The hot water heater installed in your home should be sized correctly to supply the quantities of hot water you need for the number of people for which the dwelling is designed. However, in many of the older GTA homes, the hot water heaters don’t deliver enough for all the residents, and this can be attributed to a number of reasons.
When some of the old houses were first built, hot water heaters were not yet a standard fixture for private homes, and no space was allocated for their installation. In later years, when it became the fashion to install a water heater, it usually had to be “squeezed in” to whatever corner was available. This often meant settling for a smaller unit and locating it on a bracket above the bathtub, and a typical example of this can be found in the historic Gladstone Hotel in Queen Street. The second-floor function room has a washroom that was originally the bathroom of the old house, and a small water heater is wedged into the corner of the room above the tub.
Some hot water heaters last longer than others, and those fitted in older homes in Toronto are no exception. Occasionally we come across buildings, especially homes converted to office premises, that still contain hot water heaters that are 40 years old or more. In such cases, the occupants use very little hot water and as a result, the heaters have survived longer than expected. If you purchase or move into a property with a water heater that looks old, chances are it has been there a long time and may no longer be safe or operate efficiently.
The water delivery pipes are one of the primary reasons your heater may not be working correctly. If your home still has galvanized steel pipes, they may be corroded inside or contain a build-up of rust and mineral salts. This causes the water to flow much more slowly than it should and results in a trickle of hot water coming from your faucet instead of the powerful stream you want and expect. Pipes may also leak, which means only some of the hot water reaches your shower or bathtub.
Low water pressure to your hot water heater is a common complaint in the Toronto area, particularly in upstairs bathrooms. This may, in fact, be caused by low water flow from the City’s supply lines, or it could be a local problem such as a partially-closed main shutoff valve, corroded piping, or a damaged pressure relief valve (PRV). A variety of solutions can be tested to resolve this, including checking that the valve is fully open, and verifying that the pipes are not clogged or leaking.
When to call a plumber
If your hot water heater delivers a slow trickle of water, in sufficient quantities for the household or the water is not hot enough, contact your local plumber for a free consultation to identify the problem, and to obtain an estimate for the repairs you need.