Friday, July 13, 2007

Hot Water Heater Expansion Tank Failure/Replacement

Yesterday when I got home and just when we started to eat, Jacob said "Dad, its a good thing you gave us that Family Home Evening lesson on how to turn off the electricity, gas and water in case of emergency. In the basement where the soft water tank is there was water spraying out of a pipe and water was everywhere, so I turned off the water to the house."

What the heck! I was home for probably 15 minutes and it comes up just as we start eating? I went down and turned the valve to the house back on see a spray of water coming from the top of a blue tank that was labeled "Potable Water Expansion Tank - Watts Regulator". Didn't have a clue what it was or its purpose. I did see that the stream of water was hitting some studs and floor joists. It hadn't been damaged too long, probably half a day or so and the leak while small, was pressurized and spraying about 12 inches away on to the wood.

I looked at the leak and it was due to some corrosion near the opening. I called Roto Rooter to see if they could come out and fix. Got an appointment for the next morning. I filled up two tubs with water and got a pitcher of ice water for drinking put into the fridge. Turned off the water and still the stream was happening. I unscrewed a cap on the bottom and noticed a valve that looked like a air valve on a tire. I got a pencil and pushed on the center pin and air came out and the pressure dropped and the water stream stopped.

In the morning I thought I would just stop at Home Depot to see how much a replacement tank was. I found a tank that was blue but it was much bigger and was fed from the bottom. I asked a guy there and he explained to me what the purpose of the tank was.

Many residential meters allow water in, but not back. When water is heated up it expands and builds pressure. Hot water heaters aren't designed to handle this pressure and since the water flow can't go back into the street there needs to be a mechanism to handle that excess pressure of water coming from the water heater. This tank adjusts and regulates that pressure. He took me the location of a replacement tank and it was only $49. Here is the model I bought. It was still only 7:15 am so I figured I would just go home and replace it myself.

On the way home I asked Cathi to call Roto-Rooter (who called her and postponed the appointment to 9:00) and cancel. Going without running water in your house even for a few hours is a huge pain! I can't imagine the inconvenience that people must go through who don't have running water.

Replacing the tank was easy. I turned off the water heaters the night before and drained the house line completely. I removed the tank, put teflon tape on the threads of the new tank and screwed it back on. Turned the water back on, relit the hot water heaters and that was it! Only cost me $50. Wish I would have gotten an estimate to see how much Roto Rooter would have charged me for the part and for labor. It took me about 20 minutes in labor and $49 in parts. I bet I saved at least $100.


Anonymous said...

well you saved more than 100.00 the part 110.00 the labor 125.00 but remember in my area we are registered plumbers who go to school for 4 years to get our lic. then after you are on the job for 2 years you can take the test for your masters.

Gords said...

Exactly my point! The part really only cost $49. The labor cost too seems way over priced. Just glad it wasn't something worse that really did need a professional. I can appreciate the professional and the tough jobs, but this one, anyone can do.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your experience. I have a similar problem but was afraid to handle myself.

Thanks again.