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Thread: Water Heater Tank Question

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member cowboyjosh78's Avatar
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    Default Water Heater Tank Question

    Hey Everyone:

    Its been awhile since I posted anything here, but I have a question.

    I build homes and I have a couple that we had the two year walk thru, and my homeowner had a concern about one of the two Rheem Guardian 50 Gallon Natural Gas Water Heaters. The top of one of the two heaters is imploded and wavy, the other heater looks fine. He told me the heater with the imploded looking top makes all sorts of noise when a fixture is opened and closed, and he demonstrated and it does indeed make noise. It should be mentioned, that per code there is a expansion tank. It should also be mentioned the heaters are not turned up very high at all.

    A call to a plumbing supply house that stocks Rheem stated Rheem will not warrant the tank until it fails catastrophic, because even with a imploded top, its still "working", a call to my service plumber confirmed the same thing, but my plumber told me that its best to replace the heater.

    The original plumber who plumbed the houses became a victim of the housing market, and is out of business.

    Any thoughts, what would cause the heater top to bulge in one place and implode in another? I wanted to shut down that heater immediately, but we did the walk thru on Thursday and he is having a house full of people this Christmas weekend and didn't want to run out of hot water, keeping in mind were talking a 5 bedroom, 7 bathroom, 7000 sq ft. house. He's a well informed HO so if the tank shows any more stress he said he'd shut it down.
    Last edited by cowboyjosh78; 12-25-2010 at 10:54 AM.

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    A bulge can be caused by overpressure. A concave top can happen by vacuum in the tank, and I have seen tanks from HD, which were stacked 5 pallets high, with the nipples crooked because the top of the tank collapsed some. This happens on the bottom of the pallet. They are shipped just one pallet high on the truck, so this only happens in the receiving area of the big stores.

    I assume you did NOT get that guardian model at a box store.


    Hard to explain why you have one tank one way, another opposite. It is very unlikely to be a manufacturer defect, so Rheem will dodge this one.

  3. #3
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    The water heater needs immediate replacement and it is not a warranty issue!

    The water heater has been subjected to severe overpressure and has almost exploded.
    It should be taken out of service immediately as it has been weakened by this overpressure and the fault that has created this overpressure has not been resolved.

    The most likely fault would be thermal expansion with a closed system and a T&P valve that failed to open or, was blocked.

    The center of the water heater top will be the imploded section and that is caused by the flue running up the center of the water heater holds the top in place not allowing it to bulge.

    Away from the center the top of the tank is allowed to bulge and the supply lines are probably angled inwards to the flue pipe.

    You need to replace the water heater, and in addition probably need to install a new PRV, and expansion tank. Also check to see if the drain line from the T&P valve is blocked.

    This is a life safety issue that needs immediate attention.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    If I were the plumber on the job, I WOULD get them replaced under warranty, regardless of why it happened. Both tanks have compromised their integrity and would probably NOT withstand even their maximum working pressure, and no way would they stand the test pressures.

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member cowboyjosh78's Avatar
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    I was done with a reply, but I hit the wrong button and it was gone. So here I try again.

    I told the homeowner were going to replace both tanks, warranty or not; as well as the expansion tank and whatever else my plumber suggest.

    Both tanks, one being allot worse then the other appear to be concave in around the perimeter of the tanks and where its not concave the tanks appear to be bulged out a bit.

    In Colorado its code to have flex copper going into the heater Cold in and Hot out, hard pipe directly to the heater is strictly forbidden that way if the slab moves so does the pipes without breaking or stressing the water heaters; so the pipe inlets do not appear to be disformed, and both flue pipes are still securely intact.

    As far as the T&P valves we opened both valves during the walk thru after he showed me the tanks to ensure they operate, they did, they are not blocked or obstructed in any way.

    Besides 2 new water heaters and a new expansion tank, is there anything else you all would check or replace?

    My plumber is not surprised that there is water heater woes, he sees many of failed water heaters, many in these parts not making it 5 years; but others lasting 20+ years; weird.

  6. #6
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    WHere I live, they also require a vacuum breaker to would prevent a tank from imploding. We are also required to have a tempering valve on the outlet of the WH. Not bad things to have even if not required.

    Last edited by Terry; 08-06-2011 at 01:19 PM.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  7. #7
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    As stated previously, IF you have a good plumber, he could replace both heaters under warranty, but regardless of his abilities, they should be changed. I am not sure what conditions caused the damage, because anything that would damage the water heater, should have affected the copper water lines FIRST.

  8. #8
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    You say the "top" of the tank is wavy and imploded. Does that mean the metal can outer case, or did you remove the top, dig out the insulation and inspect the tank itself?

    A kid with a big hammer can do funny things to an appliance.

  9. #9
    DIY Junior Member cowboyjosh78's Avatar
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    No its not hammer or kid damage; these folks kids are all in college. This is a 2 million dollar house, and not to stereotype but folks with this price tag house, usually don't mess with things like water heaters, they call builders like myself and tell me to "take care or it".

    So I called a Rheem dealer and Rheem to see if this is a warranty issue, both say its not and that they will not warrant the tanks unless they have "failed" in their current state they have not "failed". My plumber came out and took a look at them earlier today and everything seems to be 'ok with the expansion tank and all other plumbing components.

    Yes its the top lids of the water heater, they look like someone sat on them; so my plumber called the Rheem dealer that also installs water heaters and the guy stopped out and pretty much said that all is "normal"...for now.

    I don't buy it, but my homeowner is ok with everything the plumber and the Rheem dealer and the guy from Rheems tech support who the Rheem dealer called says.

    As it stands now, they are "keeping an eye on them". Fortunately the homeowner is in that utility room every day, so if something changes he'll know about it.

    Im not happy about the run around, but then again im in a kind of a crappy mood anyways today.

  10. #10
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default heaters

    You also have a "crappy" plumber.

  11. #11
    DIY Junior Member cowboyjosh78's Avatar
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    more like "lazy". For new builds or remodeling, he's the man, call backs, not so much. I like to think of it that he might be the "best of the worst".

    When things were booming, he had 14 guys working for him doing new homes, basement finishes, and commercial jobs; when everything tanked, like everyone else, he let pretty much everyone go. Now its just him and 1 other guy and he can't accept that service work, which he never used to do. It used to be that after he plumbed a house and the house was out of warranty, he wouldn't do any further work to the house, he'd refer the homeowners to a outfit like Ben Franklin Plumbing; service is now whats keeping him in business and he hates that.

  12. #12
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    All those original posts about a doomed and ready to explode water heater do not mean much without the information I finally got out of him: Nobody has seen the TANK, only a tin can cover with foam or fiber underneath it.

    Probably, possibly a overheat where the foam sucked in the top cover... but until someone takes the time to SEE the tank, this is a non issue.

    I dont care if its a 20 million dollar Mc Mansion, they get lots of goofy guests, and god only knows what might go on in the basement during a nice party - kids, drunks, some 300 pound dope cable guy that used the water heater as a ladder.... take a guess until you open the the top cap.

    All this talk about bubbles and bumps was in a sheet metal cosmetic cover.
    Last edited by ballvalve; 12-28-2010 at 01:29 AM.

  13. #13
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    You have obviously NEVER taken a top off to see the tank itself. The time to do that would be better spent installing a new heater, because replacing the heater might be faster. And, since the top would probably be almost destroyed while prying it loose from the insulation, the heater might look worse after doing it. But it is really immaterial, since the description implies that the "TANK" has been damaged by "something" and is therefore not reliable.

  14. #14
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    Just used an angle grinder to get to the garbage broken off plastic "drain" valve on a waer heater. Got to see the tank! re foamed it.

    But if anyone really wants to know if the TANK is defective, they have to make that mess on the top.

    I am not too interested in the cosmetics of my WH, nor the scratches on my trucks, as long as they are safe and run.

    If they toss it out, I'll pick it up for free.

    And by the way, I have become quit talented in removing water heater covers with a backhoe to get a good price at the scrap yard. But it would be hard to do in this McMansions basement.
    Last edited by ballvalve; 12-28-2010 at 01:08 PM.

  15. #15
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    You removed the drain valve the HARD way. I can remove ANY drain valve in a matter of a few minutes WITHOUT damaging the jacket, or needing to "refoam" it. It would also be difficult to get a backhoe into the basement to remove the top, and since MOST people WOULD care about the cosmetics of the tank if I tried to remove the top, it would NOT be cost effective to do it.

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