Water Heater and Wet Mystery

Little brick bungalow in the midwest, built in '54. Poured concrete foundation.
Back in '92, I installed an AO Smith 40-gal. gas Water Heater (FSG model) as a replacement. About 3 ' from the furnace, which shares the vent. Been so long I don't even remember how the old WH failed.
This morn I notice maybe 1.5 gallons of water on the floor, with the wet sorta centered on the WH. So I figger after 15 1/2 years, the WH gave out.
But, of course, I check the cold and hot pipes, the vent, the pressure valve, the drain, to confirm. Nothing wet.
Pull the cover, check the pilot, etc. Nothing wet in there. Sop up all but a little water from the floor, sprinkle some talcum to facilitate detection of water flow. Run about 20 gal. of hot water out, watch the burners fire, etc. Still no detectable water flow.
The water couldn't have come from the furnace: the AC hasn't run for months (it's still winter). Even checked up in the rafters for a leak: nothing.
I think the unit is glass-lined. What happens when they fail? What am I forgetting to check (for a leak)??
Thx, Puddin'
"Blues starts to rolling ... stops at my front do'. I'm gonna change my way of livin' ... won't have to worry no mo'." - from "Blues Before Sunrise", Leroy Carr, maybe 1934
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Puddin' Man wrote:

Hi, One possibility, for some reason T&P valve opened once. Since it is that old it's about time for new one.
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By glass lined, they mean it has a coating of a sprayed on frit, sort of like porcelain pots and cookware and it is not very thick. Usually, they rust from a crack and drip. Catastrophic failure in not common.
Could the pressure relief valve on either the water heater or a boiler have popped? They sometimes get weak and drip after a number of years.
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Puddin' Man wrote:

Does your furnace have a condensate drain? I had the exact same scare (after my T&P valve flooded the basement) and it ended up being the rubber condensate drain tubing inside the furnace.
I've had a lot of different items put water on my basement floor, slowly but surely I've been tracking them all down and sealing 'em up...
nate
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Good point. I shoulda mentioned. Single stage 80% furnace. Simplest possible. No condensate drain.

I guess most everybody with a basement in a 40+ yr. old house has been doing similar. Sho'ly true of me last 20+ years.
Thx, P
"Blues starts to rolling ... stops at my front do'. I'm gonna change my way of livin' ... won't have to worry no mo'." - from "Blues Before Sunrise", Leroy Carr, maybe 1934
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leaks can occur from the flue area, which goes thru the center of the tank. leaks can and do start and stop, depending on temperature and wether interior debris happened to clog leak.
if a leak can damage anything then replace the tank at that age its way out anyway and a new one will save you gas and money.
my one tank sprayed water out of the flue when it failed
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wrote:

Sounds reasonable. But I gotta *find* the leak before I take any action.

And it was a standard up-draft flue interface? First I've heard of that.
P
"Blues starts to rolling ... stops at my front do'. I'm gonna change my way of livin' ... won't have to worry no mo'." - from "Blues Before Sunrise", Leroy Carr, maybe 1934
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om> wrote:

re: And it was a standard up-draft flue interface? First I've heard of that.
Then make this the 2nd time you've heard of it.
My leak was in the flue tube and I found it by sheer luck. Whenever the tank fired on, the pressure increased and forced a mist of water into the flue tube. The heat carried it up into the metal flue pipe where it condensed and dripped back down. I could turn the mist on and off just by adjusted the thermostat.
re: But I gotta *find* the leak before I take any action
Maybe, maybe not.
If you've eliminated all other sources of the leak (plumbing, furnace, rafters) and given that the unit is 15.5 YO, it might make sense to start looking for sales and pick up a new unit. It's probably near the end of it's life anyway.
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again if a leak can damage stuff replace the tank, its the likely problem and well past its expected lifetime..... so even if its not the cause today tomorrow it can do damage
tanks leak everywhere mine sprayed water out the top of the flue, around the vent hood. wierdly it didnt put out the pilot, my guess is the deflector that runs thru the flue happened to direct water away from the pilot.
i heard water running and was very surprised i had a sprinkler in my basement..........
in the last 15 years how many vehickes have you purchased? how much have you spent? why fixate on saving on a hot water tank the new one will be much more efficent espically when compared to you 15 year old tank...
foam insulation better over all designs etc etc
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wrote:

I'll start looking when I get a chance. But, first ...

I'm gonna play Sherlock Holmes, here.
There's a fine layer of dust/dirt on top of the WH. If it sprayed or if there were condensate from the flue, I'd see evidence, especially when I tested thru a burner cycle.

It's not a fixation. When I can see hard evidence of need, I'll replace it.
I appreciate everyone's advice.
"Things are often not as simple as they seem ... "
I am on a hill. Uphill neighbor is a little chapel that's run kinda like a slumlord rental. 3 or 4 years ago I had similar water problem. Could actually see small column of water shooting out of hole in basement floor. Looked everywhere, couldn't find leak. Finally got a city water inspector to come out, assuming water main break or somesuch. Turns out the derelicts in the chapel had a plumbing problem. I had to get the city alder-critter to help force them to (allegedly) fix it.
Less water this time, but it's in the same location. I've already taken a reading on their water meter. If I get more water on my floor -and- the meter spins -while- there's nobody in the chapel, that will constitute evidence that the old problem is the new problem. Then I'll have to see if I can find a record of the name of the water inspector, contact him, etc etc.
I really didn't expect the problem to be external to the house (again). So far, it appears that it likely is.
So, the jury's still out.

I see AO Smith is still in business. Perhaps one of their middle- of-line units would be a good choice? Anybody had recent experience?
Much thanks, P

"Blues starts to rolling ... stops at my front do'. I'm gonna change my way of livin' ... won't have to worry no mo'." - from "Blues Before Sunrise", Leroy Carr, maybe 1934
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On Sun, 16 Mar 2008 23:46:29 GMT, Puddin' Man

Replace the relief valve. Install an expansion tank. In a year or two you will probably be replacing the whole water heater. Your choice. Bubba
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water coming up from under floor? happened before but you never metioned it.....
if water from that source can get in any can, time for a interior french drain ...........
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wrote:

It was a freak event. I still don't understand the mechanics of it. But I saw a licensed plumber hauling tons of new pipe, etc for the repair. 'Twere never supposed to happen again.

That got considered years ago. I got the sump, not the french drain. Works fine for several years now. Takes too long to discuss the french drain issue.
P
"Blues starts to rolling ... stops at my front do'. I'm gonna change my way of livin' ... won't have to worry no mo'." - from "Blues Before Sunrise", Leroy Carr, maybe 1934
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