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I live in a 26-year-old second-floor condo with a 13-year-old hot water heater.

Historically, it would take several seconds from the time that I opened the faucet for hot water that I would actually get hot water.

For the past few days, though, hot water has arrived much faster. While most people would be pleased by this, I am worried about why hot water is arriving in just a second or two.

It is the sort of behavior that I normally associate with having used hot water recently, which has not always been the case during this period of faster-than-usual hot water. Since this is a second-floor condo, I do not have direct access to most of my pipework, which is mostly copper. And I once did have a pinhole leak in the pipes, though fortunately that was just under the sink and so I found out about it quickly.

So, I'm worried that I might have a hot-water leak somewhere that I can't see.

Is there another explanation for why I might be getting hot water at the faucet faster than before?

And, any suggestions for how I might determine whether or not I do have a hot-water leak?

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    Do you have access to the water meter? Check to see if it's spinning while all your taps are off -- and if it is, try shutting off the valve to the water heater (there should be one on the cold intake side) and check if it stops. – gregmac Apr 25 '17 at 15:27
  • Are there any other tenants sharing the plumbing, or are you aware of all draws on hot water from the heater to your taps? – feetwet Apr 25 '17 at 15:32
  • @gregmac: Yes, it looks like I have a leak. Slow progression on the meter with the hot-water heater intake valve open, no movement since closing the valve. Thanks! – CommonsWare Apr 25 '17 at 16:14
  • @feetwet: AFAIK, all units in this building have individual plumbing, as we each get separate water bills from the municipality. And, it's not that big of a condo, so I am able to track all of the usage. Thanks! – CommonsWare Apr 25 '17 at 16:15
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The first thing you can do is verify if the outgoing hot water pipe is hot or warm when you are not using hot water. If that is the case then you have a leakage somewhere.

You can also verify your watermeter. If you do not use any water then the meter should not move. If the meter rotates than you can be sure that you have a consumer, in fact an unwanted leakage somewhere.

  • OK, the water meter showed a leak. However, it's now been 30 minutes since I shut off the intake valve to the hot-water heater. The meter is showing no movement, but the outgoing pipe is still warm. Does that indicate a separate issue, or am I just impatient for that pipe to cool? :-) – CommonsWare Apr 25 '17 at 16:13
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    @CommonsWare - The outgoing pipe could always be warm due to conduction. Also, not all heaters have a backflow check-valve (or one that's working), so you can also get heating in the outbound pipe due to convection as long as there's hot water in the tank. – feetwet Apr 25 '17 at 16:19
  • @CommonsWare Feetwet is right. The pipe can remain hot directly on the outlet.. Furtheron is should be cool. – Decapod Apr 26 '17 at 5:55

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