Water pooling on top of water heater

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Old 08-10-16, 09:31 PM
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Water pooling on top of water heater

I went to my garage today and found the water heater was leaking. I traced the water all the way to the top of the heater where it is pooling up on top. Initially, I got excited and thought it would be an easy fix. I had a guy come out and give me a free estimate. He concluded that the leak is coming from the inlet pipe but no at the fittings, rather it's coming up out of the tank where the pipe goes into the tank. Perhaps through some sort of seal? At any rate, he told me the unit was toast and that he could install a new one for $1800.

I'm just being skeptical here. He didn't look very long at the unit and seemed all too quick to try and sell me a new one. Even from the moment I called they started talking about getting me a new unit as soon as possible and never entertained the idea that it might be able to be fixed. It just seems ridiculous that if the tank isn't cracked, that there's not some sort of fix.

It's a Bradford White model DS140S6BN 40 gallon power vent unit. Its almost exactly 9 years old. I'm not the handiest guy around and I'm more than willing to pay for a fix, but I just don't think the unit is trashed because of what looks like a leak at a seal. Thoughts?
 
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Old 08-10-16, 09:40 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

Usually the inlet fittings are welded to the tank and rarely leak. If you had a leaking fitting above that and the inlet fittings sat in water..... the fitting or top of the tank where it connects would be rusted and there is no reliable way of fixing that. Putty/epoxy won't work over rusted metal.

No plumber would waste time attempting that type of repair.
 
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Old 08-10-16, 09:44 PM
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It would not have sat in water for very long, I noticed the leak maybe a few hours after it happened. And again, the guy just jumped up there and looked for all of 5 seconds and told me the unit was toast. I suppose I could go take a better look myself, but I'm not sure what I'm looking for. Maybe I can dry the whole thing off and then turn the water back and see if it is indeed coming up out of the tank.
 
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Old 08-10-16, 10:27 PM
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Okay, so I dried the whole top off and then watched as I turned the water on. The water is indeed coming up from the tank on the cold inlet side. Pretty rapidly too. Maybe it is a trashed unit afterall.
 
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Old 08-10-16, 10:29 PM
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I would certainly try that.

Turn the water off to the water heater.
Put the gas valve on "vacation" mode or unplug the AC.
Open a faucet to let some hot water out.
Dry the fitting and let the area dry out.

Turn the water and the heater back on and watch for the water.

If the problem was a leaking connection fitting... it may have been draining down into the tank for a while.
 
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Old 08-10-16, 10:55 PM
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Yeah I did pretty much what you described. The water is in fact coming up from the top of the tank. And rapidly too, not like a leaky fitting with a few drops here and there. I'm starting to accept my fate here. Next question, installation cost seems high. All hoses and fittings are there already. Shouldn't this be a case of pop the new one in the spot and hook up and the hoses and vents? I'm reasonably handy and would be willing to attempt the install unless someone tells me that's a terrible idea.
 
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Old 08-11-16, 04:27 AM
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Just did a quick check a Lowes and water heaters go from around 350 to 1400$ Depending on size and features. Add some for mark up and what your current rates for install.
 
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Old 08-11-16, 10:09 AM
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The OP has a power vent water heater, which are more costly than conventional units. In addition, recently-mandated efficiency improvements have jacked up prices significantly. I'd recommend getting a couple more estimates, before laying out that kind of money. For what it's worth, my last three natural gas-fired 40 gallon conventional water heaters have all failed in a similar manner at the cold water inlet, and all at exactly nine years old! Makes me wonder how they engineered the "planned obsolescence" feature to work so precisely!
 
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Old 08-11-16, 09:25 PM
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But is installation a job that can be done by a reasonably competent person like myself (I'd like to think I am), or is it a job best left to a professional?
 
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Old 08-13-16, 07:48 AM
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THe new heater may or may not have exactly the same dimensions or have the gas valve at exactly the same height as the old heater. So you may still need to do some pipe cutting and fitting.

Getting the gas connection done properly is the most critical issue. You need to know how to test for gas leaks and redo those joints if needed.

Some cities have different permitting, inspection, and licensing requirements for gas, electric, plumbing, and structural repairs.

Do you know today's code? Some cities require a drain pan and/or, for basement installations, a mini-sump pump or condensate pump to get any leakage up to the nearest plumbing drain.

A fire that might have been caused by faulty unpermitted or uninspected gas or electrical work might not be covered by your insurance.

You already found out quickly that the leak was in the tank as opposed to at a fitting. But if not, as a do it yourselfer, you could have tried to unscrew the nipple and there is a good chance that the threads would have been too rusted to install a new nipple. You might even have found the nipple so frozen and the rest of the tank so rusted that you tore the female thread section right out of the top of the tank at that moment.
 

Last edited by AllanJ; 08-13-16 at 08:06 AM.
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Old 08-17-16, 04:28 PM
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So it's my day off and I'm diving head first into this. But I seem to be getting more questions than answers. I haven't bought a new unit yet and I think I may be glad I haven't. The initial guy that came out and gave me the ridiculous $1800 quote told me I have a power vented unit and I kind of just took his word for it. But the more I look into it, I'm not certain I do. It doesn't vent straight up because there's a second floor above the garage. But it makes a short 90 degree turn and vents out the back wall all of 2 feet away. As i I'm understanding it, that doesn't quite seem like the application of a power vent unit. Further, There is no 120v connection anywhere near the water heater and I don't see any wires coming from anywhere on the heater to suggest that it has to plug in a power vent.

I can't seem to find any information online to tell me exactly what type of unit I have, but with my limited research and knowledge, I'm starting to think I have a direct vent unit. As I started to disassemble everything, the venting gave me problems. The large exterior vent opened up to reveal a smaller and more rigid interior vent. Problem is, I can't get the exterior venting off because its around the interior venting. I may have to ultimately give up on this job. But at least I didn't buy the wrong unit as was told to me by the initial plumber that came out. I'll take a look at youtube for some help now that I think i'm looking at the right type of unit.

*EDIT* I was able to track down archived information on the Bradford White website. I do in fact have a direct vent unit, not a power vent unit. That certainly makes me not want to ever call that plumber back again.
 
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Old 08-17-16, 05:05 PM
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Thats a good price IMO for a direct vent install. Ask them what brand they are installing..

I only use and install AO smith heaters.. Direct vents run $1000 bucks..

GDV-40 - AO Smith GDV-40 - 40 Gallon ProMax Direct Vent Residential Water Heater

And the terminology power vent/ direct vent are often mis quoted by plumbers... Especially the younger kids..

Would be no big deal IMO.. Ask what their warranty is?

AO smith as others give 6 year tank and parts and 1 yr labor...

If they offer a longer warranty tell them you dont want it and get the price reduced...
 
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Old 08-17-16, 05:08 PM
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Its a good price because the flue is a PITA to install..
 
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Old 08-18-16, 11:57 AM
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When a direct (gravity) vent water heater flue exits through a wood framed wall there must be an outer pipe perhaps 8 inches in diameter and a concentric inner pipe, 4 to 5 inches in diameter as the flue itself. This is to protect the wood structure from excessive heat that could start a fire.

Once outside, some city codes require that the flue go up all the way past the roof eave.

Power vent models can use the space between the inner and outer pipes as the air intake and then the two concentric pipes (or intake and exhaust reconfigured as separate perhaps 3 to 4 inch pipes) continue all the way to the heater.
 
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Old 09-08-16, 02:01 AM
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Figured I'd post to put some closure to my thread. I purchased a direct vent water heater from Lowe's for about $1000. It's probably a cheap POS but more importantly, its dimensions lined up perfectly with the 6 inch hole I already had going through the side wall for the vent and hood. Installation of the vent was rough, but its all done now, and I got out of this job for a little over a grand. Happy ending right?

But on a side note, I have a buddy that owns a house in the same development. I was chatting with him today about how hopefully his water heater doesn't go out anytime soon because we have direct vent heaters and they are a PITA to come by and install. He casually mentioned his just went out 8 months ago and that he grabbed one from Lowe's and installed it. I thought it odd that he didn't mention at all the pains I went through because of our direct vent setup. So I walked over to his house, and sure enough, he purchased a regular old natural vent water heater. He has some sort of flexible tube coming off the hood that bends almost immediately back down and then horizontal out the 6 inch hole that was built into our homes (our homes were not built with a chimney going straight up out the roof for venting, a plumber told me he couldn't for the life of him figure out why our homes were built this way). I mentioned my concerns to my buddy about how I don't think its venting properly and he just kind of chuckled and said oh well, its been working great for 8 months. So now my new question is: What happens if you install a regular natural vent water heater and don't vent it properly? It's in his garage and not inside the house so I hope that helps, but as mentioned, he has some flimsy tubing coming off the hood and bending immediately down and then horizontal. The point that it exits the side wall is damn near lower than the hood itself. Is his makeshift venting even doing anything?
 
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Old 09-08-16, 04:00 AM
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Its not correct what your friend did and lack of draft would, and could cause CO issues in the home. The joke is you can wake up dead...

Tell your freind to get CO alarms if he is stubborn enough to leave it that way...

Even constant low levels of CO cause issues on the brain. Like developmental issues in young children... etc..

I doubt that heater he installed has a good draft. Plus the lack of concentric flue pipe a windy day would also not alow proper drafting...
 
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Old 09-14-16, 07:38 PM
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Thanks for the info. I'll tell him what you said but he is stubborn and lazy so he'll probably not care. But at least I can say I told him so. Mine is done correctly so at least I'll sleep well at night. Case closed. Thanks for the help.
 
 

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