Author Topic: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem? (Read 31197 times)

andrea-stache

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Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« on: September 12, 2013, 01:23:06 PM »
Hi Guys-

I noticed our hot water heater had about an inch of water in the drain pan the other day. By the looks of the drain pan (dead bugs, calcification), the water had been there a while. We shop vac'ed it out of the pan. Next day, the same amount of water was there. Again, I shop vac'ed it bone dry.

The water is back again. Any ideas what could be causing this and what this is? DH and I are pretty "un-handy" so please be clear (i.e. explain thoroughly).

The hot water heater is 7 years old. We do the routine maintenance (drain it to remove sediment). It sits raised on bricks in a drain pan (so it is not sitting in the water).

Help me save costs of the plumber!!

Andrea

PantsOnFire

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #1 on: September 12, 2013, 02:31:29 PM »
If it's only 7 years old, I'd look first at the TPR valve, and the drain spigot. The drain spigot you already know since that's what you use to drain it out periodically for maintenance. Make sure it's completely closed and not leaking.

The TPR (Temperature-Pressure Relief) valve is a safety valve in case the heater stays on too long and overheats the water. Basically so your water heater doesn't explode, or burst your pipes. The TPR valve is on the side, near the top, with a pipe leading down toward the floor (the pipe is open on the bottom to let any "vented" water/steam out.) It's brass, with a lever on it and usually a metal warning tag about not burning yourself from the hot water that comes out. Place some newspaper or paper towels under that pipe and check on them once in a while to see if any water dripped down specifically from that location. If it did, the valve is either just not closed (it's spring loaded so try opening it momentarily... HOT water will come out the bottom so be careful! and letting it close again to see if it seals better) or it's just worn out and needs to be replaced. Last I checked they are like $10-15 at most hardware stores and can be replaced with hand tools and teflon tape.
No one's yet explained to me exactly what's so great
about slaving 50 years away on something that you hate
About meekly shuffling down the path of mediocrity
If that's your road, then take it; but it's not the road for me.

Greg

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #2 on: September 12, 2013, 10:18:14 PM »
Check for leaks at the inlet and outlet pipes, but the tank itself could be leaking. Any warranty?

Kevan

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2013, 07:08:21 AM »
That much water cannot be produced from the drain cock or the t&p valve without being unmistakably visible. At the top of the unit are the inlet and outlet fittings (hot & cold) which could be leaking, but that volume of water, again, would be already noticed at the top. If the water isn't dripping from one of those pipes and falling into the emergency pan (which, by your description, it isn't), then your unit is shot and has to be replaced.

The warranties on these things is usually six years. It should last at least ten years, so you've had bad luck. Even if you had a ten-year warranty, it'd pro-rated. The labels on the side of the tank would be informative.

With some patience and a strong helper, DIY replacement isn't that complicated.

andrea-stache

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #4 on: September 13, 2013, 11:11:44 AM »
If it's only 7 years old, I'd look first at the TPR valve, and the drain spigot. The drain spigot you already know since that's what you use to drain it out periodically for maintenance. Make sure it's completely closed and not leaking.

The TPR (Temperature-Pressure Relief) valve is a safety valve in case the heater stays on too long and overheats the water. Basically so your water heater doesn't explode, or burst your pipes. The TPR valve is on the side, near the top, with a pipe leading down toward the floor (the pipe is open on the bottom to let any "vented" water/steam out.) It's brass, with a lever on it and usually a metal warning tag about not burning yourself from the hot water that comes out. Place some newspaper or paper towels under that pipe and check on them once in a while to see if any water dripped down specifically from that location. If it did, the valve is either just not closed (it's spring loaded so try opening it momentarily... HOT water will come out the bottom so be careful! and letting it close again to see if it seals better) or it's just worn out and needs to be replaced. Last I checked they are like $10-15 at most hardware stores and can be replaced with hand tools and teflon tape.

pantsonfire...you are spot on. it's the TPR valve with a slow leak. You can feel and see the water dripping down the pipe into the pan.

Now is where the fun begins. I called Sears because it's warrantied for 10 years. I explain I just want the part...we'll do it ourselves. It's a $79 charge because a tech has to come out and confirm that the part is actually broken. Then they could cover the part under the warranty. I explained this is a $15 part at Home Depot...why would I pay a $79 service charge for a warranty replacement.

Of course, they were happy to come out and waive the $79 service fee and provide the FREE replacement part...I just had to pay the labor charge of $265 for installation.

GRRRRRRRRRR....this is ridiculous. The part is covered under warranty...but I still need to pay $79 to get a new one????
« Last Edit: September 13, 2013, 11:14:19 AM by andrea-stache »

Ashcons

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2013, 11:19:55 AM »
Sears warranties, these days, aren't worth the paper they're printed on.

Kevan

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #6 on: September 13, 2013, 08:25:55 PM »
Here's your chance to say that you saved $265.

PantsOnFire

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #7 on: September 16, 2013, 07:26:12 AM »
You can do it! Even if you have to buy a wrench and teflon tape and spend two hours running to/from the store, it's worth it.

Here's a walkthrough, complete with candy bar consumption:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=yUIyc8yqZMg

Shut off the gas or electric to the heater before you start. If you have the time, remove the old valve and bring it along to the store before buying the new valve to make sure you get the right part.
No one's yet explained to me exactly what's so great
about slaving 50 years away on something that you hate
About meekly shuffling down the path of mediocrity
If that's your road, then take it; but it's not the road for me.

andrea-stache

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2013, 09:08:59 AM »
I stopped by my local Sears store this weekend while out and about running errands. I went to the appliance section and asked to talk to the store manager. Ken comes over and patiently listens to my story. He takes a look at all my paperwork (warranty, receipt, install contract) and says he's happy to try to help me. He agrees that what the Warranty department is telling me is not fair.

He calls customer care, explains, gets transferred, explains, gets transferred, ... repeat a lot of times ...

He gets so frustrated he ends up hanging up on different people twice. The whole series of calls and transfers takes over a half hour. He is given the same ridiculous run around and story I was given ($79 technician to come out and confirm it's actually the TPR valve that's broken or $265 labor to replace the TPR).

He was determined to get me the part for free. He finally gave up on customer care and asked me for my credit card. He ordered me the part, is having it shipped directly to me, and charged me $36.92 for the part + shipping. He then issued a manual "manager credit" for $36.92 on my card to cancel out the charge.

Ken is AWESOME....Way to creatively work around a broken system to keep a customer happy and get me the warranty part I am entitled to at no additional charge. Part comes on 9/23.

@PantsonFire...thanks for the link. Can I email you if we run into issues??

Jack

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #9 on: September 16, 2013, 10:45:31 AM »
Sears makes me sad... I like a lot of their products (especially tools and appliances) and their in-store employees are decently helpful, but their corporate management sucks so bad it's not even funny. (Examples include this warranty runaround BS, as well as the iPhone-based POS system they're testing, which makes it take twice as long to check out and requires me to sign the receipt with my finger.)

I also wish they still sold house kits, just because ordering a house from a catalog is awesome.

andrea-stache

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #10 on: September 23, 2013, 07:07:38 AM »
WE DID IT!!! Thanks so much to this forum!!

DH and I replaced the TPR valve all by ourselves yesterday. A quick check of the pan and tissues this morning and it is dry!!!

We are two "non-handy" people. Thank you so much everyone for helping us figure out the problem, giving me the guts to argue with Sears and get the replacement part, and posting the link to the YouTube video to show how it's done.

Prior to MMM, we would have found the water and immediately called a plumber. Post-MMM, I found my owners manual, got a free replacement part since it was under warranty, and did the repair ourselves.

Savings: $265 (Sears cost of install of TPR valve).

WOO HOO!!!

Greg

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2013, 08:17:50 AM »
Good job. Always worth trying...

hoping2retire35

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #12 on: August 29, 2016, 07:21:10 PM »
was looking up what was wrong with our hot water heater and this was the second link that popped up. I don't think from cookies or whatever either. anyways

found it late last night and fixed it first thing this morning. BOO-YAH!

hoping2retire35

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #13 on: August 30, 2016, 09:37:03 AM »
Bah! had to leave work today. it is leaking from the cold water input on the top of the unit now. Does this mean something is wrong with the unit itself now?

should I drain and wait?
buy new and replace?
just tighten cold input and hope all is well?

edit:
or call a plumber! ay worst of all!!


should say that when i opened the new tp valve it stopped leaking from the cold water input. the power was off and so was the water(sorta, I think this valve may be broken also, doesn't really seem to do anything other than turn.)
Also yesterday when I opened the drain not nearly as much water came out but once i installed the new tp valve and opened the water input valve again the drain spewed out a bunch of white stuff ( i think it was buildup inside the unit.(not sure about the exact timing of the stuff coming out but it was after I had worked on it a while)).

now I am also wondering what made the tp unit fail to open on its own when it seemed like all I had to do was open it manually and that stopped it from leaking at the input point.Nothing makes sense!


this could be because the town has had unusually high water (so I read this could be the problem) and it wouldn't surprise me if this was the culprit.
« Last Edit: August 30, 2016, 09:54:46 AM by hoping2retire35 »

hoping2retire35

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #14 on: September 01, 2016, 11:50:52 AM »
Bought new and had lowes install; FAIL

anyways, it all seemed pretty easy to do yourself with some sharkbite couplers and friend to help lift the units. Will DIY next time.

Edit:Third handy/install/repair man to come to the house in two weeks. They all seem laid back and chill, I think I chose the wrong profession/circle of friends.
« Last Edit: September 01, 2016, 11:53:47 AM by hoping2retire35 »

alberteh

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #15 on: September 01, 2016, 10:27:21 PM »
Lowes is known to hire the cheapest person available. Some things to consider:

Did they get a permit and inspection?
If you don't know much about plumbing, here's a tip. If the professional installer is using sharkbites, he's not a professional.
who do you call for warranty?
Is the venting correct? gas line tested properly?

Permits cost money. Expertise costs money. Yes the DIY option is always available and a water heater is not usually difficult to replace but sometimes it pays to hire a pro. I cannot comment on your particular situation (can't see the plumbing from my house) but am only offering food for thought.

I'm a plumber/gasfitter by trade in canada so i may be a bit biased.

paddedhat

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #16 on: September 03, 2016, 01:30:20 PM »
Lowes is known to hire the cheapest person available. Some things to consider:

Did they get a permit and inspection?
If you don't know much about plumbing, here's a tip. If the professional installer is using sharkbites, he's not a professional.
who do you call for warranty?
Is the venting correct? gas line tested properly?

Permits cost money. Expertise costs money. Yes the DIY option is always available and a water heater is not usually difficult to replace but sometimes it pays to hire a pro. I cannot comment on your particular situation (can't see the plumbing from my house) but am only offering food for thought.

I'm a plumber/gasfitter by trade in canada so i may be a bit biased.


Yea, it might be time to let it go on the sharkbites. The first time you reach in a small hole, in a finished ceiling, and replace a pin-hole failed copper elbow, without a torch, without a long battle to dry the pipe out, and do so in a legal, fast, code approved manner, that lasts forever, you understand why, at least in these parts, you won't find a service plumber without a nice assortment of them in his van. I agree that they can be way overused by DIYers, and hacks, but they have a legitimate place in the industry. Your other comments are dead on. No way in hell Lowe's would get near a gas water heater of mine.

thor800

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #17 on: September 12, 2016, 09:56:04 AM »
If the tpr valve wasnt draining properly, it could mean that it was blocked although in my understanding the sediment tends to build on the bottom.

If you feel underneath and the insulation is soaked, it can mean an internal leak which might need to be replaced.
The most effective store locator app https://storemapper.co/

mires

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #18 on: October 01, 2016, 01:58:00 AM »
Lowes is known to hire the cheapest person available. Some things to consider:

Did they get a permit and inspection?
If you don't know much about plumbing, here's a tip. If the professional installer is using sharkbites, he's not a professional.
who do you call for warranty?
Is the venting correct? gas line tested properly?

Permits cost money. Expertise costs money. Yes the DIY option is always available and a water heater is not usually difficult to replace but sometimes it pays to hire a pro. I cannot comment on your particular situation (can't see the plumbing from my house) but am only offering food for thought.

I'm a plumber/gasfitter by trade in canada so i may be a bit biased.


Yea, it might be time to let it go on the sharkbites. The first time you reach in a small hole, in a finished ceiling, and replace a pin-hole failed copper elbow, without a torch, without a long battle to dry the pipe out, and do so in a legal, fast, code approved manner, that lasts forever, you understand why, at least in these parts, you won't find a service plumber without a nice assortment of them in his van. I agree that they can be way overused by DIYers, and hacks, but they have a legitimate place in the industry. Your other comments are dead on. No way in hell Lowe's would get near a gas water heater of mine.

While I do agree that Sharkbites have their place, they are not for a water heater install. I think that is what Alberteh meant when he said what he did. They are certainly easier to use in a situation like you described but it doesn't make it proper. That would be time to cut the hole larger to make the repair properly with the torch and solder. You already have a hole in your ceiling that needs to be repaired. No reason not to go ahead and cut it larger. Also Sharkbites do NOT last forever unfortunately. They rely on an O-ring to seal. O-rings fail. They get dried out, they get nicked when installing, etc. Plumbing is one area that I think people need to steer away from DIYing. . Just my opinion.

Jack

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Re: Leaking hot water heater - ideas for figuring out the problem?
« Reply #19 on: October 01, 2016, 08:08:38 AM »
Lowes is known to hire the cheapest person available. Some things to consider:

Did they get a permit and inspection?
If you don't know much about plumbing, here's a tip. If the professional installer is using sharkbites, he's not a professional.
who do you call for warranty?
Is the venting correct? gas line tested properly?

Permits cost money. Expertise costs money. Yes the DIY option is always available and a water heater is not usually difficult to replace but sometimes it pays to hire a pro. I cannot comment on your particular situation (can't see the plumbing from my house) but am only offering food for thought.

I'm a plumber/gasfitter by trade in canada so i may be a bit biased.


Yea, it might be time to let it go on the sharkbites. The first time you reach in a small hole, in a finished ceiling, and replace a pin-hole failed copper elbow, without a torch, without a long battle to dry the pipe out, and do so in a legal, fast, code approved manner, that lasts forever, you understand why, at least in these parts, you won't find a service plumber without a nice assortment of them in his van. I agree that they can be way overused by DIYers, and hacks, but they have a legitimate place in the industry. Your other comments are dead on. No way in hell Lowe's would get near a gas water heater of mine.

While I do agree that Sharkbites have their place, they are not for a water heater install. I think that is what Alberteh meant when he said what he did. They are certainly easier to use in a situation like you described but it doesn't make it proper. That would be time to cut the hole larger to make the repair properly with the torch and solder. You already have a hole in your ceiling that needs to be repaired. No reason not to go ahead and cut it larger. Also Sharkbites do NOT last forever unfortunately. They rely on an O-ring to seal. O-rings fail. They get dried out, they get nicked when installing, etc. Plumbing is one area that I think people need to steer away from DIYing. . Just my opinion.

I replaced my water heater myself a few days ago (there's a thread on it), and I used soldered connections. It really isn't hard. I can see steering away from DIY plumbing if you're tempted to take ill-advised shortcuts out of laziness, but not because you're scared that doing it properly is too difficult.