Need help! Leaking from lower element

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by Tomzim82, May 1, 2013.

  1. Tomzim82

    Tomzim82 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    Hey guys I need serious help. Had a flood in my house twice now.. My electric hot water heater is leaking from the lower element.

    The element is new along with the gasket. It's a 4,500 watt, long element that was replaced 2 days ago. I replaced it because the water heater was pouring water from around the element. I pulled the old element off (was only 90 days old) and put a new name brand element in. I tightened it as much as I thought safe.

    I woke up tonight to a flooded bedroom again. Water is poring out of the lower element once again.


    The element is good so what could be causing this?

    Too much pressure? I notice as soon as I release the drain valve the leak stops. Obviously this instantly released the pressure. Could this leak be a sign of over pressure?

    The temp is set at about 135-140 degrees F.

    I'm a disabled veteran of the current wars and can't really afford a plumber.

    Tank is less than 10 years old. 40 gal with two elements. Top seems to be ok.

    Please give me ANY ideas to check, I'm at my wits end here!
  2. DonL

    DonL Banned

    Messages:
    4,008
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    If the pop off valve does not open by itself, then the pressure should be OK.

    Did you use Teflon tape on the element threads ?

    It may be that you did not get it tight enough.

    It is possible that the weld is broke and leaking.


    Good Luck
  3. Tomzim82

    Tomzim82 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    I did not use Teflon tape. Should I?

    The pressure release valve has visible gunk all over it and leaks off and on. I could easily see it being bad.

    This tank didn't leak for 3 days after I replaced the elements so I don't think it's the tank itself..

    How tight should it be? I'm putting it on probably 60% of my strength. So in other words I'm not going to town on it but I am putting some muscle behind it.


    This started happening after the water was shut off at the box on the curb. The day it was turned back on is when the leak started.


    Also after, the water valve to fill the tank now lets a trickle of water flow even in the off position which is new. This also makes me think of too much pressure coming from the street.


    The twist knob in the box on the curb (main water shut off box) - is that a quarter turn knob? I notice that its open about 3/4ths a rotation - is this too much and if so, could it be the issue?
  4. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,537
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    IF the element is leaking, that is the ONLY problem. it has nothing to do with the T&P valve, the drain valve, or the system pressure. The important thing is WHERE is the water leaking at the element. if it is coming OUT of the element, then it is a bad element, if it is leaking AROUND the element, then the tank's "boss" is probably defective where the element screws in. or it is loose. I tighten them as far as they will go.A picture of the leak might be as good as being there to see it in person.
  5. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,949
    Location:
    New England
    There are a couple of types of threads used in plumbing: straight threads you'd see on a screw, and tapered threads. A joint that has straight threads has some sort of gasket or precision mating surface that makes the seal. A tapered thread never seals without something on the threads, either tape or pipe dope. An example of the first would be something like a water hose.
  6. Tomzim82

    Tomzim82 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    Went out to street, put the main valve on the quarter turn position where I've always seen them and leak free for about 3-4 hours.

    It's a brand new element and gasket, a rather thick gasket at that.

    I understand that these things are simple. After hours and hours of searching I realize there are certain spots that leak and causes to go along with them.

    The seal is strong once again and the threads are clean. No leaks and garage has aired out and is dry.

    The leaky valve above the water heater (internal leak, was filling tank even in off position) is no longer an issue with the main valve in a quarter turn position.


    I don't know that I'll stay leak free but here's hoping. I'll keep this post updated for future viewers either way.


    Question: If the pressure release valve is bad and pressure is building up in tank, is it unreasonable to think the gasket and threads between the element and tank may be the weak spot?
  7. DonL

    DonL Banned

    Messages:
    4,008
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    What is your make and model of the Heater ?

    What type of element are you using ?

    The "quarter turn position" on the input to the house will normally reduce water flow, but not water pressure.

    Maybe your water valve on the tank is leaking and just running down the tank, and the element is not where the leak is ?

    Does your safety pop off / T&P valve have its own drain ? Is it leaking ?

    Some water valves needs to be in a Fully Open or Fully Closed condition, or water will leak around the valve shaft. That depends on the type of valve.


    Good Luck
    Last edited: May 1, 2013
  8. Tomzim82

    Tomzim82 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    No it's a LOT of water squirting out the element seal when the leak is happening. I would estimate a flow of at least 2-4 gallons per minute and it just comes right out the space between the element and tank.

    Now, it's been almost 12 hours since I reduced the flow from the curb and still leak free.. So what does that tell us? I'm beyond confused.

    I've checked the tightness of the element and its pretty darn tight.
  9. Tomzim82

    Tomzim82 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    The tank is an American PROline model E62-40R-35D

    I do have a slight drop right now out of the pressure release valve.
  10. Tomzim82

    Tomzim82 New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Phoenix AZ
    25 hours since lowering water flow from curbside valve. No leaks to report at this - not a single drop from the heating element threads.

    The slight drop leak from prv is slowing down - I think it's hard water gunk in the way but not 100% sure. Maybe 1 drop every 3-5 seconds now.


    I'm beyond confused as to why lowering curb flow has fixed this. Some ideas include:

    Along with drop in flow came drop in pressure due to fixing valve in box?

    The flow of water coming in created too much resistance for the backflow to return to city connected pipes when water heated up?

    A combination of water flow from the street box valve being overturned and the fill valve on the water tank only being opened a small amount (due to leak) caused the backflow issues mentioned.



    These are all just random guesses. The only thing I know at this point is no leak so far after 2-3 showers.

    Also I had to turn the water temp down on thermostats by about 20 degrees. They were set at about 145 but the water temp was so high you had to use a lot more cold water than before in the shower. I think this is caused by the two new heating elements working better than before.
  11. DonL

    DonL Banned

    Messages:
    4,008
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    There should be no back flow, back to the city water.

    Do you have a expansion tank ?

    Even if the pressure gets to high it should not leak at the Element. The release valve should open first.


    Sounds like you have a Band-aid on it for the moment.
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