Help ! Water Heater Leak !

Hello, I noticed a leak from the top of our 15 year old Rheem water heater. I touched the water and it was warm. So I looked near the hot water pipe coming out from the top of the heater and that's where it seems to be leaking from. So, I shut off the valve on that pipe, which means NO hot water supply to the house. That stopped the leak from the top.
If I turn the valve again, it seem leak under that pipe and then starts flowing down the heater..
So, my questions are:
1) Is shutting the valve enough to prevent any further leaking ? i.e. should I shut the gas too to be safe ?
2) I am assuming the sealant near where the pipe is connected to the heater is leaking. Can there be other explainations to what I see ?
3) If it is a leak in the pipe, can I try to open the connection and apply a pipe sealant and re-connect it ? Is that safe ? Any "pressure" thing to be aware off ?
4) Am I better off calling a plumber or installer (who?) ? Is this a complicated thing to fix ?
HELP ! Its midnight now and my wife's going to realize in the morning that there's no hot water !
Thanks NeedHelp.
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On 11 Sep 2006 22:04:58 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

You provided all the details except the type of pipe you have. I assume it galv. steel. Yes, remove the pipe, and replace that piece. Apply teflon tape. Pipes tend to corrode right where they enter a water heater, and you probably got a tiny hole at the threads. Your magnesium anode is probably dead inside the heater, that makes the pipes corrode and rust faster. With the water off, shut off the gas to the pilot position. You can leave the pilot light on. If for no other reason, you will only be wasting gas till the water works again.
Warning, that pipe might not come out real easy after 15 years. You could snap it off or damage the heater. Be prepared to replace the heater if you do, unless you are real handy with pipe threading and removal of broken pieces. But you may be lucky too.... If it happens, dont cry over it. 15 years is pretty much the life of a water heater.
Sure, call a plumber if you are afraid of the job, but if you are handy, give it a try, and if you got to replace the heater, it's not all that hard. You'll save money. Just replace the pipes above the heater. THey always turn to shit up there. Replace them to the nearest union. A new heater may be taller or shorter, so some pipe changes may occur, but those are the bad ones anyhow. They do sell flex pipes for that use too.
The gas pipe could also be too short or long if the new tank is different so try to get one that matches as close as possible. On gas pipes, use pipe dope or the yellow teflon that says "FOR GAS". Be sure to apply dish soap water to gas pipe threads to test for leaks.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

The night (near midnight as well) you discover a leaking water heater is not the time to learn about water heaters & plumbing........but I suppose a situation like this can provide some motivation
1) Is shutting the valve enough to prevent any further leaking ?
shutting off the inlet cold water to the w/h will prevent more cold water from entering the w/h to make up for the water leaking out.....it will not prevent the hot water from running back into the heater from the rest of the house & leaking out but since the water heater will not be under much pressure it will most likely not leak
i.e. should I shut the gas too to be safe ? depending on how substaintial the water leak is I might leave the gas on (to have hot water in the AM) or I might turn it off

yes there can be others, cannot tell from here based on your description
maybe the 15 year old w/h is just worn out & leaking....I've had w/h's last 20 years + and had others gone in less than 10.....depends on the water in your area

yes...btw pipes rarely leak...pipe joints leak
Is that safe ? yes if done correctly
>Any "pressure" thing to be aware off ?
if the water & gas iare off....the only pressure you'll see the elevation head from the water in the house that is above the w/h

that would be your call.........plumber can fix (if fixable), plumber can install as well..........installer wiil R&R w/h.

no..not at all but doing your first water heater solo w/o much general home repair experience won't be easy....do you have tools? pipe wrenches, wrenches? experience? a DIY book?
btw you can be the hero (if you're willing to risk it).....if the leak isn't too bad, turn the water & gas back on in the AM (about an hour before you need hot water) & fire up it up...that way your wife won't be w/o hot water in the AM. & you'll look pretty smart :)
Arrange for repair or replacement in the afternoon (or dive in yourself)...can you leave work earlY?
good luck
cheers Bob .
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Thanks for the suggestions (Bob & maradcl..) ! Definitely helped me guage how difficult/easy this would be.
I don't have all the tools for this and since it is old, I didn't want to risk trying to open the connections... & break it.
I did the call the plumber this morning. Hopefully they can fix it quick and not have to replace the heater.
Again, Thanks for the suggestions. It really helped me !
BobK207 wrote:

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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

If you DO have to replace the heater, you may very well be ahead by buying one at Home Depot (etc.) and paying the plumber only for the labor to do the installation.
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BobK207 wrote:
<snipped>

Well sometimes pipes do.
Below is a picture of a galvanized nipple connected to the hot outlet of a new electric water heater I installed in our home. It corroded through in less than six months. The other end of the nipple connected to the steel half of a dielectric union and the copper half of that union connected to the copper hot water feed to our home.
http://home.comcast.net/~jwisnia18/temp/nipple.jpg
Considering that the leak took place at the root of a thread, I suppose you could argue that the "pipe joint" leaked, but that part of the thread wasn't even engaged. <G>
That's when I figured out that dielectric unions and steel nipples are much worse than using copper all the way to the tank, because the insulating gap in the unions is quite effectively shorted out because the tank and the house piping are both connected to ground.
I threw out those dielectric unions and replaced them with all copper unions and nipples.
I later found out that the Rheem water heater company agrees with me about that:
http://home.comcast.net/~jwisnia18/temp/Rheem_unions.pdf
Jeff
--
Jeffry Wisnia
(W1BSV + Brass Rat \'57 EE)
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On 11 Sep 2006 22:04:58 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

Yes, until you can repair it. Yes, turn off the gas.

Maybe.
Yes, if that's the source of the leak. It is safe if you turn off the water going to the heater but be aware of any hot water.

Not complicated. Consider replacing the tank with a new tank (about $250). Usually a plumber or an experienced handyman can do this job. This is a DIY project or you can pay $100 or so to have it installed. Gas lines use pipe dope, water connections use Teflon tape.

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On 11 Sep 2006 22:04:58 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

You can cut your utility bill by buying a new water heater. The one you have is very inefficient.
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snipped-for-privacy@gmail.com wrote:

<snip>
At 15 years, w/h is almost certifiably in need of recycling. Because of internal electrolytic activity. Replacement is cheap, and reflects many improvements made over 15 years.
I'd round up necessary tubing and fittings to install new heater, and enable future r&r to be by breaking/joining unions. In fact, BTDT year ago. Depends on whether you're comfortable with plumbing- read that "sweating tubing joints."
HTH, J
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The plumber did recommend that I get a new heater. The leak apparently is from the "buns" , i.e. the welding joints of the pipes to the heater. He declared that is unfixable and officially pronounced the heater as dying.
So, I am off to Home Depot to look at a new heater cost. I just need a 40 gallon one.. What should be a reasonable total cost from an installer that includes:
1) The heater (short) 2) Installation cost 3) disposal of the old one 4) Applying for the permits & inspection (that's what the plumber said)
Thanks
snipped-for-privacy@sme-online.com wrote:

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$300+ for a gas water heater is cheap? Plus another few hundred to have it installed. Not cheap.
This is why regular checking of anodes and draining the tank is a good idea. My tank has been around for 27 years largely because the previous owner did that.
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time for a new tank, even if leak was from threads old tanks arent worth messing with.
look at it this way tanks are cheap.
assume 500 bucks for a tank that lasts 10 years, thats 50 bucks a year roughly a dollar a week.
thats really not much.
consider a new larger tank say going from 40 to 50 gallon or higher BTU adds little in cost, gives more capacity.
new tanks are better insulated and slightly larger in diameter. something to check before purchase
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A dollar a week........ Geeezzzzz, I think I am going to start heating water on the charcoal grill from now on......
Big Tits
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Bob M. wrote:

I'll also bet it's an electric water heater, not gas, like the one here. It's extremely unusual for a gas water heater to last 27 years, no matter what you do.
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