Elec. Water Heater Leak

Unit is 3.5 yrs old. Discovered leak yesterday and cannot quite determine the the source. The thermostat and lower element are about 12 inches above the bottom of the unit, and when my husband removed the access panel, water spilled out there. We know it was pooled up at the top of the water heater as well, and leaking down the outside from the top. Husband theorized that the water leaked out of the lower element port, filled up the space between the insulation and the tank, all the way up to the top of the unit and began pooling there.
After replacing the lower element and refilling the first time yesterday mid-afternoon, it did not begin to leak until late last night -- coincidentally after the water was fully reheated.
This morning, after turning the unit off, draining it, carving away the insulation and checking for water around the anode port, we can tell the leak is not coming from anywhere on the top of the WH. It did not begin to leak today until about 5 hrs later -- coincidentally after fully reheating. It is currently leaking from the very very bottom: there is an exterior metal skin like a pan, identical to the "skin" my husband pried off of the top to get to the insulation and anode. It is leaking from the seam between the "side skin" and the "bottom pan."
It does not APPEAR to be leaking from the T&P valve.
It does not appear to be the drain valve leaking, although we can't see it. My husband tucked a paper towel in there and it came out dry. The plastic tube that the valve sticks protrudes through is so darn close, you just can't see wetness, even with a flashlight.
Does it sound like the tank leaking (and thus subject to the warranty. We didn't want to pay $100 for a tech visit -- 4 days from now, btw -- to find out it's the $15 anode)?
WHY DOESN'T IT LEAK UNTIL REHEATED? (this could just be our interpretation. I had theorized that residual water is draining out from the insulation, but it stops dripping while the unit is drained and for several hrs after refilling).
Thanks for your advice.
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sounds like a leaky tank, that can occur, for a large number of reasons. expansion when the tank gets hot causes the leak to reoccur, then it takes time to saturate the insulation and show up on the floor. i would call the manufacturer, and place a warranty claim.
before removing parts of the outer shell talk with them first, so you dont void the warranty.
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news:38283cba-ba77-4503-b7b3-

Because the tank expands a bit when the water's hot. Loose pipe somewhere or T&P valve?
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This part concerns me:
"We know it was pooled up at the top of the water heater as well, and leaking down the outside from the top. Husband theorized that the water leaked out of the lower element port, filled up the space between the insulation and the tank, all the way up to the top of the unit and began pooling there. "
It seems unlikely to me that a leak like this is going to be able to fill the entire tank surround up to the point that it overflows from the top. The access panels, etc are not water tight.
I'd get the pipe connection points at the top of the tank dry, then put some paper towels around them. Keep an eye on it, leave the access panel off and see if the towels get wet. If you're sure it's not a pipe connection, then I'd call the tank manufacturer about the warranty.
If you do get the warranty involved, please report back how it works for you. There was a lengthy discussion here a few weeks ago, where a person shopping for a new tank dismissed warranties as worthless. I'd be interested in hearing how it works for you, how you had to proceed with the claim, etc.
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On Mar 3, 8:36�am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

if the leak is at a connection the tank is likely rusting from the inside out.
i would call the manufacturer make a warranty claim and replace the tank
be espically interested if the leak can flood a finished space, like carpet etc.
if the warranty is a loser just replace the tank.
are you certain of the tanks age? i write the install date on the outside for easy reference
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On Mar 3, 9:36am, snipped-for-privacy@optonline.net wrote:

Hello. Thank you all for the benefit of your experiences and expertise; the existence of the sacrificial anode was a surprise to me (and most everyone else I've mentioned it to since) - seems like a little secret; aside from a picture in the manual, there's really nothing about PM-ing it.
While I don't know for sure if the tank was leaking (don't know what else it could be, because we checked every other orifice of the thing), the technician (who took 4 days to get there) took one look at all we'd done and immediately offered to replace the tank. We took the tank, but installed it ourselves since installation would have cost us $300 (I use the royal "we" here -- my husband did 100% of the work). So, I am happy to report that Sears didn't blink about the warranty.
Thanks Again!
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Alison wrote:

may have to remove the outer skin completely and all the insulation and carefully observe it. You didn't mention the high pressure relief valve connection, check that. If you have a crack or rust hole in the tank itself, might as well replace it.
--
Blattus Slafaly ? 3 :) 7/8

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Sounds like you've done enough to the tank at this point that you may have voided any warranty.
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Do you have a check valve or regulator where the water comes into the house? If so, do you have an expansion tank to allow for expansion of the water as it heats? If not, that could help cause leaks.
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coming through the valve, it was around it. I removed the valve applied Teflon tape and tightened it back. No more problems. It was a pain to find. Water would puddle at the bottom of the heater but the heater was dry. I reason this to be because the litle drops of water would roll down the tank and the trail would quickly dry. My advice would be to just tighten everything and see if the leak quits.
My T&P was found to be only hand-tight.
Jimmie
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