Furnace leaking water, what is the problem? (pics)

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  #1  
Old 01-07-12, 08:01 AM
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Furnace leaking water, what is the problem? (pics)

Hi everyone, my furnace is leaking water through a valve on the back. This happens whenever the furnace gets hot and pressure starts to build.

This furnace heats my hot water, and heats my houses hot water baseboard heating system.

The leaking starts whenever the needle on the guage starts to get close to this little orange point on the guage.


This is where the water is coming out. I was informed that this valve may be the culprit and not holding as strong as it should, and that I should open and close it a few times to get rust and corrosion out (and maybe it would then start holding better). Well, tons of rusty water came out, however, its now just as bad at holding a seal...

I'm not sure if its supposed to be letting pressure at this level as a safety mechanism, or if it is doing it before it should.


The furnace is shutting itself off at around a water temp of 180 degrees.
I have never seen a significant increase in pressure above the orange point on the guage.

This is the front of the furnace for reference.


Other information
1. In which area you live and ambient temperatures you usually experience. - Maine winter temps range from 0 - 30 usually
2. House style and construction details. - Cape style, 1935, baseboard hot water heating
3. Make, model and age of equipment related to the problem. Peerless Cast Iron Boiler - heats hot water and baseboard - ~2001
4. Fuel type. No. 2 Oil
5. Water temperature and pressures of boiler systems. Heats to 180 degrees, not sure about pressure (see problem)
6. What type of zoning do you have with your boiler system. (one zone)
7. Thermostat type. old-fasion dial in the home, one zone

Thanks for any help you can offer.

Do you think the valve is defective? Or is it building up more pressure than it should be?
 
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  #2  
Old 01-07-12, 08:52 AM
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don't see a RED dual pressure regualtor that feeds a standard 12PSI into the boiler from the street cold water feed.do you do it maually?a cold HW boiler either gas/oil should stand at 12psi then when the space satisfies off the stat tops 20PSI depending on the rise hi ranch multipule floors...but on a slab or one level Cape should do a 12psi.. or just bearly heated as with that domestic connection for the HW.YES that relief is doing exactly what it is designed for to start relieving the rising pressure...drain your expansion tank or it needs to be replaced.when the water goes into the higher heating range the water is expanding and that's showing on that guage....do yourself a favor cut back those relief drain offs and slide a couple of 5 gallon buckets under them especially that heating side one...so you can eye ball if the bucket gets the water blow off......and flip that relief up annually to blow off all the crap on the seats do both...its code on that domestic on but every time hot water is used the pressure basically is taken off it..but trip it just the same..might want to cheat back that 180F setpoint if your in a cape 160F-170F give it a try in a cold night see if you satisfy the stat depends on the windows/walls and insulation
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-07-12 at 10:16 AM. Reason: not all regulators are RED, there are GREEN, BROWN, GOLD also!
  #3  
Old 01-07-12, 09:02 AM
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I do not see a thermostat on the furnace so I am unsure of how to turn down it's internal heating temperature.
I checked it last time it turned on and it shut off at like 195 degrees

How do I know if the expansion tank is full? There is a tank above the furnace that I assume was an expansion tank, when I knock on it, it had a dead thud, not hollow.

The furnace is in a basement, there are 2 floors of baseboard heating above it.

Thanks again.

EDIT: I know there is a thing that feeds cold street water in automatically.
 
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Old 01-07-12, 09:26 AM
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Sminker your post is confusing to say the least.

Mainguy, you need to check the charge in the expansion tank. And take a pic of the fill valve for the boiler. This may be faulty also.


You need to turn off the boiler and let the boiler cool some. Then turn off the water feed to the boiler. Drain some water from the boiler drain enough to get a 0psi reading. then check the air in the exp tank with a tire gauge. Should have 12psi. If not add air with a hand pump to 12psi.

After that open the water feed and watch the gauge. It should add water and the pressure should rise to about 12 psi. If it goes higher let us know.

So we can start there. The high pressure is either the exp tank or fill valve.

Do a search of expansion tank check and you will find instructions on how to check.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-07-12, 10:15 AM
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sminker, punctuate much?

A little added info...

The valve that is leaking is a 30 PSI PRESSURE RELIEF VALVE. It is a primary safety device and is doing exactly what it should be doing.

Here is a step-by-step that you can use to properly recharge the air in your expansion tank:

1. Shut off boiler and allow to cool to under 100F.

2. Shut off water supply line to boiler.

3. Drain only enough water from the boiler drain to drop the system pressure to ZERO. REPEAT: DO NOT COMPLETELY DRAIN THE BOILER! ONLY ENOUGH TO DROP THE PRESSURE TO ZERO!

4. With an ACCURATE tire pressure gauge, check the air charge in the tank on the air valve opposite the end of the tank that's connected to the system. If ANY water comes out of the air valve, the bladder inside the tank is shot and the tank needs replaced. If no water comes out the air valve, and the pressure is less than 12-15 PSI, continue to step 5. If the pressure is OK, turn the water supply to the boiler back on and repressurize the system, turn the power back on to the boiler, no service is necessary.

5. Using a bicycle pump, or a small air compressor, add air to the tank until you have 12 PSI air charge.

6. Check the boiler pressure gauge again, and if it has risen off ZERO, drain some more water from the boiler drain until it is again at ZERO.

7. Check the air charge on the tank again. If it is below 15 PSI, add air to the tank until it is at 12 PSI.

8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 until the boiler stays at ZERO and the tank stays at 12 PSI. At this point, the tank is properly recharged and the water supply can be turned on to re-pressurize the system, turn the power on to boiler and return to service.
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-08-12 at 09:29 AM. Reason: changed pre-charge to 12 PSI
  #6  
Old 01-07-12, 12:45 PM
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Thanks Trooper. I'll wait for the thing to cool off and follow your steps.

I should mention, my furnace was cleaned about a month ago, the guy did mention that the cold water fill system was shut off and he turned it back on. (I just moved into this house 6 months ago).

So I guess there is a possibility that it is faulty as well. Would a faulty filler valve also cause these problems?
 
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Old 01-07-12, 03:22 PM
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my furnace is leaking water through a valve on the back. This happens whenever the furnace gets hot and pressure starts to build.
Would a faulty filler valve also cause these problems?
Things that can cause pressure relief valve to operate:

1. Waterlogged standard 'compression tank', or in the case of bladder/diaphragm tank, improper air charge, or perforated bladaphragm.

2. Fill valve that is 'leaking through'

3. If system has a tankless coil, or an indirect water heater, a leak in the heat exchanger will cause.

Symptoms that can differentiate between different cases:

1. If the problem is related to the expansion tank, the unit will generally only overpressure when it is being heated. Once the heat call ends, in general, it will NOT continue to leak. As it cools, the pressure will drop back down, sometimes all the way to 12 PSI. If it does cool to 12 PSI between heat cycles, the same thing will happen the next time there's a heat call.

2. AND 3. With either of this type failure, the pressure will generally STAY at 30 PSI, and the relief valve will continue to drip-drip-drip... it could be a fast or slow discharge, and would equal the rate that the fill valve or the heat exchanger was leaking into the boiler. If this is the failure, the relief valve will begin to leak much more heavily almost as soon as the burner comes on to heat.

How to test for either case:

Turn the boiler off. Allow it to cool to under 100F. Observe that the pressure gauge is at 12 PSI and release some water from a drain if it is above. CLOSE the manual fill valve. CLOSE the valves that feed domestic water to either the tankless coil in the boiler or the indirect water heater.

Turn boiler on and force a heat call by turning t'stat way up... you want to cause the boiler to heat to high limit.

OBSERVE pressure gauge while boiler is heating. If it rises quickly and heads for 30, shut it down, and perform service on expansion tank. Since the fill valve is closed, and the water valves to the domestic side are closed, these can be eliminated as root cause. (ALMOST... sometimes BOTH problems occur!)

If the pressure does NOT quickly rise out of control, and only goes up say 10 PSI or there about, chances are pretty good that the expansion tank is NOT the root cause.

Next, open any valves to the tankless coil or indirect heater. Over the course of hours (sometimes days) observe the pressure. If it does NOT increase, you've eliminated that possibility.

Next, do the same with the manual fill valve, and again observe the pressure... same deal, if it begins to rise out of control over hours/days, it's a good chance that the pressure reducing valve is leaking through.

Basically, you need to do process of elimination and apply logic to determine the problem.
 
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Old 01-07-12, 03:24 PM
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In ANY case though, if nothing has been done to the expansion tank for years... it needs to be charged and checked for leaks in the bladaphragm.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 06:17 AM
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Hey Trooper,

Thanks again for your help as I try to wrap my head around this situation. This is my first time around this type of equipment.

I have a question about the cold water fill system. As I investigate this setup more, I am having trouble locating exactly which pipe this cold water comes in through.

I do notice the system has a box that says "Low water cutoff" connected directly to the system's on/off switch, which indicates to me that this might be a manual filling system (Is this correct?), but will shut itself down in the event that the water level drops,

And most importantly that...
The furnace cleaning guy should never have left the manual fill valve turned on...
I'm starting to think that this is not a coincidence that I started having a slow leak soon after the furnace was cleaned, and has now escalated to leaking 1/4 a gallon of water every time it runs. I was away from my house for the last 2.5 weeks which is why I did not notice sooner. I arrived home to soggy basement carpet which I am pretty angry about.

And in that case, should I contact the furnace guy to come close the valve and re-charge my expansion tank, or at least make sure everything is working as it should?
Do you feel as though it is their mistake and I am entitled to have them make good on it free of charge?

I'm wary about messing around with this stuff on my own because I feel like I'll end up causing some type of explosion.

Here is an image of the entire setup if that helps:
 
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Old 01-08-12, 06:42 AM
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Your water feed is the pipe that enters just above the expansion tank. There should be a valve somewhere on that line. Cant see in the pic, but see the fill valve and backflow preventer.

Probably if you can get them to come out and just charge for parts and no labor, then that would be a good option IMO.

Let us know.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-08-12, 08:39 AM
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Just got off the phone with the furnace guy, he seems to think my system does have an auto-water feed valve (but why was the feed closed?)

Going by lawrosa saying that the feed would be on the line somewhere above the expansion tank, can you help me identify these things?

Is this the auto-feed valve?


Is this the street water feed main on / off valve?


Thanks again!
 
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Old 01-08-12, 09:09 AM
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There are two schools of thought regarding whether to leave the manual fill valve open, or closed, and there are good arguments from both sides of the classroom. It's long and complicated... but let's just say that since you do have a 'Low Water Cut Off' (LWCO) on your system, then you should probably just leave the manual fill valve closed.

Here are the main points of the two sides:

If you leave the manual fill valve OPEN, and a leak develops, a leak could go un-noticed for a very long time. Significant water damage could occur slowly to the property. However, one would not have to worry about the system running without water in it, and 'firing dry'... which would be a much quicker catastrophe. I would say that risk of a structure fire is probably the most serious outcome of dry firing a boiler.

If you leave the manual fill valve CLOSED, and a leak develops... there wouldn't be much chance of water damage to the building, but the 'dry fire' situation would be greatly increased. THIS is the reason for the LWCO device. In the event that the boiler water gets low, it cuts off the burner, preventing the dry fire scenario.

Bottom line here... you DO have an LWCO, and it should be periodically tested for proper operation, and there is routine maintenance that should be done.

So, you shouldn't have to worry about dry firing the boiler. I would recommend that you run with the manual fill valve CLOSED, and only open it to add water to the system. In addition to this, make it a ROUTINE PRACTICE to pay attention to your system. Take a look at the pressure gauge from time to time... don't wait until there's a problem to look over the system.

You wouldn't go on a road trip in your car without keeping an eye on the fuel gauge would you?

more...
 
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Old 01-08-12, 09:12 AM
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I'm wary about messing around with this stuff on my own because I feel like I'll end up causing some type of explosion.
About the only way this could happen is if you do something REALLY STUPID... like plugging the relief valve pipe. Or filling the combustion chamber with gasoline and firing the burner...

We'll let you know if you are in dangerous territory, don't worry about that.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 09:16 AM
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The bell shaped valve in your picture is you "Pressure Reducing Valve" aka 'automatic fill valve' aka 'pressure regulator', etc... that is the valve that is supposed to maintain a minimum of 12 PSI in your system. It's a Watts 1156 model. There is a lever on the top which is called a 'fast fill' lever. It's purpose is to bypass the regulation of the valve. It allows service people to fill the system faster after servicing, and for various other functions.

The device to the left, the Watts 9D, is a 'backflow preventer', and it keeps boiler water out of your domestic water supply.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 09:20 AM
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I don't think that 1/4 turn valve pointed to in your picture is the shutoff valve for the boiler feed.

It looks from what I can see in the pic that the boiler shut off is the round blue handle valve on the pipe below that, which leads directly to the boiler.

It's hard to see in the pics, but that 1/4 turn valve MAY be the shutoff for the supply to the hot water coil in the boiler. I would need to see clearer pics to determine what that pipe is feeding. That valve may in fact shut off BOTH the feed to the boiler, AND the supply to your hot water coil.

If you can get a little better lighting, and different angles, showing the pipes that lead to and from the round plate behind the gray Honeywell box on the front of the boiler we can better advise.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 09:27 AM
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(but why was the feed closed?)
Probably because the previous owner knew that the Pressure Reducing Valve was leaking through... and that they had an LWCO installed...

Here's what I would do... if I were you...

Follow the instructions to check and charge the expansion tank.

In step 8, where it says to re-pressurize the boiler, open that round blue handle valve until your gauge reads 12 PSI, and CLOSE THE VALVE again.

Monitor the pressure over the course of the next couple weeks and ADD A LITTLE MORE WATER by opening that valve if the pressure drops below 12 PSI.

I'm editing my steps above because I see that it says to pressurize the tank to 15 ... set the tank to 12...
 
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Old 01-08-12, 09:43 AM
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Thanks Trooper,

So I've shut off the water at the round blue valve handle, got my nice tire guage and checked the tank while the furnace is at 0PSI and cold.

The expansion tank has no pressure, however, no water came out either.

When I open the blue round handled valve, it fills with water again and the furnace sits at exactly 15 PSI.

Now I'm off to buy a bicycle pump.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 10:04 AM
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OK, good... that tank pressure should be checked annually.

it fills with water again and the furnace sits at exactly 15 PSI
That's fine... 12-15 is good for the cold pressure.

It doesn't mean that it's not slowly leaking through though...

But your relief valve spewing is MOSTLY related to the fact that there is no air charge in the tank. You MAY find that after you charge the tank that it doesn't hold air... and you would need to replace it... just because there is no water out of the air valve is not 100% conclusive that the tank is NOT bad.

If you do ultimately have to replace the tank, adding a few simple valves at that time will make annual service of the tank a piece of cake... and that maintenance will allow the tank to last for a LONG TIME.



This graphic shows the water feed coming in below the added valves, but you can add those new valves BELOW the water feed... not a problem... the point is to be able to shut off the tank from the system and the ability to drain the pressure from the tank without having to mess with the boiler drains.

Parts you would need:

2 1/2" steel pipe nipples
1 1/2" steel tee fitting
1 1/2" threaded ball valve
1 1/2" boiler drain
Rector seal #5 pipe dope
maybe some teflon tape... DON'T USE TOO MUCH! Two wraps is sufficient. Don't put any dope or tape on the first two threads, leave them naked.
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-08-12 at 12:09 PM.
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Old 01-08-12, 11:39 AM
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ok I got a foot pump, hooked it up to the expansion tank, and try as i might, I cannot pump any air into it, at all. I'm 99% sure I've got it well connected to the air valve on the bottom of the tank.

Is this indicative of anything?
 
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Old 01-08-12, 11:59 AM
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Weird... I suppose that the bladder could possibly be completely collapsed and blocking the valve.

What happens if you push the little pin on the valve in... like letting the air out of a tire?

Are you unable to even push the foot pump down?

Or, pump and pump as you may, no pressure builds in the tank?

Do you hear air gurrrrrgling and bubbbbbling up into the tank?
 
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Old 01-08-12, 12:07 PM
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If you are pumping, does the pressure gauge on the boiler begin to move off zero?
 
  #22  
Old 01-08-12, 01:24 PM
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I get nothing, I hold the pump so it's needle is at 40 PSI and no air moves in (that's as hard as I can hold the pump arm), no gurgling or bubbling (even with my ear against the tank).

I take a pen and press the needle on the valve and I get nothing

Edit: And if I should need a new expansion tank, what would you estimate the cost to be? Or is it as easy as screwing a new one on (with your additional posted bits).
 
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Old 01-08-12, 01:50 PM
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The local home store has them. Yes its as easy as screwing it on. I believe thats a ET 30 that you have. make sure its this one and not a tank for potable water.

These are pre charged to 12 psi but I would check it anyway.



Series ET Water Expansion Tank-ET-30 at The Home Depot

Use teflon tape and tape the threads 3-4 times around clockwise. Grab the tank and twist on hand tight should be good. SNUG!!!

Of course change the tank with a cool boiler and no pressure. Boiler water off. Keep a rag or towel handy.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-08-12, 01:58 PM
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While your at the store get two new air vents. I see one at the top of the boiler and one on top of the air seperator.

Looks like they may be leaking or bad, or at least the one ontop of the air seperator.

These purge the air out as the boiler runs. The caps on the top should be loose. If yours are tightened down that may mean they were leaking and faulty and someone tightened down the caps. Then they cant do thier job.

Same thing alittle teflon tape . Unscrew the old and screw on the new.

Auto Air Vent-T400-3 1/8 at The Home Depot

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-08-12, 02:03 PM
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Mike loves that teflon tape... I say two wraps is more than enough!

You probably will have to drain the system... yer gonna get water all over the place when you take that tank off... unless you can work very fast...

When you remove that tank, BE PREPARED FOR A HEAVY TANK! IT WILL BE FULL OF WATER! HAVE A HELPER STANDING BY! It could be 25-30 pounds! DON'T drop it on your toe!
 
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Old 01-08-12, 03:16 PM
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Thanks guys. The air vents were just replaced last month by the furnace cleaners so they should be good for a while.

I'll head down to the store and pick up a new expansion tank tomorrow. I'll try and get someone to help me so that I can swap them out without too much water getting everywhere.

Thanks again, I'm sure this thread has saved me at least $100 in furnace repair labor, maybe more because I knew so little I could have been swindled easily.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 04:17 PM
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saved me at least $100 in furnace repair labor, maybe more

In NJ a Exp tank replacement is about $350 plus they will try to milk a purge out of it for $180. Then offer a fill valve for another $280. Add the eval fee of $49.

That will be $859 please....LOL. Plus applicable taxes...

Mike NJ
 
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Old 01-08-12, 04:28 PM
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Just when I thought I was getting somewhere...

My expansion tank has been glued or cemented or something into place. I cannot get it off

What can I do now?

 
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Old 01-08-12, 05:09 PM
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That's pipe dope but the type they should not have used. It will come off you need two wrenches. Or big channel locks.

You need to use one wrench to hold back on the tee and one wrench to pull on the tank nut.


It may take some force with a steady pull and push of the wrenhes. Once you get the first turn it should spin right off.

Make sure you make noises when doing this...Grrrruummmpppp!!!!!

Mike NJ
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-08-12 at 06:08 PM.
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Old 01-08-12, 05:21 PM
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Pick up some plastic sheeting... if you don't drain the system before taking that tank off, you will need it! I hope you have a wet/dry shop vac also...

Do NOT get water on the electronic controls! duhhhhhh... (sorry, had to say it)
 
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Old 01-08-12, 05:25 PM
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Make sure you make noises when doing this...Grrrruummmpppp!!!!!
Mike, I believe you are referring to step 5 ?

1. Finger tight
2. Hand tight
3. Snug
4. Wrench tight
5. Grunt tight (makes you grunt)
6. Star tight (you see stars)
7. Nut tight (your nuts drop)
 
  #32  
Old 01-08-12, 05:37 PM
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Well there are 2 shut off valves further down stream from the tank so not too too much water will come back in from everywhere else, and I'm attempting to take it off over a bucket, but good call of the plastic sheeting.
 
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Old 01-08-12, 06:07 PM
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Did you already get the replacement tank?

I do see a valve on the return side, above the pump... close that one also.

You saying that there is another one on the other side of the tank that can't be seen in the pics? That would be great if you could prevent having to drain the whole system...
 
  #34  
Old 01-13-12, 06:48 PM
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Got the new expansion tank installed, everything is working great! Thanks guys!
 
  #35  
Old 01-14-12, 07:03 AM
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The leak

NJ
I always use step 8
8-As tight as you can, then one more turn.
Just kidding.
Sid
 

Last edited by NJT; 01-14-12 at 07:34 AM. Reason: is that why you sing Soprano in the choir Sid? KIDDING! ha ha
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