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Hot Water Heater Q's and A's

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Buying New Heaters|Installing Heaters|Lighting Problems|Leaks & Drips|Elements|Water Not Hot Enough|Water Too Hot|Noises|Other Problems

Electric Water Heaters: Suggestions?

My father must replace the water heater in his home. Is there a brand that anyone would recommend as reliable? Or advise against any particular company?

During the 10 years in the plumbing business, I had much success with A.O. Smith water heaters. They are usually available from a Plumbing Wholesale Supply house, not from a home center.

Things to be careful of when replacing an electric water heater Your father should make sure that the gallonage of the heater, and wattage of the elements, are the same in the new one as the old one. This information is usually available on the label of the old heater. He should also purchase a new relief valve, as they should be replaced every time you put in a new heater. The new relief valve should be piped with 3/4" piping to a point 6" above the finished floor. It is acceptable to use plastic piping for this, but coming from the old school, I still prefer copper.

You father should also check the local codes with the building department. In many states the plumbing code states that a water heater replacement requires a plumbing permit, regardless of who installs the heater. This is done for the protection of the homeowner, as an improperly installed or connected heater could become a "projectile" under certain conditions, which could damage a home. Most insurance companies will be reluctant to pay for any damage is the work was not inspected by the town if it is required.


New Tankless Hot Water Heaters: Any Good?

I have to replace a hot water heater. A traditional 50-Gallon cost $350 installed. The new Aqua Star tankless would cost about $750 installed. Which way would you go?

Is the Aqua Star GAS? If so, go with it, they use about half the fuel. Check the specs; make sure it outputs the GPMs you need. Probably 200gpm for a house load. I was looking into a Takagi GAS tankless, and they are about $900. They are very efficient. Check out www.notanks.com

Changing from Electric to Gas Hot Water Heater

Can anyone give me an estimate on the price of a 40-gal gas, forced air water heater. The one that is vented with PVC??

I believe what you are asking is 'what is the cost of a gas water heater with a POWER VENT.' No such animal as a forced air water heater.

A gas water heater will cost you about $300.

Add to that the cost of piping for the gas supply...(My guess $200)

Add to that the cost of power vent...(my guess $200)

Add to that labor to install the heater...

Guess about $800 all told sight unseen...Maybe more for unusual circumstances..

. Down the road, replacement of heater will be minimal.

Your savings over electric (assuming you are going NG vs. Propane) will assist in the conversion.




Water Heater Vent

Can you put your water heater vent into the vent that exists for the LP gas heating stove? Alternatively, do they have to be separate?

Most likely it is ok if both are LP gas but the only way to know for sure is to call your local plumbing code inspector...

Gas Heater Pilot Light Keeps Going Out



Pilot light continues to go out even after changing the thermocouple. It works for a while with the new
thermocouple then goes out and has to be relit. Works for a while then goes out again. Appears to be no
disruption of the supply of gas.


Sounds like you have a faulty spill switch rather than thermocouple. Replace the spill switch.


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Pilot Light Won't Light on Old OR New Heater



I had a problem with a hot water heater that would not light. I couldn't even get the pilot light to light.The water heater was old so I decided to buy a new one. After installing new water heater I couldn't get this won to Light. Help?

With the gas off, unscrew the drip leg from the gas supply line. This is a piece of pipe that extends downward from the main gas line to the heater just before it enters the heater. Its purpose is to collect sediment and junk that may filter through the gas line thus inhibiting flow.

If your house is old, this may have corroded to the point where it is blocking gas to the heater.

Otherwise, check to make sure your spill switches are operable and installed properly. Spill switches are attached to the flue of the heater and to the gas supply. In the event of CO2 buildup they cut the supply of gas to the unit. If they are inoperable or not installed properly they will not allow the unit to light.

Won't Stay Lit, Replaced Thermocoupler

Trouble shooting, water heater will not fire up.. Replaced thermocoupler and will not stay lit''. Please, help !

You have a bad gas valve!

P/T Valve on Gas Heater is Leaking

Intermittent leak from pressure-temperature valve PT valve new with heater and heater has a surge tank already installed to absorb surges in water pressure. I turned the temperature setting down, it helps some but run out of hot water too fast!

It could be a couple of things. Although it is only 1-1/2 years old the safety valve could be bad, which means it needs to be replaced? Most likely sediment has built up around the valve. Try flushing it out. Place a bucket under the blow down tube from the valve. Quickly open and close the valve a couple of times to clean it out. If it still leaks replace the valve. You should also clean out the tank itself, to get rid of sediment. Shut off the water supply to the heater. Turn the temperature control to low and the on-off to "pilot". Connect a hose to the drain valve at the bottom and run the hose outside or to a drain. Drain the tank down and then open the water supply to force the sediment out. Close the drain, refill the tank, and reset the controls to normal. There is a good article in the current issue of This Old House magazine about water heater maintenance.

Electric Heater Now Cold, Dripping

I was away for a few days and when I got back, the water heater was dripping from the drain and the heater was cold. How do I tell if the water heater is still operating(the electric breakers are not tripped). Also, how do I keep the heater from dripping( I've tightened the valve as hand-tight as I can).

To stop the drip buy a hosebib cap which is like a bottle cap and screw it on unless you prefer to replace that drain valve. As to the breakers, sometimes it not obvious they tripped so turn them all the way off then back on to reset them.

Check the setting on the thermostat (120 degrees for starters).Check for voltage at the tank After a minute or two place your ear against the tank and listen for the crackling sound of water being heated. If no hot water and the tank is over ten years old replace it rather than sink money into it.

Prior to your leaving, if you shut off the water supply to the tank and the electricity was left on, and any hot water faucet had a slight leak or was left cracked open, that drip could have left your electric heating element(s)"high and dry" and left to fry. Perhaps unlikely, but very possible.

Heater Leaking from Top and Bottom

Water heater leaking from top & bottom. Can it be saved or should I replace it?

Leaking water heater generally means the glass liner is cracked. There is no repair for a cracked liner. Replacement is the only option.

Don't waste time in replacing it or you will be caught with a major leak. My water heater was leaking and I thought I had a few days to shop around, but I got a call at work from my frantic wife asking how to stop the water that was gushing out onto the floor. The bottom fell out of the heater and the water was flooding into the basement. Well, after explaining where the shut-off was, the water stopped. We then had to clean up the water and replace the heater.

Dripping Hot Water Heater

My hot water heater seems is dripping very slowly from somewhere below the temperature control. I assume this is not normal, but don't know anything about water heaters. Do I conclusively have a leak, could it be normal?

Most likely, you have a leak and the only repair is to replace the heater.

Old Electric Heater Keeps Needing Reset

Dear Handyman, we just bought a used trailer,1981model for my mother and the hot water heater is an electric one, not too terribly old. In the beginning the heater was on and then the next day the water was cold so I found the reset button on the top and pressed it and it came on and worked just fine for about 3 days. Then it went off again so I decided to press the reset button again and it sparked and sent out a puff of smoke but the heater stayed on for approx. 4 days. Now all of a sudden the water is barely lukewarm and I am a little weary of pressing the reset button again. Any suggestions, and could you let me know what you feel is happening with this thing?

One or both of the heating element housings have corroded to the point of allowing water to drip onto and short out the element. You have the option of replacing the element(s) or replacing the water heater. Replacing the elements is much cheaper...

Electric Heater Keeps Popping Overload

The overload has popped twice in three days. Both elements still have resistance and appear good. Is the control relay bad? The unit is 5 years old.

It is likely the element(s). They may develop pinhole leaks and depending upon the type of water you have, may self- seal after leaking.... (I.e. hard water deposits). Simplest and cheapest thing to do is to change the element(s) for under $20 bucks usually..

Water Not Hot Enough

I recently installed a 50gal. Maytag gas hot water heater. With the thermostat at maximum, I barely get water hot enough for a shower, even with no cold water turned on. Is there a way to adjust the thermostat to make the water hotter?

This sounds like a defective thermocouple or a defective thermostat.
My suggestion is to get a replacement unit under warranty from your supplier. The adjustable thermostat is preset from the factory at about 130-degree F, but you can manually adjust it upward to about 180 degrees.

Under normal circumstances, there is no need to adjust the thermostat at all, since the factory preset setting gives you all the hot water you need.

Not Enough Hot Water

We have a 40 gallon water heater we cannot get enough hot water to fill one washer load of clothes ,nor can two people take a shower until it reheats . What is the solution to this problem? Since we just recently bought the home I have no idea how old, it is. But looks fairly new.

The only possible thing I can think of is you may have a defective heating element or thermostat.

Another answer:
It is usually a bad element(s) or thermostat(s) but it could also simply be a tripped internal circuit breaker. Replacing bad elements costs under $100 parts and labor included.

Electric Heater: Water TOO Hot

My water now is producing scalding hot water. Both thermostats are staying on until the reset button pops. Have serious problems with fluoridated water. Any way to tell which thermostat is bad, or if heating element is shorting out?

Heating elements are not shorting out. If they were, then water would not get hot. You have a thermostat problem because they are allowing water to overheat. Once water has become extremely hot, kill all electrical power to heater. Then disconnect the black wire to one heating element. Turn electrical power back on and touch one lead of a voltmeter to the disconnected wire and the other lead to a water pipe. If you get a reading, then that thermostat is not functioning properly; replace it with a new one. Turn off all electrical power to heater, reconnect the first wire and repeat his process with the next element. It is possible that both thermostats are not working. Note set the voltmeter for 240v (or 120V) depending on your unit)

Water Heater Sounds

In an adjoining bathroom, it sounds as though a valve is open. Checking the water heater sounds as though coming from it. Closed values, turned off water to water heater, still there. Turned of water to toilet facilities as well. to check. Sound remains. Is this one of the sounds which occurs when excess sediment may be present? I am perplexed. Water presser is fine.

Could be. Check that by flipping to OFF the circuit breakers for the tank (or turn off the gas valve to it) so that the water is not being heated. Wait an hour or so and there should be no noise.

Rumbling Noise When Showering

Everytime I take a shower the waterheater makes a rumbling noise for about fifteen minutes. It drives me nuts, what can I do to fix this besides buying a new waterheater? Any info. will be appreciated.

You don't say if it is a gas water heater, but if it is, the noise is probably, sediment churning around as the water heats up. As long as it does not leak, and you can stand the noise, it should be ok.

Electric Water Heater Unreliable


Have a electric Water Heater, approx 5 years old. Suddenly it has become unreliable for consistent warm water. Only one person can take a shower and expect warm water. At that point the water is cold. What could be the cause? We have soft water, I have drained the tank only once or twice. If I need to drain the tank again - what is the best way to do it?

Try changing the bottom element.Turn off the power, disconnect the wires on the element , & check for continuity.If there isn't any ,change the element.


New Pipes; Now Hot Water Runs Out Sooner

I just had my water pipes replaced and I have noticed that my hot water runs out a lot sooner than before. It starts off hot, but starts getting cooler much sooner than before. Any ideas?

Yes...two of them
1. Your hot water is leaking out at a bad joint.
2. The plumber mistakenly connected your cold water line to the tank output and the hot water line to the tank input which would cause you to draw "hot" water from the bottom of the tank which is the last area to get hot. Look for "H" and "C" embossed at the top of the tank and ascertain the pipe going to the faucets goes to "H".

Electric Hot Water Tank: Should I Replace Anode Rod Second Time or Tank?

I have an electric hot water tank that is a little over 8 years old. I had to replace the anode rod about 3 and 1/2 years ago because of rust in the water. I have the same problem now and the cost to replace the anode rod is $175.00 ,(tank needs to be cut out because ceiling too low to just replace the rod). Would it just be better to replace the tank where it only had a 5-year guarantee to begin with ,as this is the second time. I am in a condominium and other people who have the same tank are now replacing because the tanks leaked. However, I don't think they ever replaced the anode rod during the life of the tank or flushed the tank.

If your neighbors have the same tank, same age, same water supply, it may not be a bad idea to follow their lead before yours' leaks. Two anodes=$300. What's a new tank cost? If you replace the anode, then it leaks and you buy a new tank that won't accept the anode you replaced (which you would probably save for the next time you need it), you are out an anode and whatever it costs to fix the water damage. Me? I'd price a new tank.

Discolored Hot Water

I noticed that water from all of our hot water taps had become a bit yellowish so I decided to flush the hot water tank. When I did, large amounts of rust colored sediment came out. I continued flushing the tank until the water ran clear. That was about two months ago...already, I am noticing the yellowish tinge in my hot water again.

1. What is this sediment in my tank? Could it be rust?

2. Is there a chemical treatment I can try to alleviate this situation?

3. How long does it typically take to thoroughly flush a mid-size (sorry don't have the specific volume with me) hot water tank? Could I have not let it flush for long enough last time?

4. What is the typical lifetime of a hot water heater (my home was built in 1981 and I believe the current heater is the original)

Question 1: It could be just sediment (dirt) or it could be iron oxide. If you really want to find out take a sample to your local plumbing supplier and they will send it out to be analyzed and recommend filters or other measures to be taken.

Question 2: There are iron filters if in fact it is iron...testing the water is the only viable option to determine what you need.

Question 3: A typical size water heater is 40 gallons and if you are genuinely flushing it (i.e. keeping the cold supply water running in and not simply draining) the heater should be flushed in about 10-15 minutes max.

Question 4: Water heaters come with five or 10-year warranties. Either way, if you have the original heater you have gotten far more than you paid for. Time to replace it.




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