Should my kitchen sink be generating heat when it's turned off?
October 28, 2014 3:55 PM   Subscribe

This morning when I went to use the kitchen sink, the floor around the sink was warm to the touch. I opened the cabinet under the sink and the air inside it was hot, and the bottles of household cleaners I store beneath the sink had condensation bubbles on the insides. The surrounding cabinets are warm too. This is is not normal. Before I email my landlord, is there any non-negative reason this could be happening?

When I turn the water on, what used to be "hot" is now "scald-y" and "lukewarm" is now "hot." Cold water is still cold although takes a second to cool back down.

The cabinets on either side of my kitchen sink are warm to the touch as well now, which is unusual.

I live in an apartment building. I don't know where the hot water heater is for the building or how to access it.

Any ideas on what is going on, AND if this is something I could be charged for in terms of higher electricity/water bills?

P.S. This may be unrelated but the landlord recently fixed a leak in the bathroom in the unit above ours.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto to Home & Garden (18 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
 
That is so alarming that I would email the landlord right away.

We have very hot water in our house, and the section of the kitchen with the sink is against a wall that get some sun, and I still don't think things have gotten that warm in the vicinity, even during 100+ degree days this summer.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:57 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't email. I could call. Because this is very not right, and you don't want to mess around with plumbing or heat.
posted by stoneweaver at 4:02 PM on October 28, 2014 [5 favorites]


This is alarming. There may be a pinhole leak in the hot water line (or a steam line if you have steam heat) somewhere in the floor beneath the cabinets. Is there extra moisture? Call your landlord ASAP.
posted by quince at 4:04 PM on October 28, 2014


I'd call ASAP - it may be nothing, but if it's something, it's probably something that both you and the landlord will want to fix.

One though though: is this your first year? Was the heat for the building just turned on?
posted by wotsac at 4:04 PM on October 28, 2014


Wotsac, we've lived here for two years and we live in San Francisco so we just have one heating unit in our apartment that we turn on when we need it (which is infrequently, at various times in the year). Sometimes I've noticed that the water pipe under the sink gets warm when I'm washing dishes, but that's it (and I've never noticed the floor or cabinets getting warm).
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 4:06 PM on October 28, 2014


Yes, please call right away.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 4:09 PM on October 28, 2014


Your building may have a boiler for hot water, do you have radiators? Either way, this is a plumbing emergency. If you don't hear back from your landlord, call a reputable plumber or PG&E if the building has a boiler.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:12 PM on October 28, 2014


Thanks for the sanity check MeFis, I called the landlord and they are sending someone out today. Will update the thread to let folks know what is going on!
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 4:19 PM on October 28, 2014 [3 favorites]


I would also be concerned about the flammability of the cleaners you have under the sink...
posted by Librarypt at 4:35 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


Yeah, I'd move all of the cleaners elsewhere for now.
posted by Fig at 4:40 PM on October 28, 2014


I had a similar thing happen due to a pinhole leak in the hot water supply line. It's amazing how much hot water a pin-sized leak can make. It won't make a stream of water, though, just a hot fog that will produce condensation everywhere that is connected to the leak area by air.
posted by wnissen at 4:44 PM on October 28, 2014 [2 favorites]


Yay for calling the landlord (speaking as a landlord, this falls under the heading of STUFF I WANT TO KNOW RIGHT NOW), and thirding please remove anything flammable from the region ASAP.
posted by thomas j wise at 5:08 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]


This morning when I went to use the kitchen sink, the floor around the sink was warm to the touch. I opened the cabinet under the sink and the air inside it was hot, and the bottles of household cleaners I store beneath the sink had condensation bubbles on the insides. The surrounding cabinets are warm too. This is is not normal. Before I email my landlord, is there any non-negative reason this could be happening?

When I turn the water on, what used to be "hot" is now "scald-y" and "lukewarm" is now "hot." Cold water is still cold although takes a second to cool back down.


Holy crap! It sounds like the thermostat on the source of hot water has broken and it just keeps heating and heating; I think you should turn the hot water on and let it run to prevent pressure from building in the boiler or tank (and the cold too in case the drain pipes have plastic sections).

Maybe call and clear that with the landlord first.
posted by jamjam at 5:13 PM on October 28, 2014


I would check your water temperature just to make sure it's not on some crazy hot level. I'm a bit embarrassed that at my last apartment, the water was always way too hot and burning me, and when I had an out-of-town guest to stay with me, she explained I could adjust the water temperature on the water tank. My dumb ass just turned it down to the medium level and then it was fine from then on. In my apartment, and I think most apartments (?), every unit has their own hot water tank, usually in a random closet somewhere.

But the fact that the stuff you're storing under the cabinet is getting hot even when the water isn't running sounds weird. Glad someone is coming out to look at it.
posted by AppleTurnover at 6:29 PM on October 28, 2014


Update: The landlord came and checked the basement (beneath my unit; he uses it for storage) where the hot water heater lives. The basement was completely flooded and it was steamy inside. He is calling a plumber. If the plumber has any more info I'll post again. Thanks everyone.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 10:20 AM on October 29, 2014 [9 favorites]


Thanks for the update.

I'd guess it's flooded because the broken thermostat caused the water heater to overheat; the resultant pressure buildup caused the pressure relief valve to open and squirt out a bunch of hot water; the valve closed again and the tank filled up again; the water heated up again until the pressure relief valve blew again; and so on indefinitely.
posted by jamjam at 1:39 PM on October 29, 2014


Landlord needs a leakfrog!

But seriously, flooding alarms are fantastic.
posted by ApathyGirl at 2:00 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure jamjam has it. The plumber said that you're supposed to flush the hot water heater once a year so that sediment does not build up. He said sediment collected inside the hot water heater which contributed to it blowing a leak... but he didn't get into the details.

The heat underneath my kitchen sink and in my cabinets was because my kitchen is directly above the hot water heater. They are replacing the water heater today.

And yeah, ApathyGirl, leak alarms are key -- if I hadn't noticed that the floor was strangely hot and that the water temperature was different -- OR if I hadn't checked AskMe for second opinions -- it could have been gushing water for a long time.
posted by rogerrogerwhatsyourrvectorvicto at 2:23 PM on October 29, 2014


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