Electric Water Heater Issues

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Modrob

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installed a new electric water heater a little more than a year ago. Lately I’ve noticed some days it’ll drip a little, (TP valve) and some days it drips/leaks quite a bit more. Only two of us in the house, but sometimes I hear it make “noise”, as if a shower was running. But no water running anywhere. Also, lately when feeling the lines at the top, the Cold line has some warmth to it for about a foot or two, and the Hot line is warm/hotter.
I’ve exercised the TP valve several times, but no change. I’m going to install a new valve tomorrow and see what happens.
(Thermostats set on 120, 40 gal. Tall tank...original 30 gal. model didn’t have an expansion tank, I didn’t put one in)
Any ideas?
Thanks much.
 

Reach4

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Put in the expansion tank.

If you want to get motivated first, get a garden hose thread pressure gauge. Take a hot shower, and then stop using water totally. Watch the pressure gauge as the water heater heats the new water. If you can't readily watch the gauge while somebody else showers, take a movie of the gauge as you shower. Expect the pressure to rise to about 150 psi.

When you shut off the shower, use no water. Do not flush the toilet. Don't use any water, because a small trickle will release the expanded water that raises the pressure.
 

Modrob

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Thanks much for the guidance.
Where exactly would I connect the pressure gauge? (I hope that’s not stupid question but I tend to be so analytical to a fault lol)
Any idea why this is happening now, since it’s almost the very same setup as before? (was 30 gallons, couldn’t find one then, so used a 40 gal.) Plus, in past years over my 3 or 4 DIY replacements, I had never heard of expansion tanks and all installs performed fine... Only in the past year have I found info on them...
The “warm” Cold line nearest the tank connector concerns me a little. I know there are check valves installed in the tank nipples, so shouldn’t that prevent any hot water into the Cold line?
Thanks again.
 

Reach4

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Where exactly would I connect the pressure gauge? (I hope that’s not stupid question but I tend to be so analytical to a fault lol)
Laundry tap, water heater drain valve, or hose spigot. They will all see pretty much the same pressure.
 

Modrob

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Reach4...again thanks for your help.
Rereading your answer and I’m trying to grasp a little more of what’s actually happening...
So, during/after hot water use, the tank is replacing the used water, and the heating of the tank again is raising pressure. When you say to “expect 150 psi”, is that a normal reading during the process? And then, by not turning on any water, the pressure mostly remains in the tank, and then could be pushing out some drops by the TP valve?
 

Reach4

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So, during/after hot water use, the tank is replacing the used water, and the heating of the tank again is raising pressure.
During water use, the pressure is not rising, because water is coming out of the showerhead, faucet, etc. Only after water use stops can the pressure rise.
When you say to “expect 150 psi”, is that a normal reading during the process?
150 psi is the pressure that the temperature and pressure relief valve is expected to release water to limit pressure.

And then, by not turning on any water, the pressure mostly remains in the tank, and then could be pushing out some drops by the TP valve?
Water expands as it is heated. If there is no place to go, pressure rises very fast. There is some elasticity in piping, but not a lot. Pressure will be the same pretty much throughout the system.
 

Modrob

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Whoa! I put a gauge on the tank drain valve (read 140 psi then) and did the shower. During the shower, the gauge read a constant 50psi. But when shutoff, the reading went quickly back up to 130-140 psi.
Another note—my wife’s late husband built every bit of this place and he did many things in what I’d call an “unorthodox” way. (Started as a single-wide trailer and has ended up a huge, sprawling place with wiring and plumbing having me scratching my head many times to figure out) For some reason, he ran 3/8” copper to and from the water tank. The original 30 gal tank failed more than a year ago and I replaced it, but kept the plumbing intact, since it has been working for several years...
 

Modrob

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I’m sure there’s a pressure regulator SOMEWHERE...I’ll have to go dig for that. Maybe that regulator needs replaced?
 

Reach4

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Whoa! I put a gauge on the tank drain valve (read 140 psi then) and did the shower. During the shower, the gauge read a constant 50psi. But when shutoff, the reading went quickly back up to 130-140 psi.
Another note—my wife’s late husband built every bit of this place and he did many things in what I’d call an “unorthodox” way. (Started as a single-wide trailer and has ended up a huge, sprawling place with wiring and plumbing having me scratching my head many times to figure out) For some reason, he ran 3/8” copper to and from the water tank. The original 30 gal tank failed more than a year ago and I replaced it, but kept the plumbing intact, since it has been working for several years...
Not the result I expected, but it turned out to be a worthwhile test. I agree with your diagnosis. Replace or rebuild the PRV.

Do you have a whole-house shut-off valve? If so, start your search there.

Also, look near where the hose bibs split from the other piping. Is this split-off before or after the PRV? If the pressure at the outdoor sillcock stays high when you run water inside, then the PRV is after the split.

Also look around the water meter. Is there a second utility box near the water meter? Look in there. Or maybe in the same box as the water meter.

I expect you will also need a thermal expansion tank.
 

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Not the result I expected, but it turned out to be a worthwhile test. I agree with your diagnosis. Replace or rebuild the PRV.

Do you have a whole-house shut-off valve? If so, start your search there.

Also, look near where the hose bibs split from the other piping. Is this split-off before or after the PRV? If the pressure at the outdoor sillcock stays high when you run water inside, then the PRV is after the split.

Also look around the water meter. Is there a second utility box near the water meter? Look in there. Or maybe in the same box as the water meter.

I expect you will also need a thermal expansion tank.
I found it! Right smack next to the meter in the ground! LOL...
We live in a rural area, but are served by a small town public service district. The meter is waaaaaay down the hill from the house. I made several trips back and forth, trying different things. End result is: barely cracking the main supply, all spigots jump to 130-140. Changing the set screw on the Reducer/Regulator makes maybe a 5-10 lb difference, if that much. Still, 130-140 readings. So I’ve called in the “big dogs” from the little company. Hopefully they’ll be around shortly and I’ll update again.
Thanks again.
 

Modrob

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Well, no one from Water company showed today. So I’m gonna go ahead and install the expansion tank in the meantime, and maybe tomorrow they’ll show...
 

Jeff H Young

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For us everything on customer side of meter is ours to repair and maintain , and pay for, but learned there are places that are very different with utilities either way with that kind of pressure a expansion tank is in order
 

Modrob

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Of course, the Water Dept didn’t make it by...even though the desk lady made it an important call because of the high pressure...
Well, got the expansion tank installed, and after turning water back on, it acted like it was more normal—gauges were slow coming up, but after about a minute or two they (one gauge on an outside spigot, and one on the tank drain) kept building, going to 140-150 and fluctuating between. I can open an inside faucet and pressure will drop, but after shutoff, the pressure goes right back up...
I believe the pressure regulator they installed next to the dial/meter in the ground is bad. Maybe they’ll get by here early tomorrow...
 

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Of course, the Water Dept didn’t make it by...even though the desk lady made it an important call because of the high pressure...
Well, got the expansion tank installed, and after turning water back on, it acted like it was more normal—gauges were slow coming up, but after about a minute or two they (one gauge on an outside spigot, and one on the tank drain) kept building, going to 140-150 and fluctuating between. I can open an inside faucet and pressure will drop, but after shutoff, the pressure goes right back up...
I believe the pressure regulator they installed next to the dial/meter in the ground is bad. Maybe they’ll get by here early tomorrow...
You have the option of putting another PRV in series. You could insert that after the hose spigots split off. Maybe have the one at the street set to 70 psi and the one driving most of the house at 50 psi.

https://www.sharkbite.com/products/eb45-direct-sharkbite-pressure-regulating-valve-prv is one option. It can retrofit into 3/4 or 1 inch copper.

If you did have a second prv in series, you would like to have a place to put a pressure gauge before and after.
You also may want to consider a whole-house shutoff valve other than the valve at the street.
 

Dana

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A PRV is not full pressure regulator, since it has no ability to relieve pressure when the output side is at a higher pressure than the street's water pressure. It will only reduce the pressure in one flow direction, which is when the supply coming in from the street is at a higher pressure than the system pressure in the house. When water is flowing in the house it does exactly that- as pressure drops inside the house due to flow the PRV begins to open up as soon as the house pressure drops to the adjustment point on the PRV, allowing more water to enter to keep the house pressure from dropping completely. As flow increases the pressure in the house continue to drop, but PRV compensates by opening up even further, limiting the drop of pressure in the house.

But if/when the house pressure goes higher than the adjustment pressure due to the expansion of water in the water heater it doesn't/can't send water back to the street (or anywhere else) to relieve that pressure. Adding a second PRV will not fix any static pressure issues, but may give you a more convenient location for adjusting the (dynamic) pressure inside the homes water distribution plumbing. If you have adequate flow the the existing PRV adjusted where it is, just leave it- lest one steal a defeat from the jaws of (partial) victory.

The "right" solution is to install an expansion tank, pre-charged to something close to the PRVs setpoint pressure under flow (which sounds like ~50 psi, if that's what it measures when the shower is flowing), sized correctly for the water volume and temperature swing expected in the water heater. An expansion tank will take up water volume as the water expands, with only a very modest increase of static pressure in the system. The expansion tank can go just about anywhere on the system and still work, as long as it isn't valve-isolated from the water heater.
 

Modrob

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Wow! Reach and Dana—you guys are the best! Thanks for taking time to try and explain things to me. Dana—I’ll have to find a quiet spot/time and see if I can steer my feeble aging brain to delve deeper into your explanation. That’s what I like—the how’s and why’s of how things work...
Water Dept showed today and immediately replaced the Regulator beside the in-ground meter. He said they were pretty common here to go bad in a few years. I thought he said the new one was rated at 70 psi, and like all the other customers requested, he turned it up to around 75 psi. I ran up to the house and we now showed about 75 psi with water running, and when all off, it went up to a stable 90 psi.
He said was fine...It’s been stable now all day.
And, I had installed the Expansion tank last night so that’s all good. I do question one thing about that—it’s factory set with 40 psi...do I need to add more to it to equalize something?
 

Modrob

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Oh , and yes, I figured yesterday that adding a Regulator inside would be extra insurance...it’ll be a bit of a devil to squeeze it in somewhere—you should see the plumbing setup here! The late husband was a genius in so many areas, but many times he did things “his way”...
Originally well system was here, but when a city ran a line near, they hooked up. He left the well system intact, but separate. If for some reason the well was needed again, then cutting off one valve, coupling a hose from the well system to a house input spigot, and back in business. All this mess is in a cellar room in the basement, with the output line going through another basement wall into middle room. There a conditioning system is plumbed in-place for the well water, with more lines and gauges feeding house and a washer in the basement middle room. It’s a pretty crazy hookup to me, but after I finally grasped his intentions, I like it. (Probably not up to today’s “standards” but he tended to over engineer his systems lol) Lots more detail about what we have here, but I’ll give it a rest—I’m sure y’all have seen similar things LOL.
Thanks again.
 

Jeff H Young

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Mod Rob, Just wondering Why would you choose to install a new PRV if the water company is installing one for free? just because they are late? call them back is my advice
 

Modrob

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Mod Rob, Just wondering Why would you choose to install a new prv if the water company is installing one for free? just because they are late? call them back is my advice
Hey Jeff...
A second unit would be for added security/protection, and at the time I didn’t know much about how this small-town utility worked. But they did make it yesterday. The young man was pretty good at his job and explained some details to us about our area. As I said, we are in a rural area, basically up in a “holler” about two miles. We have some neighbors fairly close and all are on this fairly new line, which runs through some mountain territory, so it presents some challenges. Our meter is alongside the single-lane road with our line running uphill about 500 feet into the house... The fellow didn’t know what normal pressure on their side should be at our exact location, but he added that having an inside PRV would be good idea, as so many others here have done so. Also, their supplied units tend to only last 2-4 years. In fact, when he showed up, he immediately brought out a new one and installed—said that usually fixed many of the problems in our area...
And yes, I had called them back on the second day just to me sure we weren’t missed. Turns out the one fellow had been swamped and got to us as quickly as he could. (Second PRV would have helped calm my fears while waiting lol)
 
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