I have a 50 gal gas water heater, which is, of course, in the attic where it
can do the most damage if I spring a leak. I recently lost a 1'x1' patch of
ceiling texture and paint below the heater, so I went up to check it out.
I found that it had a very slow dribble-leak from the steel nipple fitting
at the top of the tank on the 'out' (hot) side. The reason for the ceiling
damage was that the morons that installed the drain pan barely tightened the
PVC to the pan and didn't use any sealer whatsoever.
I sealed up the pan and then got to work on the leak. I unsoldered the
copper so I could work with the steel fitting. I removed the fitting and
the threaded copper adapter, which were pretty corroded, so I replaced them.
I used plenty of teflon tape on the steel pipe threads and cranked it down
to spec: "dang tight". I then soldered the copper back together and let
'er rip. No problems for several days, but...
Last night I checked the ceiling and it was dry. I then went up to check
the water heater and sure enough, it had an identical leak! (ARGH!) It's
dribbling from the base of the steel nipple fitting right where it threads
into the top of the heater.
Any ideas how to stop this freakin leak? I've got the fitting tight enough
that I fear if I try to put another turn on it I might strip or split it,
that is, if I'm able to get it that tight at all. It's really tight now.
Apparently your water is pretty chemically active. Having dissimilar
metals (copper/iron) in contact is a bad idea in that situation (makes
a galvanic cell). Galvanized iron might buy you some time.
Teflon tape might help insulate the different metals, if you don't
Seems you really want unions in the water lines, for quick disconnect.
With a valve just "above" each. Then repair/replacement of fittings on
the tank side can be done simply and quickly.
Chemical reactions are exponentially responsive to temp- lower is
Maybe the fitting on the heater is damaged by torsional trauma
I have had this happen to me on a shower facuet. When I soldered the
pipe, the heat effected the telfon tape and resulted in a minor leak. I
wrapped the joint that had the telfon tape (after replacing the tape)
with a wet rag so it wouldn't get hot when I soldered the adjacent
joint. A pro would be able o solder fast enough not to have this
problem but I am not a pro. Might be your problem,
Also, how old is the water heater? If it's much past 10 years, since
it's located in the attic where the potential for disaster is high and
your already seeing indications of advanced corrosion on some of the
parts, I'd get a new one.
MrC1 wrote: I have a 50 gal gas water heater, which is, of course, in
the attic where it
can do the most damage if I spring a leak. <snip
In it's present location, you should seriously consider
putting a pan with a drain under it. Tom
you have to change the existing nipple in the tank
the cold side has the dip tube, so your hot just gets a brass nippl
and a 3/4 copper to female adapter.
unscrew the existing nipple. use about a 3inch brass nipple, with
copper stub pre-sweated in the female adapter, so you keep the heat of
you should use teflon tape but also the grey pro dope , [ not the blu
crap that hardens up] smear a little grey dope in the female "hot
opening of the tank. tape the nipple and also put some grey dope ove
the anode rod should be changed every 8 yrs. its screwed in the top o
the tank. some water should be drained off the bottom every couple o
but 1 last thing....that tank being up in the attic, if its over 10 yr
old....i would consider a new one, thats a disaster in the making
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You can also sweat a threaded end onto the hot water pipe and then use
a flexible copper piece with threaded fittings and rubber gaskets on
each end in place of hard soldering the pipe to the tank.
See the following:
That is what I used to connect our water heater to the existing copper
plumbing, it works great.
On 10 Aug 2005 08:53:05 -0700, email@example.com wrote:
I agree. Dont solder it on the steel pipe. Make up the copper
pieces, then thread it onto the steel piece, and apply th teflon tape.
A few other ideas. They make an extra thick teflon tape. I'm not
sure of the purpose, but I have used it on stubborn fittings and it
worked. Silicone also works if you allow it enough time to dry before
applying pressure. The final thing would be to apply JB Weld to the
threads, but you will NEVER get it apart again. However, as a last
resort, it sure beats tossing a tank that wtill works, (The JB Weld
will need to dry completely before you pressure the tank) Clean the
threads in the tank thoroughly with a round wire brush before you do
the silicone or JB Weld.
My guess would be that the threaded (female) boss on top of
the tank has corroded (in the threads).
Clean the threads out thoroughly and then use Loctite
when assembling the nipple back in (no Teflon or other).
This is a stop-gap measure if the boss is corroded
but should give you time to work something out.
I wonder if that galvanized fitting has a pinhole leak right through to
the root of the first thread which is exposed above the tank boss?
(Excuse me if I'm repeating myself and told this tale here before.)
I had one go like that on me a couple of years ago, about three months
after I installed a brand new heater and used a couple of dielectric
unions between the copper supply and discharge pipes standing on 2-1/2"
long galvanized unions because some "expert" told me that was the "best"
thing to do.
A leak similar to what you described occurred and I went through a
disassembly, retaping and reassembly to find the damn thing still
leaking from the same spot.
When I pulled things apart for the second time I found both nipples were
already about half clogged with rust and badly corroded on their insides.
I sliced the "leaker" in half and here's what it looked like after I
wirebrushed off the soft rust:
That's when I put my brain back in gear and realized that those galvanic
couplings don't do anything other than make money for the sellers if the
copper water piping is grounded (per code) and the steel water heater
tank is also grounded (again per code) because the two ground
connections provide a low resistance galvanic current return path across
the insulator in the dielectric unions.
I searched around the web and found that Rheem, maker of zillions of
water heaters, had already figured out that dielectric unions were
dinosaurs and wrote a tech bulletin on it:
They missed the "two ground connections" part I figured out, but their
conclusion was the same as mine, dielectric unions don't help, but the
newer dielectric insulated nipples do, because the galvanic current has
a longer water path to traverse which has a higher electrical
resistance, significantly reducing that current's density.
It was a learning experience for me. I yanked out the dielectric unions
and the steel nipples and replaced them with copper unions and copper
stubs screwed right into the tank. Two lears later, and no leaks yet.
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