HELP! Water heater KEEPS leaking at top fitting - argh!

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.
Thanks!!!
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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 overtighten it.
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 better.
Maybe the fitting on the heater is damaged by torsional trauma (over-tightening)?
HTH, J
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Guess I should have clarified that the iron pipe ("steel") that I used is actually galvanized.

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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,
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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.
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It's less than 3 years old. :(

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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
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Tom, You didn't read the rest of my post, did you?
haha
There is a pan, with a drain. It was just installed by morons or at the very least, careless contractors.

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D'oh! Tom
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greetings 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 the tank
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 that.
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 months.
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 --good luc
-- whoda ----------------------------------------------------------------------- whodat's Profile: http://www.homeplot.com/member.php?userid=3 View this thread: http://www.homeplot.com/showthread.php?tW01
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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:
http://cgi.ebay.com/Watts-J-Flex-Water-Heater-Conn-WFF-12-Copper-Plumbing_W0QQitemZ7536140289QQcategoryZ63900QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
That is what I used to connect our water heater to the existing copper plumbing, it works great.
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There's an interesting solution!

http://cgi.ebay.com/Watts-J-Flex-Water-Heater-Conn-WFF-12-Copper-Plumbing_W0QQitemZ7536140289QQcategoryZ63900QQssPageNameZWDVWQQrdZ1QQcmdZViewItem
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Whodat, What makes you say the hot side should be copper instead of iron? Is that a standard procedure I'm not aware of or just a trick to help stop leaks, or ???
Thanks for the great info.

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On 10 Aug 2005 08:53:05 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.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.
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MrC1 wrote:

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.
Jim
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After the teflon tape, coat the threads with Rectorseal #5 non hardening.
--

Christopher A. Young
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MrC1 wrote:

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:
http://home.comcast.net/~jwisnia18/temp/nipple.jpg
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:
http://home.comcast.net/~jwisnia18/temp/Rheem_union.pdf
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.
Jeff
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Jeffry Wisnia

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Jeff Wisnia wrote:
That Rheem link should be "plural" (unions)
http://home.comcast.net/~jwisnia18/temp/Rheem_unions.pdf
--
Jeffry Wisnia

(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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