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Thread: spike in ng usage

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  1. #1
    DIY Member trw888's Avatar
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    Default spike in ng usage

    I have a 17-year-old Rheem natural gas heater. According to our gas bill, we suddenly started using significantly more gas in September and October than the previous year. The only thing it could be is the water heater. Then today, I heard it making a quiet but noticeable sound. Imagine two (or more?) metal pieces gently rubbing together. It almost sounds like a wind chime rattling in the wind.

    Could it be done for?

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    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    At 17-years, a WH has been on borrowed time for quite awhile. Not to say that occasionally some don't last longer. Depending on your water quality, it could be trying to heat up the water through a very significant portion of minerals, decreasing the heat transfer efficiency. Might be other reasons, and this sort of thing usually comes on gradually, not rapidly. But, your incoming water temperature may be dropping rapidly as winter approaches, and that will cause it to use more gas. You can get the statistics on temperatures - you might want to compare this year with last. Any teenagers home and taking long showers? Doing more laundry with hot? put in a new soaking tub? You could have a leak...is your house on a slab? Any part of the floor seem warm? Take a look at the water meter and while nobody is using any water, check to see if the meter is moving. You might have a surprise in the water/sewer bill coming (they often go quarterly rather than monthly). If it is moving, shut the supply to the WH off and see if it stops.
    Jim DeBruycker
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    DIY Member trw888's Avatar
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    Thanks for the response jadnashua.

    I live in the desert southwest and it's still pretty warm here so I doubt it's a drop in water temps. Really there have been no significant changes since last year's gas bills. Nothing that I can image that would cause such a spike. I checked the water meter too. No indication of leaks.

    I suspect it's the mineral content. It's just seems strange that it would happen so suddenly.

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    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    As it scales up the flue temperatures should rise (lost efficiency, higher natural gas use.) The noise is likely the sound of collapsing steam bubbles on hotter than normal surfaces in the central chimney.

    I would expect such a death spiral to be very rapid once this begins, but have never had a gas water heater die on me yet.

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    Homeowner Thatguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by trw888 View Post
    I have a 17-year-old Rheem natural gas heater.
    2/3rds of NG WHs have died before now, but if you fix it you have a 50-50 chance of making it to 21 yrs.
    Last edited by Thatguy; 11-18-2009 at 06:48 PM.

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    DIY Senior Member Runs with bison's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Thatguy View Post
    2/3rds of NG WH have died before now, but if you fix it you have a 50-50 chance of making it to 21 yrs.
    Not if it is already scaled up, which is what it sounds like is happening. I doubt descaling it successfully is likely and unless it was a DIY job, the money would probably be better spent on installation cost of the replacement. If the natural gas usage is rising rapidly then it probably is a losing proposition to stick with the old one.

    About the only way to know if it has a chance of repair is to open it up. I wouldn't open it until I had a replacement picked out.

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    DIY Member trw888's Avatar
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    Thanks for insights.

    I won't fix the heater; I'll replace it instead. I just wanted to find out if the end is near. Sounds like it is.

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    Extreme DIY Homeowner Scuba_Dave's Avatar
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    Was the meter actually read ??
    My last house they estimated my use & billed me for more then what I used in 6 months
    DIY Handyman (not 4 hire)
    I have enough to do to my own house

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    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    you need to discern the exact cause ...you are only guessing now that it is the water heater...you could have a gas leak some where... I would love it if people replaced water heaters just because they though it needed to be...it is very unlikely that the gas usage would spike due to inefficencey...look for something else and save your $$$ for when you do need to replace it...

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