Water Heater Short Circuit?

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Recently we had an issue with our water heater. It started with an electrical burn smell at which point I pulled the covers to find that the upper thermostat had short circuited (see pictures). A plumber came out and replaced the upper / lower elements and both thermostats. We agreed to leave the covers off for a bit to kind of monitor the situation given the severity of the initial trouble. However, he wasn't very interested in understanding why the thermostat was burned out the way it was which has me kind of concerned. After a week of diligent checking I decided to button everything up with the panels / batting / insulation / etc. and all was good. However, after about another week or so I decided to pull the panels again and the insulation is wet. Not soaked, but clearly wet. This was true for the initial trouble as well, but there's no clear source of the leak (maybe some rusty water trails on the bottom element area?). The walls of the tank had a fair amount of condensation? The unit is roughly 6 years old so i'm not quite ready to replace it, but i'm also concerned about our safety. Can I just put the panels back on without the insulation for the time being? Effectively breaking the link between the water and the thermostat. Thanks for any opinions...

The first two photos are before (burned out obviously) and the last two are after replacement with some tank surrounding area for context.


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10 Chemo sessions 12/06/2023 more to come.
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Orlando, Florida
HJ is 100% correct.

The insulation sucks up the water like a sponge so it is why it looks like it's condensation.

Electric WH thermostats only sit on the steel tank with clips. The back surface of the thermostat touches the steel tank for temperature. As you can see these are not waterproofed thermostats and internally the contacts can fuse (weld themselves) together causing a runaway rise in water temperature that becomes extremely dangerous. The T&P valve will open at 150 psi or at 210 degrees to relief pressure. More likely it will open at 150 psi as the water temps rises. Obviously the WH us leaking from the top. If this is in your basement, it is possible that the tank can crack open and flood your basement. Winter time in Ohio the inlet water temp is lower, therefore the water will expand more to get it to the set temperature and pressure will build.

The tank needs to be replaced and if you cannot do it now, when you are not home or nighttime sleeping, power off the WH and close the cold water valve at the water heater.
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