New water heater gas leak AND other leaks; are they related?

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by RustyNails, Feb 16, 2020.

  1. RustyNails

    RustyNails New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2016
    Location:
    O'Fallon, Missouri
    Short version: I had a new gas water heater installed last week, which resulted in a big gas leak from the water heater and in checking that out the gas company also found leaks from the furnace and our gas fireplace. The furnace had had an annual inspection/maintenance recently, and a tech who came out to fix the furnace leak told me it may have been related to work done installing the water heater. Could the work also have affected the gas line to my fireplace? If so, since this company does not fix fireplaces, I'd want to argue that they should reimburse me for hiring a company that does. As of now, the gas line to my fireplace is turned off.

    Full explanation:

    I got a new gas water heater put in last week, and after they left I smelled gas (didn't smell it until later when I left the house and came back, I smelled it only after I'd been outside awhile and away from the scent that I must have grown used to). I called the gas company, who detected that lines wouldn't hold pressure and cut off gas to the house. This was after hours, and when I called the plumbing company that put in the water heater they said they would send someone out the next afternoon (even though I asked if someone could come that night, they said no).

    So, turns out there was what one tech called a "massive leak" that was in a Reducing T which I was told "was above the work" the installers put in with the new water heater. Basically, something was loose that they had to turn three times (which they indicated was a lot) to close, but they made it sound like that must've been loose all along with the old water, even though there was no gas leak before. I wondered if it was really something they should have tightened or at least checked when they put in the new water heater, but I have no knowledge of these things.

    So, a different man from the gas company came back out to check it all after they fixed the leak in the water heater, and he worked in concert with the plumbing techs who were still there. NOW he also found a leak in a control valve of the furnace (which the hvac arm of this company had just conducted an annual maintenance check on a few weeks earlier, and which we had purchased from them 2 years ago), AND a leak from the gas fireplace line somehow. Note the gas man who came earlier had not isolated the leaks, just that there was a loss of pressure in the lines, so all three areas were probably leaking from the time the new gas water heater was installed. The question is, did the installation cause all three leaks?

    After the water heater gas leak was fixed by the plumbing guys, an hvac tech from that company came out the next day, and found and fixed a small leak in the furnace control valve. He said it was possible this was caused by work when the water heater was put in, maybe some tugging or something and it was loosened. I was not charged for any of these return visits.

    What I didn't think to ask at the time was, could the installation of the water heater also have affected the gas line to the fireplace upstairs? This company does not do fireplaces, so I have to call someone else and probably pay a good bit to repair the problem with the fireplace. If it's likely or possible that this leak is also related to the installation of the water heater, I should probably call the company and argue they should pay for the fireplace repairs. Right now I can't use the fireplace at all, the gas to it is turned off.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2020
  2. phog

    phog Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2017
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Do you know where exactly the gas fireplace leak is? It is unlikely if not impossible that tugging on gas lines can cause a leak far away from where the water heater got installed. But if the fireplace line branches off relatively close to where they worked on the water heater pipes & if the leak is also close to that spot then it is possible.

    By the way 3 turns is *definitely* a lot. It sounds like someone did extremely crappy (even dangerous) work a long time ago. Your contractor really should have leak checked any fittings they potentially jostled during the gas plumbing during their work -- even if it wasn't fittings they directly worked on, it's still good practice. But 3 turns loose is so bad; it could have been quite far away and the tiniest of stress could have opened up the seal. My guess is that none of this is the fault of your contractor & they did you solid by fixing anything even remotely related to their work.

    Assuming the leak with the fireplace is a long distance away from the water heater I'd be more inclined to call the company that installed the fireplace line. A gas line properly installed should never leak, and if it's only been 2 years and yours is leaking that is something they should address.

    (Of course it that leak also turns out to be right near the water heater then I'd be irate with the water heater installer. )
     
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  4. RustyNails

    RustyNails New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2016
    Location:
    O'Fallon, Missouri
    Thanks for the reply. The gas line from the fireplace is down with the other gas appliances, I'm not sure where it comes out but I would imagine it's near the rest? The fireplace is in the vicinity of being generally above and off to the side of the other gas items downstairs. The furnace and water heater are inches away from each other and I would guess the line to the fireplace is near them. I have mobility issues and so didn't go down the stairs to have them show me all of this at the time, wish I had asked for photos but didn't think of it -- there was just so much going on, and a lot to take in, all involving equipment and terms that I'm not expert in. The gas fireplace is more than 2 years old - it was in place when we bought the house nearly 8 years ago. The furnace is the one that's 2 years old.

    I don't know where the leak is - the man from the gas company says he wouldn't be surprised if it turned out to be in the fireplace control valve, but he doesn't know. I guess I can just get it repaired, and if the fireplace company says the leak was downstairs in a line that is near or connecting to the water heater, then I could call the water heater company and plead my case that they should pay?
     
  5. phog

    phog Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2017
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    Ahh, I misunderstood the age of the fireplace, and therefore since it's older I suspect the gas company employee is correct. The leak is most likely in the fireplace valve. They don't last forever. (Sometimes with the pilot light type of gas fireplace you don't even know you have a valve problem for a really long time, also the leak can be tiny and the gas company will still see it). I think your repair plan is fine, just ask whoever fixes the fireplace to take pictures or show you exactly where the leak is so you know. Good luck!
     
  6. RustyNails

    RustyNails New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2016
    Location:
    O'Fallon, Missouri
    Great, thanks so much for your help! It's really hard to determine whether or not a company may have made a mistake that caused other problems when you know nothing about the installation of those appliances, so thank you!
     
  7. RustyNails

    RustyNails New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2016
    Location:
    O'Fallon, Missouri
    Urgh, called three fireplace companies, all got uncomfortable when I told them the gas company had shut off the line to the fireplace and said they didn't do anything with gas lines. When I told them the gas man said it was probably something with the control valve in the fireplace, they said they could test that, but weren't super reassuring about if they could verify for me there were no other leaks on the gas line to the fireplace itself. AND it was gonna be $200 to come do tests, tests that are really inside the fireplace and not the line from the basement as well, and $376 MORE if it needed a new control valve. So, maybe not gonna do that right now.
     
  8. phog

    phog Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2017
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    If you have a hand isolation valve for the gas fireplace (usually there is one, by code, just upstream of the fireplace), maybe you could shut that off and have the gas company verify that the rest of the line is not leaking up to the isolation valve. (I'm not sure if the gas company is going to want to do that though, unless your gas lines are all still shut off and they have to revisit you to remove red tags, but hey it's worth a shot

    Isolation valve often looks like this & is installed in the floor next to the fireplace (you only see the shiny circle part that the key fits into, the valve body is down below the floor)
    dante-globe-gas-valve-key-and-floor-plate-kit-straight-polished-brass-finish-47.jpeg

    If you can convince the gas company to check you again with the isolation valve closed, it would tell you if it is the gas line or the fireplace itself. And if you can isolate that it's the fireplace & not the gas supply line you will have an easier time finding someone to fix it reasonably.

    To have a potential a leak in a gas line, the fireplace contractor just thinks "hard job, risk of call-back, do i really want to do this?". Instead if it's just a standard fireplace repair visit (service call + install parts) that's more normal to them & is going to be your least expensive option. It's still not going to be cheap though, the fireplace control valve assemblies can be pricey $100+ or more and that doesn't even include the labor.

    Sorry for the bad news.
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
  9. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Sensitivity trainer and plumber of mens souls

    Joined:
    Feb 6, 2005
    Occupation:
    Sensitivity trainer.. plumber of mens souls
    Location:
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of
    Usually once you call the gas company its always gonna be big trouble... they just shut you down and
    then every leak in the home has to be repaired.... Many homes have minor or micro gas leaks
    that you cant even smell and have been leaking for decades, you just cant smell them
    but it wont pass a pressure test.....

    Unless you had a bunch of morons installing the water heater and literally banging and shaking
    all the lines in the home , the other gas leaks were probably already there.... you just did not know it

    we recently had a small gas leak on a water heater control and the gas company came out
    and shut them down....
    it turned out that their were over 10 other gas leaks found throughout the home...

    No one was to really to blame as the leak on the gas valve was a defective part
    that we changed out under warranty....
    This gas system was rock solid throughout and leaks were found well over
    25 feet away and even behind walls ...
    the gas repair guy had a long day finding and repairing them
    and this bill went to the homeowner , not on me.....
     
  10. RustyNails

    RustyNails New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2016
    Location:
    O'Fallon, Missouri
    Thanks, I may just call the gas company back and just see if they can ask that tech they sent out to explain it more fully -- I can't read all of his handwritting in the comments on the form he left, but it does show an id number for that tech. Have him explain exactly the problem he found, and what he did to find it (one gas company assumed he had checked the control valve, but he didn't check anything in the fireplace itself). At the time he left, he indicated as sort of an unofficial aside that I could turn the gas line to the fireplace back on if I wanted to, but that he was required to leave it off due to the fact it was losing pressure. Which to me implies it was a small leak but A) I don't know how to turn the gas line back on from downstairs which is where I think he did it, and B) now that I know there's a leak he turned off, no matter how small, I wouldn't feel comfortable turning it back on until a professional checked it out. And it's not clear to me what professional checks it out if the fireplace companies don't (other than having the gas company back out, and I'm almost afraid to let them loose in my home again lest they find more small leaks that aren't consequential, but turn the gas off anyway).

    The price if it were a problem in the control valve at the fireplace, which the gas man said it probably was, would mean nearly $600 all in, for the inspection and then replacement. That's certain. I feel a bit stunned still, at the price, and because the fireplace companies seemed to want zero to do with the lines leading to the fireplace, making it kind of hard to get this checked out and fixed. So I think I just need to figure out what exactly the gas man says the fireplace company would have to do to verify all is well, then save that info for later, 'cause I just can't see paying out another $600 now after the cost of a new water heater (and some other recent expenses).

    Actually, the city comes out this week to do the required inspection after a gas water heater install. I wonder if they could explain to me about the fireplace, or if I'd just be opening up a can of worms telling them about another problem in the house?
     
    Last edited: Feb 17, 2020
  11. RustyNails

    RustyNails New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2016
    Location:
    O'Fallon, Missouri
    Thanks, and I get what you mean about the many little leaks. It sounded to me like the leak in the line to the fireplace was minor, but once the gas man detected it, he had to flag it and shut it down. And I wouldn't be comfortable not having it checked out now that he flagged it if I planned to turn the gas back on to the fireplace. Just having a hard time finding a company that says they can actually check the line and also fix the problem in the fireplace itself, if that's where it is. And the price is hefty for the most likely repair needed as is. If I'd never called the gas company, I'd still be using my fireplace without problem I'm sure. But we had to call due to the gas smell, and it was good that we did as it was a good-sized leak on the water heater.

    Actually, the city comes out this week to do the required inspection after a gas water heater install. I wonder if they could explain to me more about the fireplace line leak, or if I'd just be opening up a can of worms telling them about another problem in the house while they are there to just check the water heater?
     
  12. phog

    phog Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2017
    Location:
    Rochester NY
    I wouldn't mention it to the city inspector, more chance of blowback than help. I agree with everything Mark said above including the micro leak possibility (probability). However gas is the one thing that scares me most and I can't suggest that you just go back to using the fireplace as before -- too much risk. And without being at your house and seeing it I'm just some guy on the internet with an opinion ;)
     
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