If you've been awakened from your slumber by the sound of dripping or running water, it may take you a moment or two to understand what's going on. You may wonder if you're still dreaming but quickly realise that this could be a real-life nightmare and will spring out of bed ready to take action. You will quickly pinpoint the source of the noise and may find that water seems to be escaping from your hot water tank. It's difficult not to panic in this situation, but what should you do next?
If you have an electric water system that relies on a storage tank, you may not know that the tank itself has an automatic pressure release valve, designed to deal with unforeseen events. If pressure builds up within the tank to a certain level, air will escape through this valve, which is typically located towards the bottom of the tank. As the pressure escapes, it will take a certain amount of water with it, but if there's a bigger issue in play, then you may find that there's a lot more water than there should be.
First Things First
While the valve itself may be faulty, there may also be other issues within the tank, but your first course of action is to turn off the inlet valve or go to the mains and isolate that instead. Try to catch any water which is still emanating from the tank in a bucket or similar receptacle and lay some towels down, to try and soak everything up. It's also a good idea to isolate the power to the hot water system by turning off the circuit breaker at the switchboard.
When was the last time that your storage tank was serviced? If you live in an area that suffers from hard water, then it may be particularly vulnerable and should have been serviced regularly just to maintain its efficiency. You may find that the sacrificial anode inside has corroded and is no longer doing its job. If so, the interior of the tank could have been compromised, and this may have led to your current issue. Maybe the colour of your water was a little "off" recently, and unfortunately, this was your early warning sign.
Calling in the Experts
If you're happy that the flow of water has now subsided, then your next action should be to call your friendly plumber. They may need to replace your tank if it is damaged beyond repair, but they'll give the whole system a once-over, to make sure that you can sleep peacefully again at night.