[Solved] New bottom entry hot water heater connection leaks 1 drop an hour

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Montreal

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In 2010, and again in 2022, my home insurance company is requesting that I change a perfectly working water heater.

My house has copper throughout and for the 2010 and 2022 installations, I used a 3/4" brass elbow for the bottom cold water entrance.

Attached is a photo showing the 2 ends of the elbow marked A and B.

For my installation, at connections A and B, I used only no-name brand teflon paste.

Connection A was tightened by wrench 1-1/8 turns after finger tight and connection B was tightened 1-1/2 turns after finger tight.

Connection A leaked immediately after installation at a rate of 1 drop a minute.

I replaced the fitting at connection A (not the elbow) using a different brand of male fitting (with a slightly longer thread), but this time I used 4 wraps of teflon tape and Megaloc paste, cranked 1-1/2 turns beyond finger tight, and this new connection is not leaking.

However, 4 hours later I took a hot shower and connection B started leaking for the first time at a rate of 1 drop an hour.

I went away for 2 days and when I returned, the leak at connection B had slowed to 1 drop every 2-3 hours.

In fact the leak is so slow, that the drop never gets big enough to fall to the ground, the lip of the elbow simply feels wet when touched by my finger tip.

I am prepared to drain the tank and install a new brass elbow and a new brass male fitting, but this time using both teflon tape and Megaloc paste at both threaded connections to the elbow.

The tank has galvanized steel di-electric nipples with rolled threads and the brass elbow has milled threads, and even with teflon tape and Megaloc paste, I am always worried that in order to get the brass elbow screwed on to point upwards to 12 o'clock, I will end up over or under tightening the elbow by plus or minus nearly one turn from what might be the optimum elbow tightness.

With a 12" wrench, I found with all these brass fittings, it is hard to wrench past 1-1/2 turns beyond finger tight. I don’t want to strip or warp the brass threads.

Any advice will be appreciated. Thanks

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IMG_1447b.jpg
 
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WorthFlorida

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Just last week I changed my water heater for the same reason.

First do not use tape and sealant. Just use a sealant paste. Is this a side entry water heater?
Brass is soft, steel is hard and the steel will scrape the threads of a brass nipple. If this bottom entry is where the tank drain was (for a circulator)? Use a brass nipple.

You should get a pressure gauge with a tattle-tale needle and place it on a hose spigot. As you stated after a shower leak started and the water is heated, it expands and increases the house pressure. Did you install a expansion tank? Most areas now require it including some manufactures for their water heater for warranty.

My house pressure would get up to 125 PSI during the night, normal pressure (city water) is around 70 PSI. After the expansion tank was installed, the max pressure is around 90 PSI.

pressure-gauge-winters-2.jpg
 

John Gayewski

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Ummmm. Do use tape and dope,and tighten until your sure it won't leak. You will not mess up the threads the only think that could happen it you could spilt the female fitting in which case it'll be obvious that you tightend too much. I'm not sure why you wouldn't use tape. Every joint that has tapered threads needs tape and dope or this exact scenario CAN happen.
 

Tuttles Revenge

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In this instance I agree with John about just reefing on the 90° one additional turn to get it tighter. Add a union to the copper so you can easily take that apart if it continues to drip.

Whether to use Dope, Tape or a combination of is a matter of personal preference based on experience. No manufacturer of either will suggest both until getting into 2" and larger sizes. Why? Who knows.

I personally find that adding more or less wraps of tape will allow me to adjust a nipple depth marginally.

The Eternal Question.
 

Montreal

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Just last week I changed my water heater for the same reason.

First do not use tape and sealant. Just use a sealant paste. Is this a side entry water heater?
Brass is soft, steel is hard and the steel will scrape the threads of a brass nipple. If this bottom entry is where the tank drain was (for a circulator)? Use a brass nipple.

You should get a pressure gauge with a tattle-tale needle and place it on a hose spigot. As you stated after a shower leak started and the water is heated, it expands and increases the house pressure. Did you install a expansion tank? Most areas now require it including some manufactures for their water heater for warranty.

My house pressure would get up to 125 PSI during the night, normal pressure (city water) is around 70 PSI. After the expansion tank was installed, the max pressure is around 90 PSI.

View attachment 87494
Thank you for taking the time to respond.

Yes, it is a side entry (bottom) entry water heater, and the copper supply pipe comes vertically down the side of the tank from above.

The tank has a separate drain located elsewhere.

Agreed that the female brass threads of the elbow will be crushed before the rolled steel male threads, but I had better results using tape and paste together compared to paste only.

I won't remove the galvanized di-electric nipple already installed at the factory in order to substitute a brass nipple. That would void the warranty.

It may be only a coincidence that the leak of 1 drop an hour started after I took a hot shower. I now know that this slow a leak would not have been obvious in the first hour after installation and this leak has continued steadily in the 24 hours that followed even though no additional showers were taken.

There is no over-pressure problem due to water expanding when being heated. My 70 psi is supplied by my city and there are no one way check valves in my supply so that any expansion in the hot water tank simply flows back through the water meter.

What I really want to know is who has installed a bottom/side entry water heater using just a single brass elbow like in my photo, and what was their experience getting the elbow to point upwards while respecting the torque requirements of the elbow.
 

Montreal

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In this instance I agree with John about just reefing on the 90° one additional turn to get it tighter. Add a union to the copper so you can easily take that apart if it continues to drip.

Whether to use Dope, Tape or a combination of is a matter of personal preference based on experience. No manufacturer of either will suggest both until getting into 2" and larger sizes. Why? Who knows.

I personally find that adding more or less wraps of tape will allow me to adjust a nipple depth marginally.

The Eternal Question.
Right now the leak rate has changed from one drop an hour to one drop every 2 hours, but that doesn't get me off the hook.

More wraps of tape around the nipple will probably allow more turning range following finger tightness.

So far I have screwed my brass elbow onto the galvanized di-electric nipple one time and I found it very hard to get the 1-1/2 turns needed to get the elbow pointing upwards.

Too often I have read that where male threads meet female threads, there is always a microscopic gap along the thread line, especially in my case, where the male threads are rolled.

It is not the tightness of the threaded joint that prevents the leak, it is the performance of the sealant, so I have read.

One survey found that plumbers voted closely on their preference for tape only, versus tape covered by paste.

I don't like undoing a soldered union, so I simply cut the copper pipe and add a new union just below the previous union.

Thanks for your comment.
 

Montreal

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Ummmm. Do use tape and dope,and tighten until your sure it won't leak. You will not mess up the threads, you only think that could happen it you could split the female fitting in which case it'll be obvious that you tightened too much. I'm not sure why you wouldn't use tape. Every joint that has tapered threads needs tape and dope or this exact scenario CAN happen.
I didn't like it when I first cranked on the brass elbow with a pipe wrench, and it made a squeeking sound as I went from 1 complete turn to 1-1/2 turns in order to get the elbow pointing up.
 

Jeff H Young

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I've put brass 90s on water heaters and other places no problem the side of a water heater should not be worse than top . We have different ways of doing it . I know many good plumbers don't do it same as I do I use tape and dope but occasionally I'll just use dope or tape for general plumbing work rarely get leaks. depending on situation I can be very careful because of experience where I know something is more prone to leak sometimes its the fit up that clues me in and I'll unscrew before its tight and add more tape or even remove some
 

Montreal

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I've put brass 90s on water heaters and other places no problem the side of a water heater should not be worse than top . We have different ways of doing it . I know many good plumbers don't do it same as I do I use tape and dope but occasionally Ill just use dope or tape for general plumbing work rarely get leaks. depending on situation I can be very careful because of experience where I know something is more prone to leak sometimes its the fit up that clues me in and Ill unscrew before its tight and add more tape or even remove some
Thanks Jeff for your suggested approach.


I wish they made a non-dielectric union built exactly like the di-electric version, but all brass, instead of half brass and half steel.

I don't need any additional steel, as my tank's steel di-electric nipple already limits the amount of steel exposed to water.

A brass on brass union that uses a rubber gasket would allow me to re-work the connection without having to struggle to get an elbow vertical and without having to cut and resolder a copper pipe.

The rubber gasket in my water meter nipple has lasted 20 years without leaking, so I trust this type of connection, if only on the cold water side.

I'm not too attracted to the idea of using a detachable connection that requires compressing a ferrule or pressing 2 pieces of sculpted brass tightly together.
 

WorthFlorida

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Maybe the steel nipple was cut wrong and the threads are out of tolerance. Dielectric nipple can be bought at HD, however, using a brass nipple i doubt it will void the warranty. On commercial water heaters brass drain valves are the norm.
 

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Maybe the steel nipple was cut wrong and the threads are out of tolerance. Dielectric nipple can be bought at HD, however, using a brass nipple i doubt it will void the warranty. On commercial water heaters brass drain valves are the norm.
Thanks again for your contribution to this discussion and for your encouragement.

I don't think it's a question of the threads of the steel nipple having been cut wrong, they weren't cut at all. They were rolled by a pressing device as opposed to having been milled on a lathe. That means that the peaks and valleys of the threads are rounded, unlike the ones on a milled fitting, which are sharp. A better sealant approach is required to compensate, something I didn’t pay attention to in the beginning.

These are factory installed di-electric nipples, steel into steel, and probably torqued with a power tool. I don't own the kind of wrench that could extract this steel nipple, and even if I did, I don't have the confidence that I could re-install a replacement brass one without it leaking someday at its junction with the tank. My tank is guarantied not to leak for 10 years. That guaranty includes the junction of the steel nipple and the steel tank.

The di-electric nipple on the tank's outlet is also made the same way as the inlet and it doesn't leak (see photo below), even with only no-name brand teflon paste. And I don't remember over cranking the outlet's brass fitting either.

The reason that my inlet leaks and not my outlet, may be that the brass walls of the female fittings at each of these two connections are different in thickness and different in malleability.

I'm seriously thinking about chucking the brass elbow in favor of a straight brass fitting (like in the photo) and using a soldered 90 degree copper elbow. This way I can crank the brass fitting as far as it can go without worrying about it needing to point in a particular direction, as is the case when the fitting is a threaded elbow. Then I can solder on a copper elbow, being careful not to let the heat from the torch reach the plastic liner of the di-electric steel nipple located a few inches away from the elbow.

By the way, since two days, the leak has diminished to the point that drops of water no longer form on the fitting. Passing my finger over the lower rim of the brass elbow simply leaves a wet smear on the tip of my finger. The amount of water that is now leaking is the same as the amount of water that is evaporating off the fitting, which is being heated by the hot water at the bottom of the tank.

If I partially open a hot water faucet in the house, then I can see if a cold elbow at the inlet leaks faster than a hot elbow.

IMG_1455b.jpg
 

Montreal

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Little leaks like this can get plugged by minerals from the water.
My water heater has 3, not 2, electric elements, with 800 watts for the bottom one, which is activated by its own thermostat. The idea is to keep the bottom of the tank as warm as possible while using a smaller wattage element, but operating it more frequently. This helps reduce the loading on the utility power grid during peak periods in winter.

Consequently, when the bottom element occasionally comes on due to standby heat loss and while no hot water is flowing out and no cold water is flowing into the tank, the inlet steel nipple/brass elbow connection heats up.

That heat expands the interface between the steel nipple and the brass elbow, and that might explain why a moment ago, I got my first drop of leaked water falling into a plastic cup since 2 days.

I clearly have no choice but to re-seal the connection or replace it entirely with a different and more foolproof design.
 

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What is the name brand and model #?
Giant, model 172EPS.

https://giantinc.com/en/products/water-heater/residential/electric-ecopeak/172eps/

It's the latest technology from a local Canadian company that has been operating since 1945.
I've owned 2 of their water heaters and never had a leak, even after 17 years of use.
My insurance company forced me to change twice.

I'm strongly considering re-doing the connection with the parts as shown in the following photos.
Each one of the two solutions has their advantages and disadvantages.

IMG_1457.JPG
IMG_1459.JPG
 

WorthFlorida

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Giant, model 172EPS.

https://giantinc.com/en/products/water-heater/residential/electric-ecopeak/172eps/

It's the latest technology from a local Canadian company that has been operating since 1945.
I've owned 2 of their water heaters and never had a leak, even after 17 years of use.
My insurance company forced me to change twice.
Interesting. From there WEB site:

2021 A.O. Smith has acquired GIANT , the Quebec-based manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters, for US$192 million. (HPAC)
“We are extremely excited about the benefits of a powerful combination with a world leader in global water technology. This natural and logical partnership with A. O. Smith will enhance prospects for our customers, employees, and suppliers.” – Claude Lesage, President.


I just replaced my 15 year old 55 gallon A. O. Smith ProMax commercial grade (no leaks) with A O Smith Proline 50 gallon. It has a 6 year warranty. It is in the garage so any leaks will just run down the driveway. I sold water heaters at Sears when Sears was king. From a 6 year to a 9 year there might have been better glass line process and material, but for the most part higher warranty in years I think is nothing more than paying for extra warranty. I'm using a Florida only insurance company so they know just about every home (other than condo's have the water heater in the garage. I'm not sure when the next requirement WH replacement will be. I hope it is at least 12 years. My last water heater in my last home was a Sears unit (9 year warranty) probably made by State and I sold the home with the 17 year old water heater that never leaked.
LOL
 

Montreal

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Interesting. From there WEB site:

2021 A.O. Smith has acquired GIANT , the Quebec-based manufacturer of residential and commercial water heaters, for US$192 million. (HPAC)
“We are extremely excited about the benefits of a powerful combination with a world leader in global water technology. This natural and logical partnership with A. O. Smith will enhance prospects for our customers, employees, and suppliers.” – Claude Lesage, President.


I just replaced my 15 year old 55 gallon A. O. Smith ProMax commercial grade (no leaks) with A O Smith Proline 50 gallon. It has a 6 year warranty. It is in the garage so any leaks will just run down the driveway. I sold water heaters at Sears when Sears was king. From a 6 year to a 9 year there might have been better glass line process and material, but for the most part higher warranty in years I think is nothing more than paying for extra warranty. I'm using a Florida only insurance company so they know just about every home (other than condo's have the water heater in the garage. I'm not sure when the next requirement WH replacement will be. I hope it is at least 12 years. My last water heater in my last home was a Sears unit (9 year warranty) probably made by State and I sold the home with the 17 year old water heater that never leaked.
LOL
Thanks for the history about Giant and A.O. Smith.

In Quebec, our winters are so cold that very few attached garages would be heated adequately enough to trust installing a water heater there.

Because foundation footings have to be installed below the frost line (4+ feet below grade), it doesn't make sense not to dig a full basement.

Once there is a basement, the logical place for a water heater is there.

Once you begin to finish all or part of the basement, the consequence of a water heater's major leak can become significant.

That is why home insurance companies serving my local market are so fussy about water heater reliability.

I could have kept my 12 year old water heater, but my insurance deductible would be at $5000, instead of $500.

P.S. My basement floor drain with its backflow stopper was backing water up on to the floor while I slowly drained my hot water tank into it. I had to use a toilet plunger to unblock the clog. Even with an unfinished basement, if the water heater leaks and the floor drain is slow, then there will be damage of some sort.
 

Montreal

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My installation is now complete and working fine, no leaks. Getting the former brass elbow to unscrew off the factory nipple was trickier then I expected. It was on so tight that the factory nipple came out at the same time. I reinstalled the nipple and this time I used a Watts LF 3008 Dielectric union with its nitrile gasket. This all brass union cost nearly 5 times more than the same size dielectric union which is half steel and half brass. I am attaching photos of the Watts union, the factory nipple, and the former all brass threaded elbow, which shows where the rust deposits from the nipple accumulated. If my one drop per hour slow leak disappeared after a week, it wasn't because minerals in the water stopped the leak, it was because rust particles from the nipple stopped the leak. P.S. For the 2 treaded connections between the nipple and the tank and between the union and the nipple, I used 5 wraps of teflon tape followed by a generous coating of Megaloc.

IMG_1474a.jpg
IMG_1472.JPG
IMG_1483.JPG
 

Terry

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Most of the condo associations around here require water heater replacement at 10 years.
Can more years be squeezed out? Of course. How many thousands of dollars in damage though if you wait for the water heater to fail and do it's thing go drywall, carpeting, cabinets, ect. The bill can run into the tens of thousands. I wouldn't want to insure that either.

Are you running a 1/2" line for your hot water? Looks small. I might have seen that before in a one bedroom cabin off the grid.

My pipe dope containers look better than this, but it makes for an interesting picture I think.

grrip-pipe-dope.jpg


braze-4-inch.jpg


This plumber is brazing 4" copper for the hot water in a hospital.
 
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Montreal

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Thanks Terry for your comments and for your campy photos.



Yes, my small, 5 room bungalow has 1/2" copper throughout, including the inlet to the hot water heater. There has never been a problem with the hot water pressure as there is only one bathroom.



My thread was all about the challenge of connecting a vertical copper pipe to the bottom entry dielectric nipple, by using a threaded brass elbow. I knew from the start that there was the risk of under or over tightening the brass elbow while trying to get it vertical. It looks like I over tightened it since the factory installed steel nipple released from the steel tank before the brass elbow released from the steel nipple, when I eventually disassembled everything.



I also learned that 5 wraps of Teflon and Megaloc seals better than only using no-name Teflon paste.



But I owe my final success to using this expensive, all brass, dielectric union to connect directly to the bottom entry tank nipple. This allowed me to choose the optimum torque of the union/nipple connection without regard to achieving a 12 o’clock orientation at the same time.



The beauty of this configuration is that I can snug up the threaded connections in the future if needed, without ever having to unsolder the adjacent copper stuff.



And according to Watts, when it comes time to replace this water heater in 12 years, this dielectric union can be easily transplanted to the new water heater without unsoldering anything. The union’s nitrile gasket is also easy to replace at any time in the future, if ever needed.
 
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