Pinhole Leaks and Condominiums...
A pinhole leak is no laughing matter. Pinhole leaks in condominiums can cause major damage to fixtures, flooring, possessions, and can affect multiple floors. Most property managers have experienced the dread of that weekend/evening call from the super:
"Sir... We have a leak. I've received calls from two units so far. I've called the plumber, you should get overhere ASAP!"
By the time the plumber finds the leak and properly patches it, you've lost five hours, $500 for the plumber and dry waller, and a good night of rest. So what's the deal with pinhole leaks anyway?
What are pinhole leaks?
Hot water in every condominium is constantly recirculating to ensure that each resident can receive instant hot water on demand. Since the majority of piping in high-rise buildings is copper, a soft metal, over time the water velocity will eat away at the wall of the pipe. If the pipe wall is eroded by water enough over time, it will breach the wall and begin to leak out through a very small hole that is roughly 0.5mm to 1mm in diameter. You can see an example of a pinhole leak in the picture below.
How do pinhole leaks occur?
There are two main culprits that attack your hot water pipes: velocity erosion and corrosive pitting. Velocity erosion can cause pinhole leaks in as short as six months if the system is poorly managed and maintained. If the water is subject to any sort of treatment, it will be corrosive to the piping and cause corrosive pitting which will also wear away at the integrity of the pipe on both the hot and cold water lines. In the Greater Toronto Area,
velocity erosion is the main cause of pinhole leaks in domestic hot water systems. An untreated system will see an increase in the frequency of pinhole leak development. The traditional method of tighenting a rubber clamp over the leak does not solve the systemic issue even though it will temporarily stop the leak. You can see an example of a clamped pipe in the image above. Replacing the worn pipe involves shutting down and draining the system, this causes thermal and pressure shock which will further weaken the plumbing system and increase the rates of occurence of pinhole leaks in other areas. The spread of pinhole leaks is similar to the spreading of a disease for hot water piping, and unless it is treated the hot water system is bound to fail and leaks will continue to occur. One preliminary action that you can take is properly balancing your system, which you can read up in another one of our blog posts.
How much damage can a pinhole leak really do?
Pinhole leaks can do a surprising amount of damage in a very short period of time. Ewa Kleczyk describes the damage as including "the collapse of walls and ceilings and water can contribute to the growth of mould on the surface of walls, floors and ceilings." We have even come across an unfortuante resident who had to change their hardwood flooring six times because of reoccurring leaks! Pinhole leaks are a large source of stress that waste time, money, and effort and not addressing the issue properly can resonate throughout the entire building and its residents. A poorly handled leak can produce a high repair cost as well as a lot of trouble for the manager and directors. As pinhole leaks become more frequent, so will the concerns and grievences voiced by the residents. Unless action is taken, the system will fail more frequently.
For more information on the best solution for pinhole leaks, request our info package below:
For the residents of high-rise buildings, their board of directors, their superintendents and their property managers the term "crossover" occurs when hot water crosses into the cold water piping and the reverse. It can mean unpredictable water temperatures, cold from hot taps, hot from cold taps and even exploding toilet bowls and flooded suites. It's the sort of thing that makes property managers want to cross the road.
Symptoms of Crossover
1. Fluctuating Water Temps
A nice warm, relaxing, morning shower is just what everyone needs to start a busy workday. Imagine setting the temperature so that it's just right, tossing your robe across the room and stepping under the toasty warm water. Seconds later the water temp plummets to -50 and you're contemplating severe shrinkage while icicles form at the end of your nose. Then, just as you're getting used to the refreshing Arctic temperatures, the water rockets to near scalding temps. That's exactly the sort of crossover symptom your residents are likely to report through an angry phone call.
2. Bursting Toilets
Another symptom is when someone flushes the toilet. Toilets are accustomed to cool water andalthough porcelain is a great material, it can only expand so fast when confronted with a temperature change. Add hot water when it's expecting cold and the average toilet bowl will shatter. When there's no toilet bowl to fill, the water can just run and run and run.
Causes of Crossover
Crossover was very rare in the days when everyone had a separate hot tap and cold tap at each sink or tub. Today, single handle faucets are the norm and they involve an internal mixing valve that allows the hot and cold water to blend to the desired temperature on its way out the faucet. When those valves malfunction, or when water pressures become unbalanced, hot water can enter cold water pipes and visa versa.
Sometimes it's not the single handle faucet. Sometimes people add a cheap hand-held shower head. Sometimes it's an insanely expensive European faucet.
Download our Crossover Tip Sheet
In the case of plumbing crossover, the answers can be difficult to locate but all you have to do is download Rikos' "Tip Sheet -- 6 Steps to Solve Crossover." Follow the steps and you'll be rid of crossover. (Now you can focus on your pinhole leaks and Rikos' pipe lining solution.)
We KNOW you'll find it useful. Share it with your friends in other condos and high-rises.
Download our tip sheet to solve your plumbing crossover problems.
Balancing Your Hot Water System
Keeping a balanced system is crucial for maintaining the health of your domestic hot water (DHW) system. Your recirculating system is engineered to ensure the water moves at a controlled velocity. Unbalanced systems with varying velocities will cause heavy wear & tear that leads to pinhole leaks in a very short amount of time.
Balancing your system also ensures proper maintenance and distribution of temperatures. Unbalanced systems tend to favor circulating loops in the system that are closest to the point of distribution and therefore are not able to deliver equal temperatures throughout the system. A properly balanced system will also maintain healthy water velocity that will not damage the piping.
Many issues can arise from not keeping a balanced domestic hot water (DHW) system.
Examples of issues include:
Circulating water will tend to follow a shorter circuit through the closest loops, creating high velocities that increase wear on the pipe through velocity erosion
The short-circuiting water will result in complaint about the long delays in getting hot water at the remotest loops
Automatic flow control valves are the suggested strategy to properly balancing your DHW system. These valves automatically adjust to the pressure variations within the recirulation system, only allowing a specific amount of flow throughout the pipe. They are factory set to the desired flow rate and do not require any further balancing or adjusting, reducing labour costs as well as eliminating the potential for improper settings that throw the system out of balance.
To learn more about balancing hot water recirculation systems, request our info package below: