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Thread: Hot water fm 50g elec tank goes from light to no pressure in 5-10 seconds

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member
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    Default How to clean tank with rapid hot reduced flow

    I have a Lowes Environ-Temp made by American WH in Johnson city, tn. As usual, the WH malfunctions when inconvenient. The water was hot but reduced to no pressure in 5-10 sec in am when wife needed shower! She let me know she was unhappy! It appeared that something was clogged or restricted. I put in a switch box above the tank when I changed the wh in 1999. I turn it off when on vacation or for service, very useful and convenient. I had not drained the tank in 3-4 years due to family illnesses, lots of parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. I was really a year or two behind and have not yet caught up.
    I brought a garden hose to the basement and extended it under the garage door to the yard to drain.
    I opened the drain and had a flow that changed to a slow trickle. I tried to stir things up by turning the cold water back on, it stirred up lime particles of various shapes about the size of rock salt. The tank had a sturdy 3/4 in plastic drain but with a 3/8 x 1/2 in opening in the end of the plastic. The chunks would not pass through the small opening.
    RECOMMENDATION: CHECK the drain opening size before churning debris inside of tank. !
    After back flushing through the drain and turning on the cold water inlet several times, I realized the drain could not be cleared with logical actions.
    I opened all of the hot water lines so there could be no vacuum on the tank. I had only opened one before. I drained as much as possible out of the pressure valve. Due to sediment in the valve channel, I could not get all the water out before it clogged. I unscrewed the valve, and use my wet vac to "catch" the water at the edge of the threads until the water level was below the opening.
    I used some 1/2" clear flexible hose that I had (I needed about 6-8 ft fm hdwe store) to drain tank.
    Insert enough hose to reach the bottom of the tank. Suck on the other end with the vac to start draining. The clear hose fit inside my garden hose which ran to the outside. It drained about 1 g per min per my measuring the flow with a bucket.
    Using my watch, I calculated how long it would take to get below the upper element. I confirmed that the power was still off! I disconnected the wires under the access panel and removed the element. The upper element is rarely showing any deterioration.
    When the water flow stopped, I removed the lower element. A two battery mag lite AA was useful in looking inside the tank. Using several 2-3' pieces of old garden hose, some flex hose, and some more rigid hose, I was able to suction the bottom of the tank virtually clean of the debris chunks, lime or calcium. The inside of the tank is lowest around the edges. In order to vacuum all debris, you will need suction hose or tube at a 90 degree angle to get the closest edge and a sock to wrap around the opposite hose end for when the wet vacuum hose end was too large to give good suction.
    There was dirt sediment/foam on the side of the tank. It took water backflushed thru the drain and from the cold inlet pipe to loosen it all. I also used the flashlight thru the upper element hole to see more of the tank. I will look for a child's toy "periscope" to use nect time so I can see the tank on the close side. A std 7 watt bulb from a night light will fit through the upper element hole and would provide a much better view. I ran out of room to type. I will add a thread to this.
    Last edited by CHRPC78; 02-25-2010 at 02:19 PM.

  2. #2
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    Me again to finish original.. An old type christmas tree light string or a single electric christmas "candle" should fit thru the 3/4" openings. I will locate one before next use. It took about 30-40 gallons to get the chunks out. Evidently there was too much crud at cold inlet pipe that somehow would not allow pressure to work, but that does not make sense. Water should move the granules. Anyway, I had to put tank back in operation. I reversed the elements since the upper showed no sign of use and turned the water down 5 deg to 120 which should produce slightly less lime. I had to cut away the foam at the top of the tank that filled the anode screw opening. A big chunk of the anode was sideways in the bottom of the tank. (I also suctioned 3-4 peanut sized anode pieces, so hose ID should be at least 3/8 to 1/2"). I will drain again this summer in warmer weather and look for a brass drain with a larger opening that will allow the lime chunks to flow out and replace anode. I don't think any big lime chunks were left to need a vinegar bath/soaking. It would be expensive to pay someone to do this, but cheaper than a new tank. I thought I was reasonably informed about my WH but I was NOT. The MFGing Co would rather you buy another new tank paying extra for another lifetime warranty.

  3. #3
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    Factory said warranty required anode replacement every 3 yr max!!! I would think checking would be sufficient and to track it with notebook paper on side of tank. I do not know if anode works just as well broken off in pieces as it does hanging from top. When I drain this summer, I will try to remove it with long mechanic's grabber. Anode may have to make electrical ground to metal. Any one know about this? FYI. I borrowed sheet metal large socket from neighbor to remove elements (about $7 fm Lowes). The anode takes another size socket. I saw all the replies about cleaning tanks and thought this might help someone.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    I do not know of ANY water heater manufacturer that even asks if the anode rod was ever checked, much less replaced, to honor the warranty, and I have replaced EVERY make and model, except Sears Kenmore, under warranty.

  5. #5
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    In most cases, it is quite challenging to remove an anode rod , because they are screwed in TIGHT. It would make no sense to take it out, and NOT put in a new one.

    Check the language on your warranty papers. I have not personally ever seen a written requirement to inspect or replace the anode. What is the warranty on that water heater, because we are at about 11 years now based on your post. Is it some kind of long or extended warranty? Thay may have invoked the inspection requirement. Often , warranties are written by loopholes to give the company many loopholes.

  6. #6
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    The only loophole to the warranties, other than Sears, is that the rating plate has to be intact so they can verify the date of manufacture, PERIOD. Sears requires that the heater was registered TO YOU when you purchased it, which means YOU must be the original owner, and they must inspect it before it is disconnected. Neither of which is a requirement for most NON-Sears heaters. I would replace a heater before I would spend the amount of time and effort your routine would require. And after all that work, the heater could still start leaking tomorrow.
    Last edited by hj; 03-12-2010 at 09:03 AM.

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