I had a new water heater installed by a local plumber. He installed my tank but did not fill it with water before lighting pilot/turning to hot. He left before thoroughly verifying I had hot water!

It was 20-30 min before we discovered the problem and I filled heater with water. A neighbor helped me fix - he replaced - the T-P valve which leaked after filling tank with water. Is this tank most likely ruined?

  • 1
    Is the heater electric or gas? Feb 25, 2016 at 11:59
  • Have you since filled it and does it supply hot water? And what do you mean the T-P valve was leaking? Around the edges or doing what it's supposed to? I'll assume it's a gas heater (pilot light), in which case it probably just kept cooking the air inside. I don't know how 'smart' of a tank this is, but I believe most newer ones would know to shut off. And since it's gas and not electric, it's got better chances of survival.
    – TFK
    Feb 25, 2016 at 12:37
  • Was it completely out of water when the boiler was turned on? If there was mostly water in it but it wasn't properly bled out of air, that's one thing, but if it was completely empty then run run run, it sat overheating and probably damaged the interior irreparably (its naturally not designed to be past the hot water temp)
    – Jeff Meden
    Feb 25, 2016 at 14:27
  • It is gas heater. I did fill the tank with water when realized H2O inlet valve was off. Within seconds Temp-pressure 'relief valve' started leaking hot water & my neighbor helped me, replacing the relief valve with a new one. My hired plumber later said tank was 3/4 full when he left & that is why when I turned on water valve within seconds the relief valve started spurting hot water. He said if it was an empty tank that it wouldn't have started leaking so quickly. I think he has a point, but very disappointed he left without verifying hot water working. Thank you all for your responses.
    – Arlene
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:10
  • If there had been water in initially, turning on the water would not have resulted in a sudden pressure raise and T-P valve blowing, as the temperature in the tank would have been below 100c. Your plumber is not only incompetent, he's also lying.
    – Jeffrey
    Mar 14, 2018 at 18:51

2 Answers 2


Inside of a gas water heater there is a plate on the bottom and a flue tube for the flames / hot gasses to run up and heat the water. By having the flame on with no water, all that happened was that the plate and flue tube get very hot, likely red hot. It's highly unlikely they were damaged permanently though, there are safety cutoffs that would have turned off the gas way before that happens. enter image description here

As to the T-P valve, when you finally turned on the hot water, it likely immediately flashed into steam. A hot water heater tank is NOT a steam vessel, hence the T-P valve. the T-P valve is SUPPOSED to open and vent the steam, so it was actually doing exactly what it was designed for. Once it had cooled down it would have probably re-sealed, but changing it out is not a problem. It's doubtful that Sears would pay for it without having first given it a chance to cool and seal though.

Dents on the outside of a hot water heater would be strictly cosmetic. The dent you can see is just on the "skin" of sheet metal that is covering the insulation inside, between the actual tank and that cosmetic skin. I usually buy the dented ones to get the discount.

Don't call that plumber again though, that was a bonehead move on his part...


It sounds like you got one of "their" independent contractor's that "helps them" get rid of old &/or damaged inventory. But, as long as it's working you don't have any additional basis for concern nor warranty claim yet & of course it's hopefully just a scratch & dent at this point.

While I understand the need for hot water, the water not being turned on should've been reported & assessed by Sears. And, the T&P valve replacement should've been corrected by Sears, you shouldn't touch anything regardless of how simple & quick it is. I would make a note to never mention the T&P valve if you do file a claim in the future, that'll be Sears' out.

Concerning the pilot & I might be wrong on this, but you shouldn't have a pilot & installing an Old Law Water Heater after last year's Law Change is illegal. You can call any actual Plumbing guy or firm to confirm this, if you're contemplating additional stress & interruption.

  • 1
    I thought they just quit making them, and it was illegal for new construction.
    – Ed Beal
    Feb 25, 2016 at 14:10
  • @EdBeal I thought that was the rule too, although that was April 2015 so getting a unit that's been sitting for at least 10 months is still a bit suspect. I would personally be papering up my warranty status as much as possible (i.e. don't rely on the Mfr, force Sears to stand behind it for as long as possible)
    – Jeff Meden
    Feb 25, 2016 at 14:22
  • That's what I'm not sure of. But, my HVAC guy's newsletter was very clear back then that old ones couldn't be installed after the new law took effect, they may have bent the rules for a period though. And, new thing going in is new so old building or new building would have the same requirement. You can't even, legally, re-use an old toilet once it's detached.
    – Iggy
    Feb 25, 2016 at 16:09
  • Quite an education available on this site - thank you all.
    – Arlene
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:14
  • We all thank you for asking & getting the problems & solutions known to others. I hope you don't have anymore Water Heater problems for a good long time.
    – Iggy
    Feb 26, 2016 at 18:26

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