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[Leaking WH Relief Valve] water pouring from drainage pipe near a/c outside

[Leaking WH Relief Valve] water pouring from drainage pipe near a/c outside

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  #1  
Old 12-29-12, 09:42 AM
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[Leaking WH Relief Valve] water pouring from drainage pipe near a/c outside

I am in a 2 story condo in FL built 4 years ago, and my neighbor has been mentioning to me for some time that water is coming from the drainage pipe outside near the A/C. I ignored her because I thought she was talking about the dripping it's supposed to do as it gets rid of the condensation.

I just got my water bill, though, and it's up by nearly $30. Upon looking at the pipe, one (not both) of the drainage pipes has a steady stream of water coming out... definitely not drips, and whether the ac is running or not.

I checked the air handler on the 2nd floor, and there is no evidence of a leak up there that I can see, and there is a float switch which has not tripped.

I've blown out the line before with compressed air in a previous house, but if it were clogged with algae, my understanding is that the second line would be leaking and/or the float switch would have tripped, right? It's been a few years since dealing with a/c issues.

Am I correct in now assuming that there must be an actual leak somewhere to cause a steady stream as opposed to simply wicking of the condensation?

Could it be in the attic somewhere? I knew a lot more about the a/c system in my last house as I was there when it was installed and bought the installers lunch so I could ask a few questions. Not so much about this one.
 

Last edited by Gunguy45; 01-01-13 at 07:50 AM.
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Old 12-29-12, 09:53 AM
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If the pipe is high and above a window it is usually the AC secondary pan. You posted that your pan is dry.

If the pipe is low it is probably the water heater pop off valve or secondary pan.
Hold the pipe 3 feet from the water heater pop off valve. If it is hot you probably need a plumber.


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Old 12-29-12, 10:02 AM
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Sorry, you lost me.

The pipe I'm referring to is one of the two that drips water and comes out of the ground a few feet from the outside a/c unit.



Is the water heater pop off valve located inside the outdoor unit? Upstairs? Near the water heater?
 
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Old 12-29-12, 10:27 AM
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The pop off valve is attached to the water heater as shown in my link.

I have run many service calls that had water running from a pipe near the AC units that turned out to be the hot water heater pop off valve.

Do you know where your hot water heater is located? This is easy to check.


The pipe I'm referring to is one of the two that drips water and comes out of the ground a few feet from the outside a/c unit.
The pipe comes out of the ground? It doesn't come out of the house?
 
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Old 12-29-12, 11:47 AM
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Ah... title on the link threw me.

Yeah... pipe comes out of the ground, then bends around to drip down... just like it was at my last house. It's a few feet from the a/c unit.

I checked the pipe coming out of the valve on the water heater. It's not hot.

I'm not entirely certain about primary vs secondary pan. My last unit was more accessible. All I see coming out of air handler here is a unit all sealed up, and a cap on the pipe, and a float switch.

It does say heat pump rather than electric radiator for heat, though, so I guess it is still running even now.

Still... steady stream of water.
 
  #6  
Old 12-29-12, 02:10 PM
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Since this significant flow of water coincides with an increase in your water bill I would l;ook closely at the domestic water piping before assuming it was A/C related. Houston gave you good information on checking the safety valve on the water heater but you need to also look at the water connection supplying cold water to the water heater inlet. Many homes were built with a relief valve near or built into the cold water shutoff valve to the water heater. These relief valves were primarily to prevent high pressure as a result of heating a full tank of cold water; today expansion tanks are installed for this purpose.

These relief valves, assuming you have one, have a high failure rate after several years and can discharge significant amounts of water. It is possible that your water utility has raised the pressure in your area for some reason and since these relief valves are usually set to only slightly above normal water pressure this could also be the problem. A third reason would the the existence of a PRV (Pressure Reducing Valve) on your incoming water piping that has failed. You need to trace all the incoming water piping from your main shutoff valve to the water heater to see if you have either a relief valve or a PRV.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 08:40 AM
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ok, well there's a constant hissing.

It's very tight qarters, so hard to access, but best I can tell, the hissing is coming from somewhere around the valve before the cold water enters the heater.

There is a red shutoff valve there that can be turned, and after that, but before the tank, there is a fork coming off the intake pipe where another pipe runs over to join the pipe that comes out of the pop off valve.

So... I'm guessing theres some sort of pressure valve at that juncture where the cold water intake forks... and it's blown and is leaking water out to where the popoff pipe goes... which then somehow enters the ac system, correct?

Again , the pipe after the popoff is not warm.
 
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Old 12-30-12, 07:46 PM
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Yes, that sounds like an expansion relief valve. Here are a couple of manufacturer websites that detail their combination shutoff and relief valves.

BRV Combination Ball Valve and Relief Valves, Specialty Ball Valves, Water Safety & Flow Control - Watts

Product Information for 78LF-RV Series :: apollovalves.com

But it sounds like you might have a tee in the line and then a valve more like this.

A picture of your installation may be helpful.
 
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Old 12-31-12, 08:32 AM
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Cold water intake for the water heater comes out of the wall just behind the red valve. Straight pipe continues to heater, split to right then drops down, goes left and joins pipe coming out of popoff valve.

So, I guess the broken valve is inside the metal elbow joint?

You mention they're often set for just above current water pressure. Any chance they can just be reset to higher pressure? I don't see a way to set it, but I can't get my head over to the right of it to check the end.

I'm seeing this orange stuff at all joints. Not sure if it's some sort of epoxy or something... are these joints likely undoable, or does that mean they're glued together? Again, it's all new construction as of 4 years ago.

If I do need to take it apart and replace that valve, do I just turn it off at the red valve, or do I need to make sure to kill power to the unit, etc?
 
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Old 12-31-12, 05:08 PM
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Thanks for the picture. Yes, that brass fitting on the right is the pressure relief (safety) valve. I don't think that particular model is adjustable but even if it were the problem is that the internal parts (seat and disc) have eroded to a point that it needs replacement.

Unfortunately, that installations sucks big time. the plastic valve might not even operate as plastic ball valves have a tendency to "freeze" in position if they are not exercised on a fairly frequent basis. The orange "stuff" you see at all the joints is normal, it is the solvent cement that is used to "glue" the pipe and fittings together. Also unfortunate in this case it makes disassembly impossible, you WILL need to cut the piping and install new fittings.

I would not "replace" the existing valve with a new one but would instead install an expansion tank. I cannot see the picture as I type this so I will come back later with a detailed explanation on how to do the work if you post back asking me to do so.
 
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Old 12-31-12, 06:14 PM
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An expansion tank could be installed by putting in a second tee between the elbow in the foreground & the tee onto which the relief valve is installed.
Furd, your thoughts?
 
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Old 12-31-12, 06:21 PM
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Several different ways to install an expansion tank, that's why I wanted more pictures. In any event that relief valve needs to be replaced or eliminated.
 
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Old 12-31-12, 07:26 PM
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Guys, should this be moved to plumbing?
 
  #14  
Old 01-01-13, 01:52 AM
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Maybe water heaters, Ray.
 
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Old 01-01-13, 04:58 AM
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Post moved and slightly more relevant title added.
 
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Old 01-01-13, 07:41 AM
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OK, so a bit unsure as to what the purpose of the expansion tank would be. Right now, if the valve goes bad, the water just goes outside. I would much prefer that to it going into a tank inside, so I must be missing something. Does the tank then have a float switch or something? Space is kind of tight. There's a big permanent shelf built above it, and it's wedged into a little alcove with space on the right only, and that's maybe a foot and a half.


I'm also assuming there's a valid reason for having the relief valve... like the tank can be damaged somehow by too much pressure or something, so I'm assuming it's better to replace than get rid of.

If I replace it, can I just get any one that would fit the size and style (elbow), or do I need to find one with a certain pressure rating or something?

As for cutting the plumbing, is hacksaw ok, or do I need to get one of those pvc cutting tools? Should I then cement the joints the way they did?
 
  #17  
Old 01-01-13, 08:01 AM
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Ill just throw this out there,

The relief valve you have in the pic is a 100 psi variety. Its there because you have CPVC pipe. Additionally inspectors often make you change the HWH relief valve also. That one should have a red tag.

Second thing is that relief valve is leaking for a reason. Could just be bad but your PSI may be going over 100. This is protecting your pipes from bursting. We need to see if you have a prv at the main or exp tank on the HWH. These could be bad.

Last thing you should get a gauge and check your home psi so you know what your dealing with. Attaches to a hose bib.

Just my 2 cents

 
  #18  
Old 01-01-13, 08:21 AM
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When water is heated it expands. Many years ago municipal water systems were constructed in a manner that allowed the expanding water to simply flow backwards and back into the city mains and this allowed the expanding water to simply "push back" against the incoming pressure and as a result the nominal pressure in the house mains stayed relatively constant.

Now there are "check" valves that prevent the water from returning to the city system. What this means is that if a full tank of water is heated from room temperature to 120 degrees (more or less) the expansion of this water in the closed system of tank and piping within the house causes the water pressure to rise significantly, often from a nominal 60 psi to more than 100 psi. For this reason (to control this excess pressure rise) the relief valve was installed. The problem is that this rise in pressure could happen several times a day and all that "relieving" of the excess pressure will in time erode the valve and cause it to leak. This is what you are now experiencing. In addition it wastes water.

To combat this wasteful loss of water and to still protect from the higher pressure the use of the expansion tank was implemented. The expansion tank is a sealed steel cylinder that has a bladder inside. A charge of air equal to the city water pressure is held in either the tank or the bladder depending on the particular manufacturer and the tank is connected with the side opposite the air charge to the water main. Now as the water expands it causes the bladder to collapse (or expand if the water side connects to the bladder) absorbing the excess pressure safely. The excess pressure is then discharged safely whenever any water is used in the house. No water is lost and therefore no erosion on any valves to cause future leaks.

The expansion tank may be piped anywhere in the system but is usually done so between the water heater cold inlet shutoff valve and the heater tank. (Right where your leaking relief valve is located.). Expansion tanks only discharge water back into the system. They come in several sizes but the smallest is usually what is needed for residential water heaters. They cost about $50. for just the tank.

This is what I would do in your place. I would turn off the power to the heater and then turn off that shutoff valve and see if it holds by then turning on a hot water faucet. You should get a short flow of water and then within a minute no flow at all. If it does not completely stop then the valve is leaking and you will need to shut off the main water supply. Cut the discharge piping from the relief valve (the piping going down and bending back to the left) and then glue a CPVC cap of the proper size to this remaining pipe (not the relief valve stub) with the proper CPVC cement and following the instructions on the can of cement.

Then remove the relief valve and get the proper size fitting to convert the existing thread to a 1/2 inch iron pipe size male thread. Mount the expansion tank to the shelf or wall nest to the water heater and get a stainless steel braided flexible connecter with 1/2 inch female threads on each end to connect the tank to the heater inlet piping. Use the proper thread sealant on the adapter in the existing fitting where you removed the relief valve. No sealant is required on the flexible connecter ends. Open the closed valves and run the water from the hot water faucet until it stops spurting. Check for leaks and if none turn on the power to the water heater.

I'm not there, I can't see what all you have so I can't get much more detailed. Perhaps you have a friend or relative that is mechanically inclined and can help you.
 
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Old 01-01-13, 03:30 PM
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Just had a few minutes available today to stop by Lowes. I didn't see the expansion tanks, but I did see the pressure gauge.

It's a 200lb model with a red max and black current pressure needle. Current pressure reads 75lb.

Right now, I don't see any way to turn the water heater off, but there's tools stored all around the base. Tomorrow, I'll have time to move everything, push the filing cabinet out of the way, and figure out how to shut it off so I can kill the valve feeding it, and see if it leaks. I don't see a switch or anything on the water heater, but at the moment, I can't even see the power cord, so will have to dig around it.
 
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Old 01-01-13, 04:09 PM
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75 psi is on the high end. Most likly exceeding 100 psi prom thermal expansion.

Has the water been extremely hot lately?

Check where you main water supply comes in. Look for a bell shaped device.

Is there an expansion tank anywhere on the system? Sometimes they are by the cold water main and not at the heater.
 
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Old 01-03-13, 09:29 AM
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Really not sure where the cold water main is. It's a condo, and just outside, I see a multi-shutoff that seems to be controls for the whole building. By the water heater, I see a line coming in from the wall. By the garage door, there's pipes coming in, but they're all labeled having to do with sprinkler system. No device attached to those pipes... just a shutoff valve. When I open it, water pours out through a spigot by the front door. I don't see any other pipes behind the house, coming in to outside wall, or in garage. Garage is FULL of stuff, though.

Getting more confused here.

I don't see shutoff for water heater, so I turned it off at the breaker (assuming breaker is labeled correctly). Shut off valve coming into water heater. Turned on hot only taps, and water starts trickling out.

10 minutes later, not only is water continuing to trickle out of taps, but look in back of house shows water still trickling out at same rate as before from 1 of the two pipes by the a/c.

Now this has me confused. If it's leaking from a pressure release valve... even if the shutoff valve is compromised, and not shutting off fully, it should be severely limiting the flow... so how is it even possible that the water would still be trickling out at the same rate if the PRV in question is inline AFTER the shutoff valve I've closed?



Water has always been fairly hot... not moreso lately that I can tell, though.
 
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Old 01-03-13, 09:38 AM
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Your going to have to take all kinds of pics so I can see what you see.

Condos are funny. I had an instance where the PRV valves for the units were in one main unit in the wall.... Very odd.

But without pics I can only guess.

Dont touch the sprinkler stuff.......
 
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Old 01-03-13, 11:47 AM
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Orange pipes are the ones near the front of garage with tags on them about sprinklers.

I can't find any main cold water intake in house, garage, etc. No pipes going into walls on outside either, but I took pics of the master shutoff outside.

Also included is pic of the leaking pipe near ac.


EDIT... got upload pic failed message multiple times now for pic of building shutoff with chains on it. Seems to be just a big meter and some major pipes, though... for whole building.
 
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Old 01-03-13, 04:52 PM
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Thanks for the pictures. The water shut off for the water heater is the red handled valve next to the wall, above the water heater.
 
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Old 01-04-13, 01:15 AM
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Yeah. I shut it off... and killed the heater power at the breaker.

I then turned on downstairs hot only faucets which trickled out... and didn't stop after 10 minutes. Pretty steady trickle. Not drips. Also, the outside pipe did not stop leaking or slow down in the least.

Now, the shutoff valve has a far less than satisfying feel to it in terms of shutting off, but I gave it a good bit of twist beyond my initial instincts to make sure it was off as fully as possible... which was a 90 degree turn from the full on position.

This has me confused. Either quite a bit of water is coming through it after it is "shut off" or it is taking more than 10 minutes for the heater to drain.

In either case, the leaking outside pipe should have at least slowed, right? If it's a pressure valve after the shutoff that's leaking, then once the pressure is significantly decreased (even if not disappeared) by turning off the shutoff valve, then the pressure valve should have... well, very little pressure. Even if it's destroyed and stuck wide open, it's a 90 degree turn off of the direct path, and any remaining water leaking through the shutoff valve and flowing into the water heater should have minimal leakage out to it, right?

So, what am I missing?
 
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Old 01-04-13, 02:43 PM
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Those plastic ball valves don't have the best reputation for holding up. You may have to get hold of whomever takes care of the utilities in the building to find out where to shut off the water to your entire unit.
 
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Old 01-05-13, 11:27 AM
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OK, so are we definitely at "Kill the main water, cut the pipes apart, and install an expansion tank" or no?

I'm more than a bit thrown by the fact that the trickle from outside pipe didn't even slow down when I "shut off" the water heater's intake.

I'll take another look around. It's a townhouse. There's only 4 units in the building, but I don't see any individual shutoff.
 
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Old 01-05-13, 12:10 PM
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Take some more pics..... Your pics are of only certain areas.

Wheres your meter? Look in laundry rooms, under sinks, in closets. Often I find the meter in a closet under the stairs and when I ask people they say they dont know. I open the closet to tons of stuff. Upon removal of stuff the meters are often there.

I get the, " In all my 20 years of living here I never knew that was there" comments.....

Need more far away shots of all areas.

Your meter may be in a pit outside.... Look, look, and look again.... Call the association or maintainance. They know everything. I often ask them first when on a job.....
 
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