Help! Slow leaking BW 40g heater/bringing up to code - need advice!

Old 02-13-13, 07:59 PM
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Help! Slow leaking BW 40g heater/bringing up to code - need advice!

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(This is my first post here –sorry for its length – and thanks in advance!)
My 17-year-old Bradford White MI40-T10-SN10 gas heater has started dripping water into the pan. It ranges from a slow drip-drip-drip to a slow trickle, usually the former.
Yesterday, a plumber from my home shield warranty company took a quick look and said the tank was leaking and the unit should be replaced. He went on to say due to code upgrades, I would need to install a thermal expansion tank. The warranty company will cover a new heater and basic labor, but the expansion tank will be my responsibility.
He quoted the new tank at $150, the supply line reconfiguration at $420, disposal $98 and a permit at $157. Total to me: $825.
I took a closer look (and the attached pictures), and it appears there is water oozing from the top around the T&P valve fitting, which then runs down the flue opening.
There is a drain pan at the base, feeding a 1” OD pipe running under the floor and out the side of the building. Heater is in a closet off the master bath on the second floor.
The building has three condos on the same city water feed, which post- regulator is about 75psi. My unit has two and a half baths. We take approx. 5 to 7 minute showers, about the point where the hot water runs out, and that’s with the thermostat turned all the way up to max.
(Yes, there’s only one earthquake strap; I will have that remedied.)
My questions are:
1. Does the tank need replacement, or is this something that can be field-repaired? (And does it seem “relatively” safe for a few days while I decide how to proceed?)
2. Given that this is a 17-yr-old tank and should be replaced anyway, does current California building code really require the expansion tank, or is it “best practices” and preferred, but not necessary?
3. If the tank is needed, does the quote of $150 + $420 seem justified?
4. Given that the doorway width with moldings still on is 19.5” and the tank spec says 20”, would there be potential for a 50-gallon replacement instead of 40? (We did not have to remove them in 1997.)
5. Any reason NOT to go with a Bradford White replacement?
I have no problem with the concept of bringing up to code, but the potential cost seems extremely high.
Thank you for any and all thoughts and suggestions! -- Ron
Old 02-13-13, 08:49 PM
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Yes......your tank needs to be replaced. 17 years is a good run on a water heater.

One reason for the shortage of water is as a tank ages, minerals build up inside and become an insulator so that it takes much longer to heat the same amount of water.

That closet looks a little tight for a 50 gallon tank.

Bradford White and AO Smith make good/reliable water heaters.

The California Plumbing Code (Section 608.3) and the California Mechanical Code (Section 1005.0) requires a thermal expansion tank, or listed equivalent, to be installed to water heating systems to relieve excessive building pressure during the heating process.
As far as the prices......I can't help you much there. Let's see what others have to say about the associated costs.

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