ THE SAFETY INFORMATION ABOVE.
  2. TURN THE GAS CONTROL KNOB FULLY CLOCKWISE TO THE “●” (OFF) POSITION. REMOVE THE FRONT COVER BELOW THE GAS CONTROL.
  3. WAIT FIVE (5) MINUTES SO ANY BUILD UP OF UNBURNT GAS CAN ESCAPE. IF YOU THEN SMELL GAS, STOP AND FOLLOW THE “C” IN THE SAFETY INFORMATION. IF YOU DO NOT SMELL GAS, PROCEED TO STEP 4.
  4. Turn the knob to the (pilot) position.
  5. Depress the knob fully (until star disappears below housing) and after 30 seconds, whist keeping the knob depressed, repeatedly press the igniter button(for up to 40 seconds ) until the pilot light ignites.
    Warning: Keep your face clear of the combustion chamber opening while pressing the lighter.
    Note: It is not possible to depress the knob fully if the gas control has activated as safety shut-off feature. In this case, wait 60 seconds for the gas control to reset.
  6. Keep the knob depressed for 20 seconds after the pilot flame lights.
  7. Release the knob and check the pilot is still alight. The pilot can be checked by looking through the large opening below the gas control.
  8. If the pilot light has failed to light or has not remained alight, turn the gas control knob to the “” (off) position. Wait five (5) minutes for any unburnt gas to escape and then begin again at step 3.
    Warning: Failure to wait five (5) minutes may result in a fire or explosion.
  9. When the pilot flame remains alight with the gas control knob released, turn the knob anticlockwise to the numbered setting that will provide the water temperature of about 60°C. Refer to the rating label for this setting. Refit the front cover securely.
  10. Turn the knob to a higher number for a high water temperature if required.
  11. If the main burner does not light at the selected setting, the water may already be at the selected temperature.
    Note: Never press the igniter button while the top knob is in a numbered position.

TO TURN OFF GAS APPLIANCE

  1. TURN THE GAS CONTROL KNOB TO THE “●” (OFF) POSITION.
  2. TURN OFF GAS ISOLATION VALVE
    To maintain safety and efficiency, this heater should be serviced annually by an authorized service agent.

Following these instructions will ensure that you operate your gas hot water cylinder safely and any risk is minimised. If you need assistance or are unsure how to do these steps, call us on 0800 429 546 before doing anything to your cylinder.

Rinnai is getting greener in 2017

Rinnai have been busy with some exciting changes to products making sure they remain one of New Zealand’s preferred suppliers of electric hot water cylinders. The next 12 months will see some exciting changes to their range starting with changes to some of the Mains Pressure Enamel products.

Always striving to be at the forefront of future-proof technology, Rinnai, as part of our commitment to the environment has made changes to our manufacturing process. Innovations to the materials that we use to assemble our finished products will enable our cylinders to be kinder to the environment while still allowing us to meet the same exacting standards you have come to expect.

These changes will mean that the height of some of our Mains Pressure Enamel Electric cylinders will be changing over the coming months.

The first of these changes will be reflected with the production of our Mains Pressure Enamel 180L 488 product (ME18048830/ME18048820). This means that all orders from now on will be fulfilled with the new height.

The full schedule of changes to affected Mains Pressure Enamel cylinders can be found below:

CODE LITRES DIAMETER EXISTING HEIGHT NEW HEIGHT KW CHANGE WINDOW
ME18048830 180 488 1660 1695 3 NOW
ME18048820 180 488 1660 1695 2 NOW
ME25059030 250 590 1580 1595 3 MID NOV 2016
ME25059020 250 590 1580 1595 2 MID NOV 2016
ME250590D30 250 590 1580 1595 2X3 MID NOV 2016
ME250590D20 250 590 1580 1595 2X2 MID NOV 2016
ME18059030 180 590 1190 1205 3 END NOV 2016
ME18059020 180 590 1190 1205 2 END NOV 2016
ME09048830 90 488 955 1030 3 EST MAR 2017
ME09048820 90 488 995 1030 2 EST MAR 2017
ME13548830 135 488 1295 1328 3 EST JAN 2017
ME13548820 135 488 1295 1328 2 EST JAN 2017
ME30059030 300 590 1790 1805 3 JUN 2017
ME30059020 300 590 1790 1805 2 JUN 2017
ME300590D30 300 590 1790 1805 2X2 JUN 2017
ME300590D20 300 590 1790 1805 2X3 JUN 2017

From November 2016 we will be phasing out the dual element 2kW and 3 kW 180L Mains Pressure Enamel products (ME180590D30 and ME180590D20) from our range. Stocks of this product will not be replenished and orders for these products will continue to be fulfilled while stocks last.

As always, Rinnai is committed to the environment and to our customers. For more information on any of the products discussed above please contact us 0800 4 CYLINDERS

The danger of cheap hot water cylinder quotes.

wrongly_installed_hot_water_cylinderThis home owner would have been stoked to get this cylinder installed at $500 below going market price! There is a good reason why…

Often we lose out on installations because of price, home owners don’t know any better employing plumbers that happily install hot water cylinders in manner that is dangerous and inefficient to home owners.

We were called to this job which was just done recently by a local plumber, failing to follow basic building code requirements this installation resulted in overheating and damage of tap ware.

What were the requirements?

The installation was a replacing a faulty low pressure with a new low pressure hot water cylinder. the legal recommendations are very clear in this situation clearly stating that the plumber SHOULD bring this installation up to the current standard. which includes:

 

  1. Installing a tempering valve.
  2. Installing a cold water expansion valve.
  3. Installing earthquake restraints.

Non of which were done on this installation, putting this family at risk and increasing their power bill unnecessarily. Do you have a cheap quote? Before you commit, its a good idea to compare apples with apples!  Not sure? Give us a ring on 0800 4 CYLINDERS.