Water heater Overflow Issue

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by daddyslipdisk, Jul 3, 2007.

  1. daddyslipdisk

    daddyslipdisk New Member

    Messages:
    6
    :mad: 3 days ago I noticed that there was a part of my driveway that has not been dry for a long time. Turns out that the PVC overflow pipe coming out of the side of my house is streaming a thin stream of very hot water. The entire outside of my house near that area was completely soaked where your foot would literally sink in 4 inches into the soil. I'm very concerned about my foundation being affected this close to the house. My wife cut the water to the hot water heater and the outside stream stopped. After some research I found that I should be releasing pressure annually from the hot water heater, but after 2 hours of messing with this, I give up.

    First off, this is a Whirlpool gas water heater, model FG1F4034T3NOV. I have pictures of this thing with text at www.hortonwebdesign.com/heater.htm. The pressure valve is on the side of the unit, but the line from it does not go straight down towards a drain in the floor though like I've seen in a lot of examples of how it "should be". It goes down about 4 inches, does a U-turn back up, then 90 degrees across the top of the heater and then T's up into the ceiling and down to a spicket. If the spicket is open, the overflow comes out there. If closed, "up, up and away" into the ceiling and then some magical mystery maze until it navigates the overflow outside to that drenched area. Again, I took a picture and posted it here at www.hortonwebdesign.com/heater.htm.

    Try #1. I turned the water back on, then I lifted the pressure lever valve, but water leaks out from the lever, so i put a bucket underneath it. I left it like that for a minute or so, but it only would release a steady dripping. When it finally stopped, I would go outside and the outside was a steady stream again. And when that stopped, the pressure valve would start dripping again. Back and forth. If one stopped, the other started. The only way it stops is if I cut off the water to it and for obvious reasons, that works, but that also means no hot water.

    Not being a pro, common sense says that this water heater is filling up too high and is overfilling which is causing this overflow.

    Try #2: Another thing I tried was to turn off the water, lift the pressure valve and let it drain out until it stops dripping and the outside stops also. But as soon as I turn the water back on, I can hear that pipe filling up again and here comes the dripping all over again either outside or at the valve.

    There must be a step by step process to this. Should I completely drain the water heater and then turn everything back on? That was another option, but a painstaking one. My thought is that if I make it start with an empty tank, maybe it will just cut off when it knows how much water was added. Or is it like a toilet bowl tank that stops when it reaches a specific point? If it is, it's not stopping! It's not like water is gushing out. Both overflows are either steady drips (valve side) or steady streams (outside):confused: .

    There is just WAY too much drainage outside to be normal and it's been going on a very long time and releasing the pressure stops it outside, but causes it to drip inside from around the switch. So currently, I turned off the water completely, switched the gas knob to off and awaiting some divine intervention. Someone help please!:rolleyes:
  2. CHH

    CHH New Member

    Messages:
    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Maybe, just maybe replace the P & T valve that is leaking? You'll probably want to add an expansion tank while you're at it since there is a PRV in the system. The valve costs about $10 at a hardware store.

    If you don't understand what a P & T valve is and/or can't make a sweat joint then just call a plumber. Either way, your problem will be solved (and Jimbo and Grumpy will be happy if you call the plumber).
  3. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

    Messages:
    1,404
    Location:
    Licensed Grump
    This is a DIY forum, understandably you'd like to fix this ourself
    The ONE THING I will tell you...DON'T..I repeat DON'T attempt to block the outlet. The T & P valve may be defective, the gas valve could be defective and the burner may be overheating, the aquastat could be defective.
    There are a number of things that could be wrong and that outlet is a life saver.
    Please use caution, this could be simple, it could be complicated, my humble opinion is have a professional look at it, in person.
    Feel free to listen to other opinions.
  4. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    I got this from someone on this board - but I can't remember who...

    It's a good demonstration of why you should NOT block the valve (and kinda funny, with the music & all...)

    http://www.waterheaterblast.com/


    Definitely, if it's in your skillset, try replacing it, though. They do get old & fail...
  5. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,387
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    I don't want to sound disrespectful, but your questions indicate that you really don't have much of a clue about a water heater, and I would urge you to have a plumber evaluate your problem and do whatever revisions and repairs are necessary. A pressure regulator valve without an expansion tank would cause the T/P valve to trip, but your post did not indicate that you have a pressure regulator valve in your water supply. A T/P valve should be tripped manually every year, but many of us don't do it. Likewise, it is good practice to drain the tank yearly to flush out sediment. A water heater can not be "overfilled". Cold water come in, goes to the bottom of the tank via a dip tube, is heated, and rises to the top of the tank. When the entire tank of water is hot, the heat stops until the temperature goes down either as a result of just sitting in the tank and gradually cooling, or by hot water being drawn off for use in the house. When a quantity of hot water is removed, and equal amount of cold water enters the tank to replace it. If the thermostat fails and the water gets too hot, the T/P valve trips to relieve the excess pressure resulting of the water getting too hot. The T/P should close when the pressure returns to normal. Never drain a water heater when the electricity or gas is on, and never turn the heater on when it is empty.

    Your problem may be simply a bad T/P valve, but it could be much more serious. Get a professional to evaluate it.
  6. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Due to the serious nature of of your problem and your lack of knowledge I would recommend in this case that you contact a licensed plumber to correct this problem.

    #1 The T&P valve is plumbed wrong, it should never have water trapped in it, and most likely needs to be replaced also.

    #2 You have a PRV and no expansion tank that I can see, this may be part of the problem also.

    #3 Like GrumpyPlumber said...do not stop the water from exiting the pipe by closing any valves or plugging anything......contact a plumber as soon as possible.

    With water coming out the T&P / drain you should be safe until a plumber corrects the problems...... the T&P is doing it's job..

    The only valve that is safe to shut would be the main valve that lets water into the heater.

    It appears that this water heater was installed by someone that did not know how to install it correctly.
    Last edited: Jul 4, 2007
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    heater

    You have a malfunctioning water heater, but since the symptoms can be caused by any of several different problems, we cannot tell you what it wrong with it. One thing is certain, however, whoever installed that drain line from the T&P valve was either not a plumber, or a very incompetent one. That line MUST be redone and installed properly.You may be fortunate that the valve had not "frozen" because of the installation, in which case the hot water could not have been released, and your home could have been the next one on the 6:00 news.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 5, 2007
  8. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,387
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Guess I should have looked at the photos closer. You do have a PRV and therefore you do need an expansion tank. Get professional help.
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I would like to offer your case as a good argument why we SHOULD encourage folks like yourself to come to this forum to ask questions. In this case, there are SO MANY things SERIOUSLY wrong with your installation that you and your house are in danger. I urge you to take the advice alredy given and turn off the gas and turn off the water inlet to the top of the water heater.

    These problems are probably way beyond your ability to fix yourself, but I am glad you came here to ask the questions.

    > All those compression couplings, while legal, are a sign that this installation was done by a very inexperienced person.
    > The piping from the TP relief valve must flow down hill.....it can never be allowed to go up, as in your picture. The standing water at the relief valve is the reason it has deteriorated and is dripping. It may also FAIL TO FUNCTION if you had an incident.
    > A water heater MUST be completely full, to the extent that the last tiny bubble of air is vented out the top and out into a tap.
  10. daddyslipdisk

    daddyslipdisk New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Replaced Pressure valve

    Ok, Well I did a few things to try and remedy this problem. the first thing I did was replace the pressure valve. I also purchased a long PVC drain pipe that I attached to the pressure valve so that it just goes straight down to the floor and into a bucket instead of the long winding path it took before. My neighbor who is an HVAC guy for Coolray said that would be fine, but that it wouldn't pass inspection. He said that I would either need to have drainage put in there somehow or get the expansion tank. But he said for now my issue should be resolved and everything should be fine.

    I turned the gas back on, lit the pilot and then turned the water back on. So far, there are no leaks at the pressure valve and no drainage coming out of the PVC pipe into the bucket. Actually, I just checked and there were like 2 drops in the bucket.

    I figure that if I use the pressure switch each month, that should quell any concerns about pressure build up. Any thoughts? The new repairs are at www.hortonwebdesign.com/heaterfix.htm and the old, bad configuration is at www.hortonwebdesign.com/heater.htm. I just want to make sure that I haven't made a ticking water heater bomb that will endanger my family.
  11. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If you had it is likely that it would be to late now, the damage would be done.

    You need an expansion tank installed and the T&P drain brought to a floor drain or out side the house.
  12. CHH

    CHH New Member

    Messages:
    225
    Location:
    Denver, CO
    Ummmm, the phrasing about "use the pressure switch each month" suggests to me that you still don't quite have the full concept of how the system works. The water tank should always be at the pressure set by the PRV. The problem is that water expands when it is heated and a PRV usually functions as a check valve. That means one major thing: when all the faucets in the house are closed and as cold water is heated (such as after finishing a shower) the water has to expand. The problem is that there is no place for the water to expand to so the pressure increases in the tank and in all the water supply plumbing downstream of the PRV. This pressure increase occurs nearly every time the water heater fires.

    Of course the pressure is released any time a faucet is opened but for some time and on a daily basis the pressure in the system is much higher than it should be.

    To wrap it up, opening the P & T valve won't help with the pressure build-up problem. It will give you peace of mind that the P & T valve functions. Most manufacturers recommend annual function testing, not monthly.

    On another note, good job on fixing the malfunction and getting someone knowledgable to help. There were many terms used in your first post and a lot of unsaid things that rightfully concerned/scared the pros. Hopefully you've learned a bit about water heaters and will continue to learn about their function, what is safe, and how to communicate with folks about'em. If you'd just mentioned a little bit about normal burner operation instead of being silent on the heat input side of things, I think the pros might have relaxed just a little bit. Then again, they are pros and have to be very cautious so relaxing on a safety concern might not happen.
  13. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,387
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Pressure does not build up in a water heater over a period of time. When the water heats normally, it expands. In a water system that does not have a pressure regulator valve, (that's the "unknown device" in you photo) this expansion is absorbed by the city water main. When you do have a pressure regulator valve it creates what is called a "closed" system. The simply means the PRV stops the expansion at that point so the expanded water has no where to go. The results in a very rapid build up of pressure within the water heater and causes the T/P valve to trip to prevent the tank from exploding. To cure this problem, an expansion tank is installed somewhere after the PRV. This is air charged to a pressure to equal the incoming pressure as determined by the PRV. This tank gives that expanded water somewhere to go. It empties back into the heater when the pressure lessens. You might try this experiment: get a pressure gauge at any hardware store. They come with a hose adapter end. Attach this to a hot water faucet. The washing machine outlet is usually a good place to do this. Turn the faucet on and read the pressure. Now draw hot water from another fixture and continue to watch the gauge. You will see that the pressure rises to a very high level very quickly, and the T/P valve will trip until the danger has passed. If it does not react this way that would indicate the PRV is not working for some reason and is allowing the expansion to be absorbed by the city water main.
  14. GrumpyPlumber

    GrumpyPlumber Licensed Grump

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    Location:
    Licensed Grump
    In terms of the T&P...it should be a 150/210, 150 psi, 210 degree's...it has a white probe.
    I will say this again, the fact that it is weeping means there's potential trouble...simpley opening it on occasion does resolve the original issue.
    It could very well be the "ticking bomb" you're afraid of.
    I'm NOT attempting to dissuade you from doing what you want, nor am I attempting to promote a trade, but you really should have someone give it the "once over" to be sure you and you're family are safe.
  15. daddyslipdisk

    daddyslipdisk New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Well, we left for about 6 hours on the 4th of July celebration and came back and still no leakage or dripping. I had the expansion tank in my hands today when I went to Lowe's and it was $60 which would have been fine. The money part didn't bother me as much as the picture on the back showing what they referred to as the "standard installation". It showed copper pipe coming down from the PRV doing a 90 degree turn, then connecting to top of the expansion tank and then continuing off the picture. It didn't show where that other end went to. As you can see from my pictures, I simply don't have that much room in that coat closet size area for all of that which may explain why there was a virtual plethora of piping.

    Sorry that I keep using wrong terminology or not explaining myself well. I am not a plumber, nor do I claim to be. I replaced the round burner part at the bottom 2 years ago. No idea what the term for it is, but it took me a long time to put it in. But from my last ignorant comment, what I meant with the PRV was that I would test it monthly to test its functionality to make sure it's letting out pressure correctly. On top of the fact that I don't have the best of circumstances here.

    All in all, it appears that I have fixed the problem for now, but I will definitely take the suggestions I've heard here and try and get a plumber out somewhere in the near future to make sure I've done enough for the moment to avoid any problems. Adding drainage or an expansion tank would be my best bet to permanently fix the issue, but in all honesty I've been eyeing those tankless water heaters for a couple years now and that'll probably be the next move I make. But it will probably be a huge monetary issue because I'm willing to bet that the plumbing throughout the house won't be compatible or something. So for now, a PRV and PVC drain pipe solved the problem.

    I probably just opened up a big can of worms mentioning tankless to this crowd.:rolleyes:
  16. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,056
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    valve

    You have patched the symptoms, you have done nothing to cure the original problem.
  17. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    Well, the PRV is not often seen right at the water heater, and it does sort of cramp your style. But there is lots of room in the neighborhood, and a creative plumber would have it hooked up in no time, off to the side, and properly supported.
  18. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,387
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    It seems to me that you are confused about the T/P valve and the PRV valve. They are totally different devices. The T/P valve (Temperature/pressure) is the safety valve that every water heater, gas or electric, must have. It screws directly into either the top or the side of the heater, depending on the individual heater's design. This protects the heater from excessive temperature rise due to failure of the thermostat in the heater by opening to release the excess pressure in the tank and then closing when the pressure drops back to normal. The PRV or pressure regulator valve is a device that is installed in the incoming cold water supply line when the water supply pressure is too high. You set it and test it with a gauge. The PRV also prevents the pressure caused by normal water heating from being absorbed by the city water main. It is not a safety device. If your city water supply pressure is not over 60 psi (or close) you do not need a PRV. You always need a T/P valve. And, you should study the tankless issue in depth before you go that route. It is expensive and from most reports on this forum, not cost effective. In addition, reliability is questionable. I will repeat my previous advice: Get a professional plumber to look at your system. It's really screwed up and you are very possibly putting yourself and your family at risk.
  19. daddyslipdisk

    daddyslipdisk New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Ok,
    I'm going to call someone in. There has to be someone that will be reasonably priced that can help. Any inexpensive Gwinnett County, Georgia plumbers in the house? Many thanks for all of you helping with this and having to listen to me ramble when I have no idea what I'm talking about.:D
  20. humid1

    humid1 New Member

    Messages:
    4
    I replaced a leaky T&P valve and went for a couple of weeks before it started dripping again. Checked the water pressure and it was about 92 lbs with spikes up to 108 lbs (left gauge on for 24 hours). Had plumber install PRV in my supply line (pex) and dropped the pressure to 55 lbs. No expansion tank was installed. Is this required if a PRV is installed? Been six months and no leaks from T&P valve.
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