Author Topic: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?  (Read 1286 times)

slackmax

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1044
Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« on: January 09, 2022, 04:41:07 PM »
Just noticed some rust bubbling up under the paint on the bottom of my 5 year old electric Rheem Performance 50 gallon water heater.

Let me point out first that it has always leaked a tiny bit when showering, but only from the drain spout.  There is no leak from the bubbly paint area.   

I think what has happened is that the leak from the spout has oozed down the side of the tank, and into a tight seam that goes all around the circumference of the bottom of the unit. Ugh. Never noticed this before. There is white powdery stuff coming up out of the seam, and the paint is bubbling up at one small place at the seam. Over the last 5 years water has been getting into this seam and causing the rust and corrosion.   

I supposedly can fix the  tiny slow leak at the spout by replacing it with a metal version.  The current spout is plastic and won't tighten up completely. Seems to be stripped. It was that way right out of the box, and I just lived with it. I put a pan under it.   

Apparently there are two tanks on a water heater. An inner tank and an outer tank. Holes or corrosion in the outer tank don't cause leaks, but holes and corrosion in the inner tank will. 

Any way this rust on the outer tank can cause a problem?


Thanks   



 
   

Dicey

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 18705
  • Age: 64
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #1 on: January 09, 2022, 10:15:02 PM »
DH says there really aren't two tanks. There's a housing with a tank inside and insulation in between. He says he would turn the water off, drain the tank, replace the valve*, (plastic or metal), seal the threads with Teflon tape and sealant. If you want to post some pictures, he says that might help. Good luck!

*He says it's actually a hose bib, not a spout, but it looks like a valve.

sonofsven

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 908
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2022, 06:13:11 AM »
It's tough to say if it will lead to a tank failure or not with any confidence. Drain the tank, replace the drain, and monitor.

Check the water as it drains for evidence of scale or mineral deposits. The last time I drained mine I found a bunch of chalky white mineral deposits. I moved it to the porch and flushed it multiple times and used a stiff wire to break up the deposits so they would drain through the hole.
I replaced the dip tube and the anode rod, but at five years old you're probably ok.

uniwelder

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 981
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Appalachian Virginia
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #3 on: January 10, 2022, 06:34:23 AM »
If its really just the outer sheet metal housing, it doesn't seem like a problem to me.  I assume you have the water heater lifted off the drain pan a bit so it isn't sitting in any stagnant water from the overflow.

Check the water as it drains for evidence of scale or mineral deposits. The last time I drained mine I found a bunch of chalky white mineral deposits. I moved it to the porch and flushed it multiple times and used a stiff wire to break up the deposits so they would drain through the hole.
I replaced the dip tube and the anode rod, but at five years old you're probably ok.

+1 for replacing the anode rod, though it doesn't sound like its related to your problem.  I'm told water heaters are warrantied for as long as the anode is expected to last.  I think the lifespan depends on mineral content of the water in your area.  When the anode rod is consumed, it produces that white chalky sediment you'll see when the tank is drained.  In our house with well water, I checked the anode rod when we moved in and after 5 years it looked barely used.  In our old house with city water, it fell apart when I removed it after 5 years.

To remove the anode, keep the water heater full, as the extra weight will help.  From the manufacturer, they seem to be in super tight and I've needed to secure the water heater in place sometimes, plus needed to attach an extension (and ruin my socket wrench) or use a breaker bar for the 1 1/16" socket.  Use non-hardening thread paste or teflon wrap when you put the new one in.  Anode rods can be purchased online or at a plumbing supply store.  They're usually surprised when I come in looking for one because nobody ever replaces it.  They just get ignored and $500 is spent for a new water heater instead of $30 part.

slackmax

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1044
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #4 on: January 10, 2022, 06:52:02 PM »
Thanks for the responses, guys.

Yes, the heater is mounted on 3 bricks.

About the anode rod. I tried to get one out of my previous water heater, and gave up. I also destroyed one of my wrenches on it. I think I'll leave this one alone. When I tried to buy one years ago at Home Depot, they didn't even know what it was. But they said they could order one, and that no one ever buys them.   

I have already put some teflon tape on the threads of the plastic spout and screwed it back in, when I installed it 5 years ago. Still leaked. 

When it's warmer I will see what happens if I tighten it up another half turn, or maybe more.  Right now I'm afraid it will just strip and start leaking more, lol.

If the extra tightening doesn't fix it, I'll drain it and put a new drain spout in.

Will try to install new spout with water flowing out first, so I don't have to waste 50 gallons, and reheat it all.

I did drain about a gallon out today, and it was all very clear. Zero rust color or sediment.

Good to hear that if indeed it is only the external metal that is rusting, I probably don't have to worry.

 

Sibley

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6303
  • Location: Northwest Indiana
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #5 on: January 11, 2022, 08:52:02 AM »
Slackmax, you're throwing good teflon after bad.

Replace the drain. You know it leaks, it has leaked, you've tried the tape and tighten thing. You've had this thing for 5 years, of course you've tried it. Time to replace it.

zolotiyeruki

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4774
  • Location: State: Denial
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #6 on: January 12, 2022, 06:51:38 PM »
Yeah, rust on the outside is nothing to worry about.

I highly recommend replacing the anode.  Have you ever wondered what the difference is between water heaters with 6-year warranties vs 9-year or 12-year?  It's literally just the warranty.  They're the same water heater.  The ones with a longer warranty *might* have a longer anode rod in them.  As long as you replace the anode rod every several years, your water heater should last a very, very long time.

slackmax

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1044
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #7 on: January 13, 2022, 08:37:03 AM »
Yeah, rust on the outside is nothing to worry about.

I highly recommend replacing the anode.  Have you ever wondered what the difference is between water heaters with 6-year warranties vs 9-year or 12-year?  It's literally just the warranty.  They're the same water heater.  The ones with a longer warranty *might* have a longer anode rod in them.  As long as you replace the anode rod every several years, your water heater should last a very, very long time.

I like the idea of preventive maintenance with replacing the anode rod, but I'm afraid the enormous torque required will damage the heater somehow.

As I mentioned, I tried to remove the anode in my previous water heater, and it would not budge. The entire heater rotated on its base, but I couldn't make the anode budge. Broke a ratchet wrench. How does anyone get it out, anyway? What's the secret? How do you keep the heater motionless as you torque down on the anode threads?

And why do professionals never do anything with the anode rod? Because they want to replace heaters, maybe, lol?   

sonofsven

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 908
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #8 on: January 13, 2022, 08:41:39 AM »
Yeah, rust on the outside is nothing to worry about.

I highly recommend replacing the anode.  Have you ever wondered what the difference is between water heaters with 6-year warranties vs 9-year or 12-year?  It's literally just the warranty.  They're the same water heater.  The ones with a longer warranty *might* have a longer anode rod in them.  As long as you replace the anode rod every several years, your water heater should last a very, very long time.

I like the idea of preventive maintenance with replacing the anode rod, but I'm afraid the enormous torque required will damage the heater somehow.

As I mentioned, I tried to remove the anode in my previous water heater, and it would not budge. The entire heater rotated on its base, but I couldn't make the anode budge. Broke a ratchet wrench. How does anyone get it out, anyway? What's the secret? How do you keep the heater motionless as you torque down on the anode threads?

And why do professionals never do anything with the anode rod? Because they want to replace heaters, maybe, lol?   

I removed my heater and put it on my front porch and attached it to a post with three ratchet straps.
I sprayed kroil on the threads and used an 18" wrench with a four foot or so pipe extension on it.
It was either going to break, or loosen. It loosened.

slackmax

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1044
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #9 on: January 13, 2022, 09:00:25 AM »
Yeah, rust on the outside is nothing to worry about.

I highly recommend replacing the anode.  Have you ever wondered what the difference is between water heaters with 6-year warranties vs 9-year or 12-year?  It's literally just the warranty.  They're the same water heater.  The ones with a longer warranty *might* have a longer anode rod in them.  As long as you replace the anode rod every several years, your water heater should last a very, very long time.

I like the idea of preventive maintenance with replacing the anode rod, but I'm afraid the enormous torque required will damage the heater somehow.

As I mentioned, I tried to remove the anode in my previous water heater, and it would not budge. The entire heater rotated on its base, but I couldn't make the anode budge. Broke a ratchet wrench. How does anyone get it out, anyway? What's the secret? How do you keep the heater motionless as you torque down on the anode threads?

And why do professionals never do anything with the anode rod? Because they want to replace heaters, maybe, lol?   

I removed my heater and put it on my front porch and attached it to a post with three ratchet straps.
I sprayed kroil on the threads and used an 18" wrench with a four foot or so pipe extension on it.
It was either going to break, or loosen. It loosened.

That is impressive !  I may end up doing something like that. I have sharktooth fittings on it, so it would be fairly easy to move the water heater.   

I think I remember asking a plumber about  anode rods, and he said it depends on the chemical content of the water, and that the water around here, which comes from a reservoir,  does not corrode the anodes very fast, which is good.
Which may be why no one replaces them, or even knows about them, ha ha.     

zolotiyeruki

  • Magnum Stache
  • ******
  • Posts: 4774
  • Location: State: Denial
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #10 on: January 13, 2022, 10:01:09 AM »
I used a large monkey wrench, and a lot of grunting and straining, to get mine off.  There was nothing left of the original anode rod, so I'm glad I didn't wait any longer.

Why don't pros do it more often?  I dunno.  I've never had a quote for a replacement.  Honestly, though, installation doesn't seem like a huge deal--two (new, clean, rust-and-mineral-free, easy to work) water connections, one electrical connection, and one gas connection, all of which are already in place

Dicey

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 18705
  • Age: 64
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #11 on: January 13, 2022, 10:10:48 AM »
I thought of this thread when I noticed standing water around the water heater in our garage yesterday. Turns out it is a sewer blockage and the water was coming from the adjacent bathroom. DH worked for two hours with his 100' drain auger, but couldn't locate any blockage, which is weird. Plumber is coming today. Eeps. Fortunately the water was clear and not er, chunky. I'll be washing all the dog towels with bleach when the plumber gets finished.

slackmax

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1044
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2022, 11:15:05 AM »
Dicey, hope that worked out OK for you.

Update on my situation:  I put some waterproof tape on the side of the water heater where the drip was seeping inside the sheet metal seam on the outside of the water heater. 

So now the water still drips out of the usual place, but instead of seeping into the sheet metal, and rusting it out some more, it keeps going downhill over the tape and into the collection pan below.

I love it!

I know I still have to replace the stripped(?) spigot in the Spring or Summer though, lol. 

 

uniwelder

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 981
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Appalachian Virginia
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2022, 12:11:19 PM »
Slackmax, I was reading through your posting again.  You say you notice water leaking after you take a shower.  Do you have an expansion tank in the plumbing system?  If there's a check valve (required by code) in the water main, and you use a lot of hot water at once (shower, laundry, dishwater, etc), as the incoming cold water gets heated it will increase the pressure in your plumbing system, unless there's a tank to absorb that volume. 

Could be the increase in pressure, and thats why you notice leaking at some times but not others.  When you eventually dig into this later in the year, maybe put an expansion tank (unless there is one already) on your list of things to do, beside the drain valve and anode rod.

slackmax

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1044
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #14 on: January 24, 2022, 01:15:40 PM »
Slackmax, I was reading through your posting again.  You say you notice water leaking after you take a shower.  Do you have an expansion tank in the plumbing system?  If there's a check valve (required by code) in the water main, and you use a lot of hot water at once (shower, laundry, dishwater, etc), as the incoming cold water gets heated it will increase the pressure in your plumbing system, unless there's a tank to absorb that volume. 

Could be the increase in pressure, and thats why you notice leaking at some times but not others.  When you eventually dig into this later in the year, maybe put an expansion tank (unless there is one already) on your list of things to do, beside the drain valve and anode rod.

Uniwelder,

I don't have an expansion tank (unless it is built in, inside the tank).

Of course I do have a blowoff pressure valve on top of the water heater. 

Yes, it only leaks after large hot water usage. The cold water heating up and expanding theory makes sense. 

My instinct is to not add the expansion tank, (but thanks for the idea) since previous water heaters have not had one, and did not have this kind of leak. Plus it would be 'one more thing to eventually have a problem'.

Do you think an expansion tank would add years to the life of the unit? I guess it could, since there would be less pressure to break through a rusting inner tank, eh?

Come to think of it, the slow occasional leak I have now might be a good thing in that it bleeds off 'excess' pressure eventually.

Anode rod makes sense too.   

uniwelder

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 981
  • Age: 42
  • Location: Appalachian Virginia
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2022, 02:23:22 PM »
Slackmax, I was reading through your posting again.  You say you notice water leaking after you take a shower.  Do you have an expansion tank in the plumbing system?  If there's a check valve (required by code) in the water main, and you use a lot of hot water at once (shower, laundry, dishwater, etc), as the incoming cold water gets heated it will increase the pressure in your plumbing system, unless there's a tank to absorb that volume. 

Could be the increase in pressure, and thats why you notice leaking at some times but not others.  When you eventually dig into this later in the year, maybe put an expansion tank (unless there is one already) on your list of things to do, beside the drain valve and anode rod.

Uniwelder,

I don't have an expansion tank (unless it is built in, inside the tank).

Of course I do have a blowoff pressure valve on top of the water heater. 

Yes, it only leaks after large hot water usage. The cold water heating up and expanding theory makes sense. 

My instinct is to not add the expansion tank, (but thanks for the idea) since previous water heaters have not had one, and did not have this kind of leak. Plus it would be 'one more thing to eventually have a problem'.

Do you think an expansion tank would add years to the life of the unit? I guess it could, since there would be less pressure to break through a rusting inner tank, eh?

Come to think of it, the slow occasional leak I have now might be a good thing in that it bleeds off 'excess' pressure eventually.

Anode rod makes sense too.

Expansion tanks are required by code, assuming there's a check valve in the main line.  It prevents a lot of unnecessary stress on your plumbing lines, so I guess it could be argued it can prevent long term damage from fatigue.  I don't know how often pipes fail because of no tank, but I would highly recommend installing one.

The tank itself is usually about 2 gallons in size, kind of spherical, and usually blue.  Its not part of or built into the water heater.  Location is normally close by and usually tees off it.


Sibley

  • Walrus Stache
  • *******
  • Posts: 6303
  • Location: Northwest Indiana
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #16 on: January 25, 2022, 08:13:44 PM »
Slackmax - if you have a backflow prevention valve on the water line into the house, then you HAVE to have an expansion tank. The house becomes a closed system, there's no where for the water to go, so you increase pressure in the house and it will cause weird issues (I had a water supply line to the sink blow out and try to flood the utility room, blew out the pressure valve on the water tank several times, and the increased pressure messed with the faucets and toilets as well). It is possible to be just fine for decades without an expansion tank, then the city adds the valve and overnight you develop a problem.

And yes, things can go wrong with expansion tanks.

Dicey

  • Senior Mustachian
  • ********
  • Posts: 18705
  • Age: 64
  • Location: NorCal
Re: Rust on Exterior of Water Heater, no Leak. Worry?
« Reply #17 on: January 26, 2022, 04:55:22 AM »
Dicey, hope that worked out OK for you.
It turned out to be a(n) MPP. The plumber scraped out Redwood roots the next day and charged us $200. Dinner was Chipotle for $22.09, which we stretched into four meals. Three loads of laundry, fortified with bleach, and we're back in business.

Hope your solution works!