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bluecifer 12-16-2008 07:38 PM

Water Heater leak help needed :/
1 Attachment(s)
Hi - me again. Ok this is the issue. I have a leak in one of my cutoff valves to my water heater - it's not just a case of turning it to stop the flow - it leaks no matter how far or whichever direction it turns. My big question is this. in order to fix it - do i need to shut off all of the water and drain both my tanks (I have two heaters) or can I do it just by cutting off the water to the one tank and draining it? See the attached diagram since that was probably as clear as mud.

Oh yes - and if this valve were malfunctioning would it be enough to stop the hot water from reaching the rest of the house? I seem to be having issues with that as well but it could just be another frozen pipe - the water in my shower only seems to run when I have my sink running now and even then its only cold water now. What a wonderful old house I have!

biggles 12-16-2008 08:00 PM

sounds like the steam is leak when you either go to shut it off or open it up....try tightening the nut down :no:had to ask!shut the main house water from the street put both HWH into pilot mode and hook up hoses to the 2 bottom drains let the pressure off the can replace the problem valve or unscrew the nut and remove the steam and gate.then wrap the steam above the gate below the nut,and reinstall it and refill the whole show.if your going to solder a new valve in you will have to vent the cold water above the HWHs open all the faucets to vent the house down and out the HWHs.......all this to repeat myself :wink:with the GAS valve in PILOT POSITION:thumbsup:

AllanJ 12-16-2008 10:30 PM

Turn off the house main water shutoff.

Turn "off" both water heaters.

Drain the house plumbing, both hot and cold, preferably using a laundry spigot in the basement but if none, use a first floor faucet.

Using one of the water heater drain valves, drain what you think is twice the amount of water that sits in the pipes between the first floor and basement and in the pipes running along the basement ceiling.

You do not have to drain either tank completely.

Now you can work on that valve.

Nestor_Kelebay 12-16-2008 10:43 PM

Biggles is right in that you don't need to drain all the water out of your heaters, but I disagree with the post that advised you to drain the water level down below the elevation of the valves. You can just shut the water off to your house and turn the gas valves on both heaters to the "vacation" or "pilot" position (so that the pilot stays lit, but the heater won't fire up).

Then, if it wuz me, I'd open the highest elevation hot water faucet in the house just to release the pressure in the piping. You don't need to release the pressure on both hot and cold lines; if the water is shut off at the meter, then draining the water out of the hot piping will also release the pressure in the cold piping. Or, just shut the hot side isolation valves at each heater and open the highest elevation hot water faucet in your house to release the pressure in the hot water piping. Wait for that hot faucet to stop flowing, and close it tightly again.

Now, if you remove the bonnet nut from any of the 4 shut off valves in your diagram, hot water won't come gushing out at you from the water heaters. You'd likely get a bit of dripping out of the valve body you remove the bonnet nut from. That's because any water leakage out of the piping above the valves will create a partial vaccuum behind in the piping that's going to prevent further water leaking out of that piping.

If you don't see a packing nut under the handles of those valves, and a 15/16ths wrench will fit over the bonnet nut under the handles, then if it were me, I would go out and buy 4 identical Emco valves and replace the cartridges in all four old valves with four new ones. You can then rebuild the old cartridges with new O-rings, rubber washers and install stainless steel bibb screws. Also, it's a good idea to use silicone grease instead of standard plumber's grease since silicone grease lasts much longer.

So far as I know, Emco are the only company that makes valves that rely on an O-ring to prevent water seepage past the stem rather than a packing. That O-ring eventually deforms under pressure so that it can no longer prevent water leakage past the stem and you need to replace the O-ring.

Can you find a packing nut under the handles of those valves? If not, do the valves have a six or eight sided 15/16ths inch bonnet nut on them? If there's no packing and a 15/16ths wrench will fit either the 8 or 6 sided versions of the bonnet nut, then they are "Emco" compression stops, and the fix is to replace the O-ring or replace the cartridge. The best way to do that is to buy new Emco compression stops and replace the cartrides entirely. The new Emco compression stops will have the cartridge installed at an angle to the valve body whereas the old ones have a more conventional design with the cartridge perpendicular to the valve body.

bluecifer 12-17-2008 01:41 AM

2 Attachment(s)
Man you all rock. Thanks so much for the advice. I took your advice - didn't drain the heaters all the way and bought some new valves completely and then it wasn't that hard to just slip out the old one and replace it with a newer easy to use one. No leaks first time through - I've only done one to make sure I was doing it right, when that one lasts a few days I'll do the same for the others. The only thing I should have done differently was to shut off the valves between the hot water heaters and my radiators - I don't think anything drained out of them in the end but it could have been a little more hassle than I had originally planned if they had.

Now if only my pipes would unfreeze - my new heater should take care of it, guess we'll see.

Thanks again - this has saved me a good chunk of Xmas $$ better spent on my kids.
Old & New Valves

Wethead 12-17-2008 03:39 AM

I got here late and was going to help as well but I see you got it,

Nice job@:thumbsup:

biggles 12-17-2008 07:08 AM

i thought you were fixing the valve for domestic hot water not radiators...but a swet is a swet.........:whistling2:just that the water venting down the line as you soldered could of underminded the repair......:thumbsup:

bluecifer 12-17-2008 09:46 AM

It was for just standard pipes but they intersect somewhere in the maze of pipes that come out of the boiler as well. Its a mess that I don't even pretend to understand :laughing: I'm getting there though.

Nestor_Kelebay 12-17-2008 10:18 AM


You are probably thinking that the hot water from your water heaters goes to your radiators. That's not the case.

If you have hot water heating in your house, then you will have a separate boiler to heat the water for the heating system.

There will be completely separate piping and water heaters for the hot water you use for cooking, bathing, drinking and cleaning. You can't mix the two waters because people will add corrosion inhibitor chemicals to the water in the heating system, and continually adding new water to the water in the heating system (with it's dissolve oxygen and hardness ions) will cause rusting and scale to form in the cast iron boiler.

There will only be ONE pipe connecting the "domestic" water you draw from your taps and the "heating water" that runs through your radiators, and it will be a cold water line with a valve on it to add water to your heating system when necessary.

That is definitely an Emco valve in the top picture you posted. When you take out all four cartridges, you can rebuild them so that you have them available the next time one of those valves starts to leak.

The washers for them are 1/4" small (size 00) flat washers available from Master Plumber as Package # 614 with 6 washers per pack.

The O-rings for them are available from Master Plumber as Package 723 with 25 O-rings per pack.

The "bibb" screws holding the washers in place are #8 X 32 by 1/2 inch, and you should buy STAINLESS STEEL screws to hold the washers in.

Rebuild those Emco cartridges with silicone plumbing grease and leave them hanging from one of those Emco valves so that they're available to you the next time you need to do this same job.

bluecifer 12-17-2008 11:05 AM

Ahhhh, that makes sense. Good advice on the rebuilds too - thanks.:thumbsup:

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