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kdange1 05-03-2010 12:35 PM

water heater drip
 
Hello all,

I'm hoping someone can help me out with a water heater problem. First of all, I have a 40 gallon, natural gas water heater. It is installed in a closet in my home, which doesn't have a drain or a drip pan (drips/leaks are a problem). The house was built in 1998 and I purchased it in 2003. I assume this water heater has been in the home since it was built.

I realize the water heater is probably nearing the end of its life, but I would like to get a little more time out of it before spending the money to replace it, if possible. The water heater seems to be doing its job just fine.

A couple of weeks ago, I randomly opened the water heater closet and noticed a pretty good sized pool of water on the floor. I tracked the drip to the temp./pressure relief valve. I figured the valve was shot, so I purchased a new one and replaced it. A couple of hours later I found that the new valve was also dripping. It seems that the drip only occurs when the water heater is on and heating the water.

So, I purchased a water pressure test guage and took some measurements. I attached the guage to the drain valve on the water heater and got a reading of around 80 psi. When the heater kicked on, the pressure gradually rose to 150 psi, at which time the valve started to drip. I took the pressure at a hose bib and also got a reading of around 80 psi.

I should also mention that I have a Watts Potable Water Expansion tank installed on the cold water inlet line.

After reading some information on the internet, I decided that maybe my water pressure was too high at 80 psi. So, I went into my crawlspace and adjusted the pressure regulating valve at my main water inlet. The pressure at a hose bib after doing so was around 55 psi last night. This morning I took another reading and it was around 70 psi. I'm not sure why that changed. Now, with the lower water pressure, the pressure in my water is still climbing to 150 psi and triggering the valve.

I'm not sure what to try next, any suggestions? A couple other items to note. The hot water coming out of the tap seems to be an appropriate temperature. I don't believe the water heater is overheating the water. Also, I pressed the valve on the expansion tank and only air came out, no water. So, it seems to operating correctly.

Are there any other ways to test that the expansion tank is working? Could the increased pressure just be due to a failing water heater? Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.

rjniles 05-03-2010 01:39 PM

Sounds like the expansion tank is not doing its job. Turn the water supply off and open a faucet and let the pressure drain down. Use an air pressure gage and test the air from the Schrader valve on the expansion tank. It should be about the working pressure of your water supply. If it is less, recharge it. If it will not hold pressure it is bad and needs to be replaced.

kdange1 05-03-2010 11:17 PM

I had suspected the expansion tank but wasn't sure how to test it - so thank you for the advice. I followed your instructions and the expansion tank had zero air pressure. I pumped the pressure back up to match my water pressure, then I let it sit for a half hour or so and then checked it again. The pressure was still the same, so it seems to be holding the pressure. I'll check the pressure again tomorrow to see if it may be losing pressure slowly.

Thurman 05-04-2010 01:30 PM

kd--glad you may have solved your problem about the pressure. But, let's talk about the fact that you don't have a pan under the water heater nor does it sound as if the PRV is plumbed to the outside. I have run across this problem about putting a pan under an existing heater. I now have a fitting which screws into either water fitting in the top of the tank, 3/4 pipe with a 1" eye bolt ring welded to the pipe. I have a piece of 1/4" wire rope (not cable) about 20 ft. long also, and a come-along (?). After emptying the heater of all water, removing one of the lines and screwing in my fitting (pat. pending :) ), I pass the cable up through a small hole in the ceiling into the attic. I attach my come-along appropriately and pick up the heater, maybe three inches. If I cannot use a store-bought pan, I have one made of sheet metal to fit. These are usually less than $20. I attach a fitting into the pan for drainage, place the pan, lower the heater, re-plumb the heater and start to fill, etc. Crawls space permitting, and the owner's wishes, I may/may not plumb the drain pan and PRV to the outside. I do place a small piece of steel wool into the drain of the pan, loosely, to prevent bugs from crawling up through there. A little water will wash this out. This all depends on an attic and crawl space, but it's worked so far.

tpolk 05-04-2010 01:34 PM

:thumbup:thurman i like the way you think

kdange1 05-04-2010 03:24 PM

The expansion tank seemed to hold the pressure just fine over the last 12 hours. Not sure why it lost its pressure in the first place - maybe a really slow leak over time. I'll continue to monitor it. I left the pressure gauge on the water heater drain valve overnight and the pressure never exceeded 120 psi (and no drips from the valve!) so it sounds like the expansion tank was definitely the problem. Thanks again for helping me identify this, rjniles.

Thurman, you make a great point. Since this is an older water heater, I think it's only a matter of time before something else leaks. The lack of drain or pan worries me. I like your idea and I'll have to do some experimenting. Mine is installed in a finished closet and there is a bathroom directly above it. I'll have to figure out some way to attach to a floor joist above or something. Thanks for the tip.


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