Recurring problem with scalding hot water


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Old 02-17-15, 12:44 PM
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Recurring problem with scalding hot water

Since May 2012, I've been having a recurring problem with my hot water tank and the latest plumber who repaired it believes it may be caused by an electrical problem. When the tank goes bad I get scalding hot water and the tank starts to leak. In at least some of the cases, the water may have been boiling because pockets of air came out along with the hot water. The plumber's invoice states the following: "Thermostats getting stuck in the "On" position causing elements to blow. Recommend electrican."

I live in a townhouse and moved into it with my family in October 2003. The townhouse was brand new when we moved in. I experienced no problems with the original tank until after 8 and a half years when it started producing scalding hot water and leaking.

Below is a chronological list of the problems I've had so far.

May 2012 - new Rheem 50 gallon electric hot water tank installed. (Original tank replaced due to scalding water and leaking.)

February 2013 - hot water tank replaced with identical Rheem 50 gallon electric tank after only 8 months due to two separate occurences of scalding water/leaks.

May 2014 - tank repaired due to problem with scalding water/leak. Also, brown water was coming out of our shower head.

January 2015 - tank repaired due to scalding water.


Any ideas on whether the problem is electrical or something else?
Thanks.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 01:22 PM
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I have a number of rental properties and in 15 years with 50+ water heaters I've never had a thermostat fail in the "on" condition. It's possible but it's much more common for them to fail and not turn on.

You've said there have been different tanks all with leaks. Where is the water leaking?

Where and how are you detecting the scalding water?

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If the T&P (temperature and pressure) safety valve on the water heaters are leaking or opening then it is possible that the water heater is getting too hot. Another possibility is that the balancing or temp valve in your tub/shower faucet may be sticking or malfunctioning. In that case the water heater may be fine but your shower valve stops blending cold water with the hot so you get a shot of really hot water.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 03:06 PM
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Thanks for your input Pilot Dane.

In the latest occurrence, we noticed scalding water coming out of the shower upstairs and the kitchen sink. My guess is that it comes out of anything connected to a hot water line.

There was no leak in the latest incident and I think that there have been others where there was no leak. In cases where there actually were leaks, it was relatively minor with a very small puddle on the floor in front of the tank and some drops of water on the lower part of the tank. I remember once taking off the plate near the bottom of the tank and seeing some moisture in the area where the temperature is set. There is a relief valve at the top of the tank, but I don't think the water has come from there because I probably would have seen moisture on the upper part of the tank.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:22 PM
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Do you just have the T&P valve on top of the tank or is there piping attached to it?

There should be piping attached to at least direct it's output down to the floor. If someone happens to be standing next to the heater when the valve opens they could be scalded. If you don't have the pipe it may have opened without you knowing. The water would drip & seep through the insulation of the heater and eventually drain out the bottom. By the time you caught it the water on top probably evaporated and only the water dripping out the bottom remained.

Have you double checked the temperature set on both thermostats of the water heater?

Another question is if you are on a well or city water? The T&P valve on top of the water heater can also open if your water pressure is too high. Most current plumbing codes require a pressure reducing valve (PRV) installed where city water enters your home. This would have nothing to do with the scalding hot problem but could be why you're seeing water "leaking" from your water heaters.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 04:45 PM
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A heating element can go bad where it is leaky and will keep heating even if the thermostat is off. This is not a common problem and doesn't usually happen in one years time. Like Dane mentioned... thermostats rarely go bad.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 07:52 PM
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Pilot Dane,
I checked the T & P valve and it does have a pipe attached to it. The pipe goes into the wall and apparently runs to the outside.

Regarding checking the temperature set on both thermostats, I'm sure I checked for this in one of the earlier occurrences of the problem and they were both set to the same temperature. The plumber replaced both thermostats when he did the repairs for the latest occurrence so there is no way of knowing the temperature settings on the ones that were replaced.

I've got city water. I don't know if there is a PRV valve installed. I've been checking the tank for leaks on a weekly basis for about 8 or 9 months now and have found no leaks. It's a real pain to get to the tank because it's in a closet under the stairs and to get to it I've got to squeeze by a small freezer.
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:06 PM
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PJmax,
It's been four different times that I've had the heating elements go bad in very short periods of time. In three of the four cases it has been less than a year. Could it be that the Rheem tank is just not an appropriate tank for my home???
 
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Old 02-17-15, 08:18 PM
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I just want to add some details regarding the hot water tank in case they may be relevant.

My original tank, which lasted about 8 and a half years before I experienced any problems, was very short. I think it was called a low-boy. It was replaced with a taller tank so the plumber had to raise the pipes running to the tank.

Also, below is a clarification to my original post about the thermostat being stuck in the "On" position.

I was out of town during the latest repair job when the plumber noted on his bill that the thermostats were stuck in the "On" position. I asked my wife about this and based on her explanation the plumber may have been assuming that the thermostats "were stuck in the On position." She said that she believes that the plumber told her that the thermostats were NOT in the "On" position when he came to do the repairs. But he thinks that they were stuck in the "On" position when the water overheated. My wife shut off power to the tank when she discovered the scalding water problem. The plumber thinks that shutting off the power led to the thermostats getting unstuck from the "On" position.
 

Last edited by 555help; 02-17-15 at 09:01 PM.
 

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