Can My Expansion Tank Leak
Yes, like every other part of your homes plumbing system, the expansion tank is subject to failure with use.
They normally fail in two ways. First, the rubber bladder inside them wears out and the tank ceases to function as a way to mitigate thermal expansion. Second, the point of connection between the water piping and the tank can corrode and begin to leak.
One thing you can do to ensure damage is not caused by the expansion tank is to have it properly installed by a skilled, licensed plumber. A good plumber will install the tank, making sure it is properly supported and has a good connection. He will also position it over the water heater pan or somewhere it will minimize the risk of damage if it leaks.
Another thing you can do to boost the longevity of your thermal expansion solution is to purchase a quality tank with a five-year manufacturer warranty. Good tanks have a stainless steel threaded connection and are made with high-quality materials: thick butyl rubber, polypropylene, heavy gauge carbon steel, etc.
Most manufacturers recommend checking expansion tanks yearly when new and more often as the tank gets older.
Determine The Water Pressure
Before starting installation, it is essential to determine the water pressure at home. You must check and record the water pressure using the pressure gauge within 24 hours.
The recommended water pressure is 50 to 60 per square inch . If your water pressure is greater than 80 psi, then you need to install a pressure relief valve.
What Is The Purpose Of A Water Heater Expansion Tank
As you might remember from your high school chemistry class, water expands as it heats up. In a closed container, like a water heater, this creates added pressure that can strain your tank and pipes. In order to protect your tank and ensure a longer shelf life, expansion tanks are connected to accept overflow.
Expansion tanks are only required by building codes in certain circumstances. For example, open water heater systems allow the hot water to move into the surrounding pipes and disperse the pressure.
This makes expansion tanks unnecessary, though some people have them to be safe. Additionally, tankless water heaters, which work by pumping the water through burners on demand, will never have this problem.
Because the expansion tank is only meant to store overflow, they do not need to be very large. You can see in the chart below that they are relatively inexpensive. If you are unsure if you need an expansion tank and if so, what size, you can ask your plumber for a recommendation.
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Can The Expansion Tank Be Installed At Any Angle Pt 1
The expansion tank can be installed at any angle. This will conflict with info that comes with any expansion tank you buy at a retail store. The installation instructions that come with retail expansion tanks say the tank must be installed in a hanging vertical position.When you choose a retail expansion tank, it comes with a Saddle Fitting. This allows you to avoid soldering and makes installing an expansion tank simpler for the average person. The saddle fitting simple clamps onto the pipe, and it comes with threading that allows you to attach the tank.
Should My Expansion Tank Be Hot
One of the most common questions is whether the water heater expansion tank should be hot. Unfortunately, the outright answer is no. The top section of the tank should be warm, while the bottom part should be at room temperature.
If the whole tank is warm, there is a high chance that the entire tank is full of hot water. The situation is only possible in cases where the diaphragm fails.
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Who Needs A Water Heater Expansion Tank
If you have a closed system, meaning there is a backflow preventer or other device that wont permit your water to flow back into the main water supply, thermal expansion will lead to significant pressure increases in your homes plumbing system.
Not only should you have a thermal expansion tank under these circumstances, but some municipalities require it. Further, your water heaters manufacturer might void your warranty if you have a closed system and fail to get this safeguard.
You dont need a water heater expansion tank if you have a tankless water heater since there is no tank and no buildup of pressure. Likewise, if your home runs on an open water supply system, where excess water goes back into the municipal water supply, it wont place any strain on your homes plumbing system.
Are Expansion Tanks Required By Code
Back in 2012, the International Plumbing Code issued the mandatory installation of expansion tanks on all water heater systems in where thermal expansion could potentially cause a dangerous spike in pressure. Its only required for homes that have closed plumbing systems whereby a backflow prevention device or check valve has been installed.
Several revisions have occurred, and continue to occur as plumbing systems and components continue to evolve.
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How A Thermal Expansion Tank Works
Within the expansion tank is a pressurized air bladder which absorbs the additional water by expanding and contracting.
As the water in your water heater becomes hot, it expands and increases the pressure within the tank and plumbing system. However, instead of allowing the pressure to build, the excess water enters the expansion tank.
When a faucet within the house opens the water within the thermal expansion tank is released back into your hot water system. An expansion tank only contains overflowing water. It does not store water on a permanent basis.
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Should You Drain Your Expansion Tank
No, you should not drain your expansion tank unless it is too full due to the pressure in the system causing it to overflow. It is important to keep some fluid in the expansion tank in order to absorb any expansion from the heating or cooling systems in your home.
If the tank is too full, it can cause the expansion and contraction of the system to become inefficient, resulting in higher energy bills. To resolve this issue, you may need to adjust the pressure in the system or have a professional inspect the expansion tank.
In some cases, the tank may need to be replaced in order to maintain proper efficiency.
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Additional Materials: Cost To Install A Water Heater Expansion Tank
Hopefully, the above charts will help you to better understand the cost of your expansion tank installation project. Before you move forward, however, there are a few other expenses to be aware of. Aside from the tank and labor, there are the costs of additional material and tools if you do not have them.
This is a significant component to factor in before starting the project. If youre a regular DIY enthusiast, then you would likely have the necessary tools already.
If you have not done any plumbing work before, there are a few tools you will need to buy to complete this project. These costs are cheap, but they will increase your projects overall cost by quite a bit, percentage-wise. However, you still need to buy the necessary supplies.
|Soldering Kit||$30 $50|
A contractor would charge you for the additional materials, but obviously not for the tools. Therefore, if you havent done any plumbing work before, you might be better off hiring a professional. Not only will you save money on tools, but you can also be confident in the integrity of the work.
With all of this information, you should be able to approximate your projects total cost. Hopefully, you can use this information to decide if paying a professional makes sense for you. You can continue reading to see if the expansion tank is worth the cost for you, too.
Look For The Water Pipe Supplying Cold Water To The Water Heater
The thermal expansion tank sits between the water heater and the cold water supply line. As such, it would be best to determine the water pipe supplying cold water to the water heater.
Look at the water heaterâs top section and check if you see a water tube extending upward from it. This tubing is the cold water pipe. Follow its length until you get to the pipeâs horizontal section.
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Prepare Tank And Mount Bracket
Make the task easier by first attaching the connection fitting to the end of the tank, using Teflon tape on the threads. The fitting you need is ¾ female on the side that connects to your tank, and your size PEX or copper pipe on the other usually ½ inch.
Mount the expansion tank bracket. You have to mount it before you can attach the tank.
Tip: Make sure that the air valve on the opposite end of the water connection is accessible and has enough room to attach a bicycle pump. If you ever need to change the pressure, you will need to access this. If your water pressure is higher or lower than 50 PSI, pump up the tank or release pressure to match your system’s pressure. Get the two pressures as close as possible. Check the pressure and adjust it before mounting the tank.
Notice how the expansion tank is secured to the joists? It works, but a dedicated bracket is neater and does a better job.
Can The Expansion Tank Be Installed At Any Angle Pt 2
First, you drill a small hole in the existing pipe. Next, the clamp is secured so that the hole aligns with the inlet for the expansion tank. While this is one option, we dont recommend these fittings for several reasons. They only allow the tank to be placed in one position , and they are unreliable. Instead, we recommend soldering the proper fittings into the system or the use of galvanized fittings.
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How To Replace A Water Heater And Add An Expansion Tank While Youre At It
My wife and I recently traveled out of town to work on a project, which required us to be gone for many days. As soon as we returned home on Saturday night, I jumped into a long, hot shower to unwind. I unloaded the truck and dragged the contractor bag stuffed with dirty laundry down to the basement. I was exhausted. Because I was born with great skills of observation, I was the first to notice the large puddle that had developed beneath our water heater. I murmured a stream of peculiar terms common to homeowners and do-it-yourselfers, concluding with something along the lines of Just what I wanted to do tomorrow replace a water heater, or something along those lines.
Possible Plumbing Code Violations
Most areas require every new water heater installation with a closed system to include an expansion tank.
Laws vary by location regarding whether building code requires an expansion tank to be installed on an old water heater or added upon the installation of a new water heater.
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How Expansion Tanks Work
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The expansion tank has two compartments divided from the top and bottom by a rubber diaphragm: the bladder and a compressed air-filled chamber.
The bladder is where the expanded water enters the expansion tank from the water heater, and the second chamber connects to the cold water inlet.
As the water enters the tank, it will deflate the barrier in the middle and compress the air in the second chamber, balancing the pressure throughout the plumbing system. The compressed air in the tank allows it to absorb the excess water pressure from the main hot water heater up to the inlet water pressure setting .
If the expansion tank is completely filled with water, it will prevent the compressed air from equalizing the pressure levels, so its important to get a large enough expansion tank.
Once pressure levels stabilize, the barrier will return to its original form, similar to a spring.
Variations For An Existing Water Heater
When adding an expansion tank to an existing water heater, the main challenge is finding room for it. Space can get a little tight, and you may need to use various pipes and fittings to find room for the expansion tank. Often, this will mean replacing the copper flex line with a shorter or longer one, and sometimes adding additional elbows and pipes to the cold water pipe. If necessary, the expansion tank can be installed a foot or two away from the water heater, provided it is properly spliced into the cold water line. Most professional plumbers choose to replace the dielectric union with a new one when an expansion tank is added to an existing water heater.
- What size expansion tank do I need for my water heater?
A 2-gallon expansion tank is the adequate size for water heaters that are 40- to 50-gallons.
- How much does an expansion tank cost?
The price for an expansion tank can go from $40 to $200 or more, depending on the size you need for your water heater.
- Should a professional plumber install an expansion tank?
Installing an expansion tank can be done by yourself if you have moderate to expert plumbing knowledge and experience. Otherwise, let a professional plumber do the job for you.
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How A Water Heater Expansion Tank Is Installed
Even if your home has an open water system, consider installing an expansion tank to reap the benefits. For example, having an expansion tank helps prevent dripping faucets and running toilets by preventing the extra built-up pressure in the system from reaching your plumbing fixtures and causing damage.
Your expansion tank does not need to be located close to the water heater. It is most common to see installation using a T at the cold inlet on the water heater. However, from a functional standpoint, the tanks can really be installed anywhere along the cold water line before it enters the water heater.
For people who are considering getting a new tank-style water heater installed, its a smart idea to request a quote for the installation of an expansion tank at the same time, since the benefits far outweigh the work and cost involved.
If you live in Bucks or Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, and would like to discuss your options for water heater service including installation of an expansion tank contact your local professionals at Nu-Temp Heating and Cooling. We have the tools and expertise to work on most makes and models of water heaters, and we offer free in-home consultations and up-front pricing on every service we provide.
How To Install A Thermal Expansion Tank
- Check the water pressure in your home. It should be close to 50 PSI. If it is higher than 80 PSI, install the pressure reducing valve.
- Check the pressure of the air inside the thermal expansion tank. The pressure should be equal to the maximum water pressure in your home. Use the hand pump to increase the air pressure if needed.
- It is recommended to install a thermal expansion tank on the cold water line, horizontally and close to the water heater.
- Use the threaded T- fitting, Teflon tape, and pipe wrench to make the watertight connection.
- Remove the trapped air by opening the hot water tap.
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Prepare The Water Heater Expansion Tank
Unbox the expansion tank kit and lay the components on a clean surface. Most manufacturers provide a complete installation kit, including tee fittings, fasteners, and extension pipes.
However, they may not supply you with Teflon tape and pipe joint compound. It would be wise to secure these items first before proceeding.
Pro Tip: Study the expansion tank diagram to understand how to install the unit on your water heater.
Installing An Expansion Tank
The expansion tank can be placed on the hot or cold side. There is some debate about this, and your local code may specify one or the other, so check with your building department. You will need to have on hand a couple of pipe wrenches or open-jaw/Channellock pliers to tighten or loosen the fittings as required. You want them to be very secure. We recommend using galvanized* fittings because they are affordable, easy to install, and will work great in this capacity.
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What Does A Thermal Expansion Tank Look Like
The common residential expansion tank looks something like a small propane tank. The most common colors are off-white or blue.
On the top, it has an air valve like you see on most tires called a Schrader valve. On the bottom, there is a threaded pipe connection. They are usually about the size of a basketball more or less depending on the size of the water heater they serve.