Leaking T&P Valve

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by ScrewedByNCGC, Jul 13, 2011.

  1. ScrewedByNCGC

    ScrewedByNCGC New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I've got a 50 gallon low-boy that has been leaking for about 3 years. It's a Bradford-White or AO Sloan, not sure which. I never exactly knew where because it was so slow but in the past 6 months it got to the point where I could see an occasional drip from the temp & pressure valve drain pipe. I put a bucket there and it fills up with about 8 oz. of water in three weeks; it's enough to keep that area of the crawl space moist and moldy.

    As an experiment I adjusted the water pressure regulator valve by turning it three turns CCW. The valve has a plastic collar on the adjustment nut to keep it set at a preset point (see the attached pic). The valve body reads, "5 - 65 PSI" so I presume the setting is something like 45 because the water flow before adjusting was actually kind of weak; now, it's so weak the shower thing won't engage unless I hold it for a long time. Anyway, I turned down the pressure, set the bucket and a month later no water coming from the T&P valve.

    My water heater was repaired (if you can call it that) in 2008, which was near the end of its warranty period but still within it. Long story short, only parts were covered under the warranty ($29) but the labour was not ($135). I bring this up only because this incredibly slow drip coincidentally started about the same time my hero showed up and performed his 8 minute miracle repair.

    I've read from the experienced users that 80 psi is the max a household should have -- I am quite certain I am well below that. To give you an even better idea how low it already is, when I hook up one of those oscillating sprinklers it sticks in one position because there ain't enough pressure to keep it moving.

    So, that leaves temperature. I have never adjusted the thermostat on the low boy but I did check out the setting once repairs were made and it was and still is set to the exact middle of the dial. I don't know the exact water temp coming out but if you turn on the hot tap all the way you can keep your hand there and it won't get burned (but it is warm enough).

    Appreciate any comments.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 13, 2011
  2. Obama the Plumber

    Obama the Plumber Plumber

    Messages:
    47
    Location:
    Washington DC
    So the tank is at least 9 years old.
    If the T&P has not been replaced, it could have aged. Springs can lose their mightiness.

    If you have such low flow that the tub diverter and the sprinklers are giving you grief, then you may need a rebuild or replacement of the PRV.
    They can go bad over time.
    If your PRV doesn't have a pressure bypass, then you might think about an expansion tank.
    I would look first at the T&P though.

    Any tank that gives you ten years, had pretty much given it's all.
  3. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    If the T&P has weeped for years, it could be worn out. But, as also mentioned above, (and I take exception to the bypass negating the need of an expansion tank) you probably either don't have, or have an inoperative expansion tank. Depending on how much hot water you draw off, and the temperature you have it set, and how cold the incoming water is, will determine how much that water expands when it gets heated. It will leak out the weakest point, and that may be the T&P valve if the rest of the system is tight.

    A PRV with a bypass will not open until the house pressure gets above the supply pressure which sort of negates the benefit of stable pressure with no peaks. Depending on how high the supply pressure is and how well the bypass and the rest of the PRV is working, the house pressure can momentarily get high enough to cause the T&P to open. Since water doesn't compress, a little expansion can create a lot of pressure increase - easily enough to cause the T&P to open to relieve it.

    The magic test for this is a pressure gauge. You can pick one up at a big box or hardware or plumbing store for in the order of $10. Get one with a tattle tale hand...this will show the peak pressure. Leave it hooked up for at least 24-hours and check both the static and peak pressure. It will help you to also adjust the PRV to a reasonable pressure (normally somewhere around 50# is a good value).
  4. Jerome2877

    Jerome2877 In the Trades

    Messages:
    397
    Location:
    BC
    It looks like you have an expansion tank already, its probably failed and that is more than likely the problem. I would still do the pressure checks though to make sure the prv is still working. It would be a good idea to change out the T&P valve as well. If doing this yourself use a bicycle pump to increase the air pressure in the new tank to your static water pressure.
  5. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,328
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    If the expansion tank has failed, it will be full of water. Tap on it and you should be able to tell if it is waterlogged by the sound. If it needs replacing, be careful when removing it as it will be fairly heavy. You will need a pressure gauge to adjust the PRV and expansion tank settings. They should be equal. Use a small hand air pump on the expansion tank. It's very easy to over inflate the tank because the volume of air needs is quite small and a big air compressor puts out too much air very quickly and that will easily rupture the bladder in the tank. It is possible the T/P needs replacing, but check the tank first.
  6. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    Another quick verification of a failed expansion tank is that you'll get some water out when you try to test the air pressure, but being full of water is usually a big red flag. If the air valve is leaky, it's possible it just needs some air to recharge it. Note, though, that you can only check the air pressure when there's no water pressure on the other side, otherwise, the air pressure will be the same as the water pressure. So, to test and set the pressure in the expansion tank, you need to shut the water off, open a valve (any faucet will do) until there's no pressure, then measure the air pressure in the tank.
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,484
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The valve will leak from various causes or a combination of them. A bad pressure regulation valve, high pressure, or high temperature, although high temperature is usually a "flood", not a drip. Without knowing the range of pressure in the house, because it may not always be constant, there is no way to diagnose the problem remotely.
    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  8. ScrewedByNCGC

    ScrewedByNCGC New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I did not yet get a gauge with the peak needle but I have a gauge that I connected for the last two days. In the mornings, the pressure is reading 29 psi. When I come home from work, it's reading 40 psi and before I go to bed it's reading 41 psi. I also tapped my keys on the expansion tank and there is a high pitched plink plink and it actually feels very light (it's connected to pex), so I would presume there is very little or no water in that thing.

    Just out of curiosity, the line connecting to the water heater reads, "AQUAPEX 3/4 160". If and when I need to connect junk, how would I remove those black clips around junction points? I've never worked with pex.

    I ordered a gauge with a tattle on it, it should be here in a couple of weeks. I could not find one at the box stores.

    Also, I thought the expansion tank is just for water hammer. You guys say it also helps regulate the input line, too? It's connected after the heater so should it be connected on the input side?

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  9. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,889
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    The expansion tank does nothing for water hammer.
    Hammer arrestors are used instead on quick closing valves.
    Clothes Washer
    Dishwasher
    Ice Maker

    It does work for the expansion of heated water. Normally those go on the incoming cold side.
  10. ScrewedByNCGC

    ScrewedByNCGC New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    North Carolina
    Wait -- which one is "for the expansion of heated water" and which is connected "on the incoming cold side?"
  11. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,889
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    The PET-5 is for expansion, installed on the incoming cold.
    I've seen them installed on the hot side too, but it's harder on the rubber bladder in that location.

    The relief valve is not for expansion control. It just releases water when it's either too hot or the pressure is too high.
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    And, I don't think they allow the T&P valve to be plumbed with pex...
  13. ScrewedByNCGC

    ScrewedByNCGC New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    North Carolina
    You are right about the plumbing of the expansion tank -- it is on the cold water input side. The T&P valve drain tube that runs into the ground is clamped with pex, the expansion tank has copper + pex. I'm confusing myself.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jul 15, 2011
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,889
    Location:
    New England
    When the WH runs, the expanding, heated water pushes all directions, so the location of the expansion tank, in theory, doesn't matter which side it is on, but, the manufacturers do NOT recommend them on the hot side - they last longer on the cold side. If you didn't have the PRV, you might not need the expansion tank. An expansion tank is specified when you have a 'closed' system (a PRV makes the system closed as does a check valve - some utilities install check valves on the supply to prevent potentially polluted water from getting pushed back into the area's supply).

    The fact that your pressure changes at all, indicates that either the PRV or the expansion tank is not working properly. WIth both working, it should be stable within say a pound or two all the time (unless your supply can't keep up with the demand, but when all valves are off, it should stay stable at the setting on the PRV).
  15. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Reset your pressure to the 65psi. Increase/test the expansion tank to see if water comes out [bad tank] . Set the tank pressure correctly. Replace the old T&P valve.
  16. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,895
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
    You could remove the glass from a regular gauge and put a small ball of tinfoil on the face with the gauge laying horizontal. The needle will push the ball but not pull it back.
  17. ScrewedByNCGC

    ScrewedByNCGC New Member

    Messages:
    14
    Location:
    North Carolina
    I put the tattle on the outside faucet closest to the water heater. After three days, it shows 56 psi. I have another gauge that I moved around to the other two faucets and they read on average 42 psi, but when my wife runs the washer or turns on and off the tubs I observed the needle swing somewhat abruptly to 35-29 psi and then slowly climb back up to around 40; during the evening before bed if the water dispenser in the 'fridge runs I see the pressure go from 45 psi to 42 then pop up to around 50ish before settling back down to nominal.

    The experts commenting on this thread indicate my pressure should not fluctuate much but I see a maximum of 27 psi change depending on what turns on/off; when a fast acting valve opens then closes I can hear a "ka-dink" in the crawl space that damps out slowly after 2-3 more ka-dinks. I've also read on another board someone who had the same symptoms (with average pressure) and changed the T&P but the leak appeared on the new T&P, so I'm thinking I need arrestors on (Terry's big three) culprits for hammer, a new expansion tank, the PRV needs to be replaced and my T&P is probably doing its job. I'd say that's just about right for this house.
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