Top access panel
Replaced a 25-year old(!) Giant water heater with a standard model (142ETE, 152ETE, 172ETE series) in 2009. Recently noticed dried rust streaks coming from the upper access panel on the outside of the tank. Opening the access panel revealed condensation and water pooling underneath the plastic vapor barrier where the foam insulation was not properly filled (see photo). The batt insulation was soaked and water had also accumulated at the base of the upper access panel. Some of this water leaked outside the panel, but a lot of it inside the outer shell down to the bottom access panel where rusting on the outside of the tank was more severe (see photo).
Contacted tech support at Giant by e-mail with photos. Martin from tech support at Giant claimed the tank was perforated and since it was outside of the 6-year warranty (8 with proof of professional installation), he washed his hands of my problem. Further e-mails and phone calls to Martin for further explanation and guidance for a replacement were not returned. A real class act. Thing is, once the access panels dried out, there was no more condensation or water pooling. We have soft water from a lake here, so premature rusting from the inside of the tank should be much less likely, and would probably explain why the original water heater lasted so long.
Since the condensation occurred where the foam insulation was missing, I suspect this condensation is the cause and the tank rusted from the outside in.
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