Undetectable Leak after Install

The Tank Undetectable Leak after Install

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    Anyone? Anyone?

    Please help if you have a “non-obvious” answer to my plight. I replaced my MIL’s 25 yr old A.O. Smith 30 Gal Electric with a Rheem “medium size” (appx 4’H x 1.5’D) with identical specs. This is necessary due to the teeny tiny mechanical closet that also houses the AHU for a heat pump (which also was 25 yrs old and just got replaced). I managed pretty well at building the ship in a bottle. Only had one “do-over” when one fitting didn’t seat all the way.
    The Problem occurred when I filled the tank, put it under pressure and flipped on the breaker. Shortly after the temperature began to rise (and as I was putting the last of the tools away), I noticed water in the emergency pan underneath. Upon further inspection, I discovered that the water was originating from the top of the tank…exactly where, I don’t know.
    My first attempt was to put another revolution on the T&P Valve. No such luck. Next, I addressed the outlet fittings. I ultimately cut the 8-10″ nipple (that 90s down to a CPVC by FIPT adapter and ultimately the dielectric nipple), put another revolution on those fittings and made up the cut nipple with a union. With no room to work, much less see, I couldn’t tell if both adapter AND nipple turned, or just the adapter.
    Regardless, this has not stopped the leak. I have not messed with the cold connection (which goes from 3/4″ copper, thru a gate valve (which wont shut off entirely (which is aggravating as all get out but it is NOT the source of the leak…it is above the source)), a copper nipple, shark bite 90 transition to CPVC close by close by close by “special” CPVC female adapter into the dielectric nipple.
    I know that’s a mouthful, but my point is that with all those fittings made up by me, you’d think one of THEM would be the leak. But they’re above top of the tank and can be easily ruled out as culprits.
    “My” leak wells up out of the escutcheons around the inlet, outlet and P&T Valve. Only thing is, those escutcheons conceal any line of sight to the leak. So I am at a loss. Don’t those three fittings come “factory tight” and need no further adjustment? Or do they expect the installer to tighten? I’ve installed a plenty and never had to do so before.
    One factoid worthy of note: My dad, at age 83, put a Lowboy Rheem under my sister’s house this summer. He got the entire thing installed and when he filled it up, found that the weld around the hose bibb/drain was bad/defective. This makes me wonder about the integrity of the welds on mine.
    I see that there are screws about the perimeter of the top that might enable inspection of the top. But having used a shoe horn to get it set under the wooden frame which suspends the air handler directly above it, and having filled it with water, i dare say taking the unit back out would be quite an endeavor.
    Please someone provide some insightful direction. This is MIL’s cash cow rental unit and she’ll lose the tenant if we don’t provide her with consistently hot water soon!
    Sorry to ramble so,

    Attached files

    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: Not to oversimplify, but if it isn’t leaking from a fitting, the tank is bad. The pain is that all fittings towards the top of the tank need to be checked. I would verify that nothing overhead is a problem. I’ve seen sneaky leaks… water running down the back side of hot or cold hookups, rain coming down the vent pipe, tiny streams of water from a pinhole leak in a pipe. Put tissue or paper towel around pipes to make sure there are no leaks like that. Next it is redoing the tank fittings. If you still have a leak, the tank is bad.

    I really don’t like to be put in the place of needing to shoehorn a tank in, because this will happen. They do make lowboy heaters and short heaters which might work for you and leave some overhead to play with 😕 Good luck!

    Yours, Larry


    You know that song “What I did for Love?” This is that plus “No good deed shall go unpunished.” I appreciate the leak check issue. Pride tells us “it can’t be ME!” when, in fact, you might NOT have put enough torque on that one fitting. But selection was no option. I guess I could have considered 20 gal models, but no 30 lowboy is going in that tiny space. We shall see what we shall see. Thanks again, Claybones;)

    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: Just for fun, I went to the A O Smith site and looked up electric heaters. http://www.hotwater.com/lit/spec/res_elec/AOSRE50300.pdf They have a Pro Max ECT-30 that’s 46.5″ tall by 18″ in diameter. That’s likely about what you have now. They also have an ECS-30 which is 36.5″ tall by 20.5″ in diameter. From the photo, it looks like you might be able to squeeze another 2.5″ in at the sides, but this would give you 10″ more overhead. If the heater has to come out anyway, particularly if it’s a leaker, this might make for a more serviceable replacement. One trick is to cut out part of the door jamb and put it back with two screws — for easy removal later, or you’ll get to deal with Deja vu all over again 😯 Better might be to threaten the architect for doing this to you in the first place 😛

    Yours, Larry


    Thanks, guys. All things come to an end. And so it was with the flu bug I am just coming out of the grasp of (pretty good way to get out of this water heater thing though, wasn’t it?).
    No, I really was ill and, as usual, the Old Man (the 83 yr old retired Mech. Engineer who, for kicks and grins upon retirement, took the Master Plumber’s exam “just to see if I could pass it” (which of course, he did)) pinch hit for me and drove home the winning run.
    Actually, he got a small-time Pb to have a look-see and, from what I’m told (and that’s all I have to go on), the CPVC union was the ultimate culprit. So that means that when I severed the nipple and put another turn on the outlet I did, in fact, stop THAT leak. But in my haste to get everything back together before the tenant downstairs detected water dripping from her ceiling, I must have mis-aligned the union thereby creating a second leak to take over where the first one left off. That’s about the time I was overcome by sickness and began my five day stint in bed.
    FYI, I may have mislead Y’all. The replacement WH was a Rheem 82V30-2. And, oh by the way, we DID take the whole door unit out and cut a 14″ swath (after removing the header) above to allow for the new, taller AHU whose replacement started this whole shebang.
    And the moral of the story is…………….if you send an amatuer to do a professional’s work, you get amatuer results. The Good Lord only knows what I’ll do when the day comes that Daddy isn’t around to get his boy out of hot water (pun intended) any more!

    Probably lean on you guys…sorry.

    Thanks again for allowing me to bounce some of my novice questions off of you.

    God Bless,

    Clay Coleman Augusta, GA

    Larry Weingarten

    Hello: Glad you’re better and glad that the problem is solved. Life is good about presenting us with learning opportunities, even when we didn’t ask 😀

    Yours, Larry

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