Leaking Hot Water Heater

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Tired-n-dusty

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OK, I need your help. I am the the homeowner and have a 17 yr old AO Smith Hot Shot (GPSH50). About a week ago and again this morning I go to the basement and find about 1-2 gal of water on the concrete around the hot water heater. There is a small amount of water in one side of the pan but certainly not up to the level of the outflow pipe. It does look like water may have been discharged out of the pan outflow pipe into a sump pit. The first time it happened, I assumed it was from the pressure relief valve but I positioned a 5 gal basin beneath it and it was perfectly dry this morning after the 2nd event. I cannot find evidence where water is leaking from the pipes or anything on/near the top of the unit and the recently installed water softener next to it appears completely dry. I looked around in the burner cavity and it is dry there as well.

Is it likely the tank wall or something else internal? If the tank is leaking, why would it not leak regularly? It is strange that the 2 events are separated by about a week which made me suspicious of the water softener but it seems perfectly dry.

Thanks for any help
 

JG plumbing

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Since you've attached no pictures I'll guess. Do you have a vacuum breaker near?
 

Tired-n-dusty

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I do not see a vacuum breaker on the system anywhere near it. Here are a couple of photos. Original plumber had installed a recirc system that we have left shut off for years. Here are a couple of photos.
 

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JG plumbing

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Here's my chance to tell you you should run the circulator. It's going to help keep mold from growing in your extra piping.

What is that above the cold water valve?

To be clear you said you put a bucket under the relief valve pipe?
 

JG plumbing

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The shape of the wet spot looks like it came from the softener.
 

Tired-n-dusty

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The thing in question above the cold water shut off is a stubbed out pipe with a cap. Not sure why it is like that.
Yes, I placed a low profile milking bucket under the pressure relief pipe and was dry as a bone inside the bucket.

On the recirc pump, we will have it removed when we replace the hot water heater.

With it happening about a week apart, I was wondering if there is some programmed flush or something that could be responsible. However, in checking the fittings and around the unit I could not find any moisture or traces where it had been. Also, unless it was spraying, I don't know how moisture got into the pan under the heater.
 

JG plumbing

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Good point.

Even having the circulator removed isn't going to help you. You still have a likley very long stretch of pipe sitting there stagnant in your sytem. Not good for your health.

What is above all of it? Meaning the ceiling. Is the leak coming from above from a drainage pipe?
 

JG plumbing

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Dumb question. Is the water coming from the other direction? Like up the pan drainage pipe?

Flying blind and trying to help.
 

Tired-n-dusty

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OK, just to provide an update, the source of the leak was discovered and was not the hot water heater. Because the two incidents were separated by about a week, I contacted the plumber who installed the softener. He talked me through initiating the cycles of the softener and lo and behold we found that while the softener was not the source, it was the trigger. At about the same time as the softener install, he installed a lift pump in what I earlier called a sump pit about 3 feet behind the water heater. The reservoir was installed for a future bathroom in the basement (which we have never built) when we built the house . We had a few problems with percolation of water/condensation from AC/furnace/hot water heater/dehumidifier into the crushed rock under the slab (pipe installed thru slab for this purpose). Because of this, he diverted the lines for condensate and ran the flush line for the softener over to the pit and installed the lift pump. Turns out that he or his assistant did not tighten a hose clamp on a one-way valve installed above the lift pump.

As were walking through the softener cycles, when the lift pump turned on from the accumulation of flush water from the softener, the water started spraying from where the flex hose had pushed off the one-way valve. Of course when the pump stopped its pumping cycle, the hose and pipe above it sat right back down on the valve and appeared as though everything was intact. We were not finding the resultant puddles of water until much of the area around the pit had dried so it seemed as though it was coming from the hot water heater area where it had puddled.

Easy and cheap fix but also realize that water heater may have a limited life still available to us.

Thanks for all of your help
 

JG plumbing

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I am happy you figured out it. The more we went through it the more I suspected something nearby.
 
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