Condo needs help preventing electric hotwater heater leaks and damage

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by Clydesdale6, Jan 13, 2019.

  1. Clydesdale6

    Clydesdale6 New Member

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    I am on the Board at a condo and we have been plagued by electric hot water heaters leaking and damaging the units below. The HW heaters are in a small closet and most do not have pans under them, as there often isn't enough room for a pan. Any suggestions? Any alarms? Any other devices that may help prevent this from happening. I have a filter on my HW heater and the filter often turns pretty orange in 3 months. The HW heaters tend to rot out within 5-7 years. We are considering mandating some sort of solution. Suggestions? Thanks.
     
  2. phog

    phog Member

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    Hello, there are many leak detection systems available that will shut off the incoming water valve when a leak starts.

    All that is required is a catch pan installed under the water heater (which really should be there anyway), and an electrical outlet nearby for power. If a leak starts, a water detector in the catch pan will send a "close" signal to a servo motor that attaches to the inlet valve.

    These systems are not very difficult to install and relatively inexpensive. For example look at the Taco LeakBreaker or the Floodmaster systems.

    Incidentally, another common area for floods is clothes washer connections (rubber hook up hoses can burst). There are similar shutoff devices available for that as well.
     
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  4. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    Most all of the systems that can protect require a pan or dam of sorts to hold enough water from the leak to build up enough to trigger the device. There are some that can be glued around the tank so they don't have to be removed first to install one underneath.

    IMHO, probably the simplest device is www.wagsvalve.com - no power required, free damage insurance IF installed by a licensed plumber. No power, so it would still work during a power outage.

    While not 100% effective, some condo associations require owners to replace their WH at a particular schedule, regardless of whether they leak or not.
     
  5. Clydesdale6

    Clydesdale6 New Member

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    The wags looks interesting. Anybody have experience with this or another device?
     
  6. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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  7. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    There is probably no room but every condo water heater needs an expansion tank in addition to drip pans and alarms.


    Rochester NY area gets most, if not all of its water from Lake Ontario and in winter months it could be in the 30’s. That means a lot of expansion when the water is heated. https://www.weather.gov/buf/laketemp

    When I worked at Sears in Syracuse NY area, we also had extremely cold water. Customers coming in for a new water heater and all said the samething, they heard a Big Bang in the basement. It was the water heater literally cracking wide open, not a pin hole type leak.
     
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  8. phog

    phog Member

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    I'm not sure where in NY Clydesdale is from -- I'm the one in Rochester. Bet you miss those snowy, windy Syracuse winters haha ... not!

    But yes, very good point about the expansion tanks. It could be part of the reason for the short lifespan on the complex water heaters. Even if the incoming water temperature isn't 32.001 degrees like I'm pretty sure mine is right now ;-)
     
  9. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    I didn’t realized the location. I was looking at the avatar, however, most of NY state has cold water since lakes and reservoirs are mostly used. Long Island, NY has about the warmest water in the state because it is ground water.
     
  10. Clydesdale6

    Clydesdale6 New Member

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    I'm in Putnam County NY. About 1 hr north of NYC. There are many condos with just an electric HW heater.
     
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    An expansion tank never hurts, but may not help. Where I live, it is a code requirement, even if it technically doesn't 'help'. Most utility companies are installing check valves on their supplies to buildings, and once that is done, an ET is required or the tank's safety valve will often open because expanding water has no place to go. This may or may not be a huge issue in a big complex, because all it takes is one leaking valve, and that expansion might be released without raising the pressure.

    There are lots of water sensor alarms out there. There's a fair amount of valves that can close the incoming water to the tank after the sensor says there's a leak. The only one that I've found that does not require power is the WAGS valve. It DOES require a pan so that the water level can rise (3/4") to trigger it. Many of the water alarms will trip at a lower level. That assumes you have power to make them do something.

    Often, the simplest solution is also the most reliable. The WAGS valve is pretty simple. It's a one-shot deal...once triggered, it must be replaced. A water alarm should be tested periodically...how often do you think that will happen in a condo situation? Alarm fails, somebody unplugs it, or forgets to replace the battery, and no protection. That assumes that the valve works, too, which also requires power.
     
  12. phog

    phog Member

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    Don't multi-story condo complexes usally have check valves & vacuum breakers at each unit's service connection? (Each is a potential siphon point for grey water in the event of a mains pressure loss. )
     
  13. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Sensitivity trainer and plumber of mens souls

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    That Wags valve is a one time shot and I think its a joke in some ways... once it gets wet
    for any reason its done and you got to install a new one....

    I would find a metal man to fabricate a square pan to fit in that room then require the pan to
    be installed in every condo.... I am assuming that their is a drain in the room for the t+p valve??

    we had some expensive condos where the dumb ass builder did not install a drain at floor level
    for the electric heaters and they would break and flood the people below them.....
    We installed the heaters in a washing machine pan..... then we bought a small condensation pump
    and put that in the pan and piped it up to the drain near by.... if the pan got more than an inch of water
    in it then it would come on and pump the water out.... also their was a zircon water alarm in the pan...

    the biggest problem was no one cared about the folks below them.. I think they thought it was funny when
    they could dump on their wealthy neighbors and ruin their condos..... I guess some rich people think that way....

    you will have to mandate and force them to do this all at once and get a plumber to do them all at the same time or its gonna never get done....

    even if they are worth millions they wont spend a dime for this unless they are forced to....

    [​IMG]

    ?
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2019
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

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    The beauty of a WAGS valve is partly the fact that it is a one shot pony. It's quite simple and the tech is the same as that which inflates life vests that sit unused for potentially years underneath your airplane seat. They're reliable. No power, no batteries, it just works.

    An alarm is useless if someone is not home to hear it. And the less complicated, the better. Just don't pour water over it.
     
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  15. Clydesdale6

    Clydesdale6 New Member

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    Thank you to everyone for their input. Right now, we are looking at the Taco leakbreaker, WAGS and the DOME. I have seen mixed reviews on the Dome. It is simply a servo that attaches to your existing ball valve. When the sensor gets wet, the motor closes your existing valve. Any thoughts on this?
    https://www.domeha.com/z-wave-water-main-shut-off-valve
     
  16. phog

    phog Member

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    There are also other systems you could look into that retrofit onto an existing valve, such as Guardian. I can't give any advice on what system works the best, I don't have any experience. I will say that "universal" systems aren't always plug-and-play when you go to install them, and I mean this in general (not specific to plumbing). If the universal servo doesn't mate up to a certain brand of valve quite right & fails to close it all the way in a leak situation... You get the picture. But again, no experience here so I really am just speculating. Maybe the thing to do is ask the insurance company if they have an opinion, they're the ones who get to deal with the aftermath when things don't work right.
     
  17. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Sensitivity trainer and plumber of mens souls

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  18. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    I found the image of the sensor to be interesting. I suspect you could put two in parallel if your basement was not too damp.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida Broad-Wing Hawk

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    No matter what safety device is installed, there still is 30 or 40 gallons of water in the heater. Depending where the leak is it will over flow the drip pan. Definitely a pump and an alarm are needed.
     
  20. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    If you stopped the pressure, the drain on the pan should have no trouble keeping up with a leak.
     
  21. phog

    phog Member

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    It depends on where the tank leak forms, how big the hole is, and whether there are other leaks or open faucets elsewhere in the hot plumbing to let air in. For example if the leak is in the upper part of the tank then it can only drain down a little way. Also the vacuum lock principle applies for small openings -- like when you put your finger over the end of a straw and can pick up liquid until your finger lets go. But yes, an alarm is also a good idea! :D
     
    Last edited: Mar 3, 2019
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