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Question DetailsAsked on 11/29/2015

Dangerous to have standing water in bottom pan of gas water heater?

We moves into a rental house with a 13 year old gas water heater. There's about 2 inches of moldy water in the bottom pan. The heater is lit and providing hot water throughout the house fine. There doesn't seem to be any active leaks, as the water isn't increasing...just standing and moldy. Landlord is installing a new one next week. Is there any danger in letting them current one run until then?

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Unless this is a high-efficiency unit and the exhaust flue is sloped toward the heater so all the condensate is draining toward the unit rather than to the outside of the house, or a unit in a vastly oversized exhaust chimney so it is condensing on the way to the roof, you have a small leak - maybe just one small enough that the condensation from the firebox is keeping up with the leak at this time. Could be a tank leak, or just a leak at the fittings on top running down intot he outer jacket, through the insulation, and dripping out of the insulation into the firebox at the bottom - not that uncommon a thing and can continue that way for years at times without breaking through as a major leak.

I would say only dangerous if the water level gets up top the point it is close to contact with electric components or if it drowns out the burner which could cause buildup and spluttering and erratic burn of the fuel in the firebox. Most electric components lie higher than that and outside the box - but if it shorts out the thermocouple the pilot and burner will go out.

Personally, I would either bail it out (or use sponge) to remove the bulk of the water in the firebox (have turned down to pilot when doing this to avoid risk of it firing in your face), which would verify if it is coming in at all fast. Or drill a hole in the sheet metal facing of the water heater outer shell just above the level of the bottom of the firebox as a drain - just below the removeable access plate, to drain out most of the water till the unit is replaced. Just a 1/4 or 3/8" hole in the front facing very close to the bottom of the firebox, with something under it to catch the water. Filing a notch (where it will not interfere with the cover plate fastening in place) through the sheet metal down to firebox floor level would also work as a stopgap. This sort of low-point drain would give me a warmer feeling then bailing it out, because it would handle a significant (but not catastrophic) increase in leak volume as well.

Answered 4 years ago by LCD

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