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Thread: Hot Water Heater leak?

  1. #1

    Default Hot Water Heater leak?

    We have a 10-year old AO Smith hot water heater that appeared fine until a recent home inspection (by a potential buyer) determined there was signs of a leak by the cold water inlet/faucet above the tank. While the hot water heater has been functioning fine, when I looked back there (this side is somewhat obscured from plain view), I noticed a bit of rusting due to some leak in the cold water connection (or tank?) that is mixing with a chemical (iron oxide?) to cause some white powdery flakes above the tank. It does appear dry to the touch. Not sure if this was a one-time leak. Also, this chemical reaction has caused the 'washer' area (where the tank is connected to the cold water line) to loosen slightly.

    Is this correctable or are we talking replacement?

  2. #2
    Plumber plumber1's Avatar
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    Sounds like the leak is at a connection and not the tank.

    But you may save much confusion if you replace the water heater. It's due.

  3. #3

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    What do you figure caused that leak - I assume it's from the cold water inlet connection dripping down. If it's a connection fix (and it does appear dry now), is it easy enough? Can I wrap it in Teflon tape?

    I just don't want to move only to hear the sellers move in and complain about a hot water heater that malfunctions or possible breaks down. At the same time, if it's an easy fix and it works for now, it may be okay for some time. I would rather not be out the money since I won't be getting the use out of it.

  4. #4
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Is it wet or dry?
    Touch it and see if it is wet or dry. If dry leave it alone. It may have leaked long ago and stopped. Generaly there is no way to tell when it leaked. If there is a large amount of build up that can be chunked off then it is a constant leaking and drying problem. If just a lite coating it probably leaked and stopped.

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default house

    Do like most sellers do and buy a one year home insurance policy, so if anything, such as a water heater, malfunctions they can call them instead of kvetching to you.

  6. #6

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    It's dry. Must have leaked a bit from the cold water connection at one time, but now it's just dry, flaky white matter. It just looks like the part where the cold water connects to the top of the tank (washer?) is getting a bit cruddy too, and almost loosening a bit. Do I have to worry about the little gap it is creating?

    Should I teflon tape this area up?

    HO policy...I guess you meant like a one-year HO warranty policy....

  7. #7
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    I'm with plumber1. Replace the WH with a new one. Having said that, if I were the buyer, I'd rather buy the house and replace the WH myself, to simplify warranty issues (although some WH warranties are transferrable to subsequent owners). Knock a few hundred bucks off the price to do that -- the purchaser will value that much more than you will.

  8. #8

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    Thanks, guys. That was very helpful.

  9. #9
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    hj has the right idea. Get a policy and leave it at that. I wouldn't replace it.

  10. #10
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Rust there could also be from condensation. You did say it was the cold water inlet?
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  11. #11
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Many times the packing nut on the valve will leak and cause what appears to be a leak in the spot you are talking about. Often it will stop leaking also. It may have been that.

  12. #12

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    Yeah, it's got some greenish/white (lime?) scale just below the cold water inlet, on top of the HWH. It looks like the connection at the bottom of where the cold water pipe meets the inlet, is where it may have once leaked. Totally dry now. Definitely appears to have stopped.
    I've heard about possible condensation issues, too.
    If I clean up that area, and throw some teflon tape around it, can that do the trick?
    My concern is that the 'washer' area where the cold water pipe meets the top of the tank...if it's slightly loosened (due to the scale/leak), there's no chance of a carbon monoxide issue, is there? Just want to be safe...

  13. #13
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    I would wipe it down and leave it. Don't bother with the teflon tape.

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