Author Topic: Possibly silly hot water heater question  (Read 3510 times)

norvilion

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Possibly silly hot water heater question
« on: September 20, 2013, 08:21:42 AM »
About 5 and a half years ago we moved into our current condo, knowing less then than we know now about house maintenance. The electric hot water heater under the counter therefore has not been flushed once in the time that we lived here (and not sure how old it is or how often it was flushed before). My wife has been noticing the water getting cooler and cooler as time passes, but I haven't really taken not until this morning when it seemed that the water was about half as hot as normal- I could turn it on full heat and it would just be fairly warm.

First instinct of course is "Oh boy, knew this day would probably come when we have to lean how to go about buying a new water heater". More I think of it though more I'm wondering if this could actually be repaired. A silly thought, but do you all think that having a single broken heating element could cause the water to be half as hot, or would the thermostat just make the working heating element work overtime and the problem be undetectable? Would it be better to just replace it since I have no clue how old it actually is and therefore it may be near its end of life anyways? Do you think that just some ridiculous amount of debris build up from never being flushed could be a contributing factor?

As far as info on my actual ability to get in there and work on it- the most I've done with pipe work has been changing out faucets and the most extreme electrical work I've attempted has been replacing a broken part in an overhead fan. I do not own a multimeter (not 100% on exactly how to read the thing) but figure that's something I should probably learn at some point or another.

Spork

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #1 on: September 20, 2013, 08:43:33 AM »
It's possible it's either one of the heating elements is out... or that one or more of them is covered in scale/degraded.  Electric heaters also have a sacrificial rod in them.  The purpose is to be the "first thing to corrode".  If that rod eventually corrodes to the point of being "gone"... your elements are soon to go.

Flushing the debris can help.  But be aware that it can also open a can of worms.  If the drain has never been opened (and especially if the drain is made of plastic) ... You might open it and not be able to close it.  This is both caused by the heat and because the rubber seat doesn't get "exercised" much and gets old and cracked.  If you're going to flush it... let the water run out a faucet until it starts getting cold before you flush it out the water heater drain.

Kazimieras

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #2 on: September 20, 2013, 09:12:43 AM »
I've never experienced a heater like that, mine have been typically 50 Gal tanks in the basement. Most tanks have a lifespan of "around" 10 years. Many will last longer, like mine which was 12 before the top corroded through (that sacrificial anode was long gone) and actually "popped" off. We were lucky it wasn't the bottom. So just be aware.


I would place bets on your thermometer needing to be re-calibrated. If it was a coil issue the heater would never turn off. Other possibility is sometimes there is an anti-scalding unit put into place after the hot water tank. This mixes the very hot water with cold water so that no one can burn themselves if they just run the hot tap. If you have one of these units it may be sending too much cold water through.

Trinitysmom

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #3 on: September 20, 2013, 06:02:09 PM »
If you google the serial number it should tell you when the unit was built, so you will have an idea of how old it is. My husband replaced ours and it wasn't to bad. The thing is to give yourself lots of time to do it and don't panic if you have a drip/ leak just try again. ( we tried to move some water pipes and got a bit wet but second try worked out)



norvilion

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #4 on: September 20, 2013, 08:04:47 PM »
AS an update opened up the space where the hot water heater was and... yeah- gonna have to replace the thing. It was placed in a large metal pan, which I'm glad for because even though with a quick glance it looked like everything was fine it seems to be sitting in an inch of water with a solid layer of mold or something floating on top. It looks like it could be really easy to replace, but having to get over the mental hurdle of needing to take care of the mold issue too. I imagine even if I had big chain store install it they would not appreciate that complication.

Any advice for best way to safely remove the mold?

Greg

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #5 on: September 20, 2013, 09:43:54 PM »
It's mold, not flesh eating bacteria.  Pick it up and put it in the trash, use an old towel or large sponge to soak up the water.  Disconnect the power first would be smart.

Dicey

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #6 on: September 20, 2013, 10:57:36 PM »
It's mold, not flesh eating bacteria.  Pick it up and put it in the trash, use an old towel or large sponge to soak up the water.  Disconnect the power first would be smart.
Hooray for a common-sense answer!
Good luck, Norvilion. You might check out a few YouTube or other "How-To" videos and decide to tackle it yourself and save a few bucks.

norvilion

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #7 on: September 24, 2013, 08:18:18 AM »
Well, it took most of the day but I got it changed out. Would have been a really extraordinarily simple job except for the fact that the water heater had been cozily installed under our kitchen counter. At first I didn't register exactly how tight the space was (deceivingly large amount of space between the top of the water heater and the bottom of the counter) so I'd gotten a unit that was an inch-and-a-half too tall.

Returned that and got the proper size only to discover that it was still too tall due to the old unit being about an inch shorter in total height due to smaller pipe connections which were also slightly sunk into the tank (the new one had longer pipe connections flush with the top of the tank). There were no smaller units unless I wanted to go with a tankless or a point-of-use tank so I improvised and got a couple elbow bends- which changed the angle of connection enough I was able to get it under there without too much fuss.

Apparently this brand, being different from the old one, had a slightly different water input configuration, so I had quite a time getting the pipe to it on and connect to the house line. Had to twist the unit so the thermostat and drain were almost facing the back wall. I'll probably need to fix that at some point but it was getting later than I expected so I had to make due for the moment.

Copious use of teflon tape, happily discovering that one of my wrenches has about a 15 degree different grip angle than the other (allowing me to tighten bolts in tight spaces), and a good amount of testing for leaks and I'm pretty sure now I can call that project mostly done. At the very least it's done enough that I don't have to worry with it for another year of two when I flush the tank like I should have been doing all along :)

Also the mold, or whatever it was on the water surface, ended up being a non-issue. I'd put some bleach in the standing water a few days ago and when I actually got to the heater exchange it looked a lot better. More I think about it more I think I was over worrying with the general levels of stress going on at that time. Just have to take the old one to the recycling place now.

Greg

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Re: Possibly silly hot water heater question
« Reply #8 on: September 24, 2013, 11:45:29 AM »
Good job!