Issues with your home's hot water heater can be stressful at the best of times, but what do you do if it happens on a weekend or a holiday? If you are entertaining or in desperate need of hot water after hours, there are emergency plumbers that can help you with the situation. Knowing what to do both before and after you call the plumber helps get your plans back on track.
Assess the Situation
Finding a small puddle at the base of the water heater doesn't mean you have a leak. Condensation can build on the exterior of the unit or the hot water pipes, resulting in small damp spots. Slow leaks can also be the cause. These usually occur at a valve.
If you suspect condensation or a slow leak, wait until normal business hours before calling the plumber. Instead, clean up the puddle and check it again the next day. If a fresh puddle is forming, there is likely a leak and you will need a repair.
Major leaks or burst heaters are more obvious. Generally, you lose hot water or all water flow entirely from the hot water tap. There will also be a large puddle. Unlike small leaks, a large leak requires immediate attention.
Shut Off the Water
Before making a phone call, shut the water off to the hot water heater. Caution is the name of the game, here – the water is typically at a temperature of 125 degrees Fahrenheit or more, which can result in major burns.
If you can reach the heater without coming in contact with the water, you can turn off the safety shut-off valve on the heater. Turn the valve clockwise to close off the water flow. Once the valve is turned off, you can still use the cold water throughout your home. If hot water isn't immediately needed, you won't need to call a plumber until normal business hours.
For leaks that prevent you from reaching the heater, shut off the main water valve to the house. Shutting off the main means there will be no hot or cold water available in your home. If you can't go more than a few hours without water, you must call in emergency help so you can at least get the cold water flowing again.
Get a Quote
Get quotes from a few emergency plumbers, unless you already have a trusted plumber you can rely on for emergency work. You will probably reach an answering service after hours, but the plumber should call you back shortly. Getting quotes from several plumbers can help you save money during a difficult situation.
Ask the plumber what the after-hours service fee is, so you can have an estimate for the basic cost of a visit. You can also ask for a repair estimate, but be aware that some plumbers will not provide this until they assess the situation on-site.
Create a Backup Plan
You may not get hot water back right away, especially if it's a holiday weekend and the plumber needs to order parts or install a new water heater. Your emergency plumber can usually get the water heater disconnected, so you can turn the water main back on and have access to cold water.
Make a plan to get through a few days without hot water. For example, switch to disposable plates and get out your big kettles for heating water on the stove. Arrange with friends or neighbors to borrow their shower, if necessary. If you were planning to entertain over the holiday, you may need to move the festivities to a restaurant. Fortunately, you will have hot water quickly once your emergency plumber is able to get the materials for the repair.