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Thread: Water heater blew (layman questions)

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member webgrunt's Avatar
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    Default Water heater blew (layman questions)

    OK, this is my first water heater blowout. I have some questions:

    1. Can you point me to where I can find tips on buying a new one?

    2. Why aren't the tanks made of stainless steel so they don't blow out in the first place?

    3. I'm just now learning you have to drain them. Would it be possible/helpful/safe to squirt a few gallons of vinegar in there after draining (and before refilling) to help dissolve any deposits?

    4. I found out through another thread here that self-cleaning is a useless gimmick which, if it does anything at all, results in sand being sent into the water system of the house, potentially clogging faucets, fouling valves, etc. This is more of a statement than a question, but please correct me if I'm wrong.

    5. I have not inspected the damage yet. The water came out faster than the drain could handle and flooded my kitchen. Any experience on whether or not homeowners' insurance covers this kind of damage?

    Thanks in advance. I've found appliance repair folks to be the most helpful, informative people of any message boards and words can't express how much I appreciate you sharing your knowledge and expertise.
    Last edited by webgrunt; 12-22-2010 at 06:30 AM. Reason: Adding a question

  2. #2
    Master Plumber Redwood's Avatar
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    Heat Transfer Products makes several types of stainless steel water heaters.
    You didn't say which type you have.

    http://www.htproducts.com/

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    DIY Junior Member webgrunt's Avatar
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    Oh, forgot. It's a Rheem model 21V40-38 natural gas 40-gallon one.

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    DIY Junior Member webgrunt's Avatar
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    BLAST! I found out the water heater has to fit into a space 18" wide. That severely limits my options.

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    DIY Senior Member SteveW's Avatar
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    From what I've read here, don't buy a WH from a big-box store. There have been some models sold by the big stores which have been very troublesome. The pros seem to prefer Bradford White, which is usually sold by plumbing supply houses.

    Stainless steel is not used for the majority of WH due to cost.

    For maintenance of your new WH, it's good to replace the factory drain valve with a "full port" 1/4 turn valve. That type of valve won't get clogged up with sediment. This in turn makes it easier to flush the tank periodically. Probably overkill to put vinegar in it, but there may be other opinions on that point.

    The other thing that's good to do with a new WH is to pull the sacrificial anode out, and put some Teflon tape and pipe dope on the threads before reinstalling it. If you want to try to keep a WH going longer, inspect the anode every year or two and replace when it's nearly spent. Most folks don't ever do this, but there is a site (waterheaterrescue.com) that says that if you keep a decent anode in the tank, you can really extend the life of the unit.

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    In the Trades Gary Swart's Avatar
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    Not all water heater sold by big box stores are bad. I would be more concerned about brand than who is selling it. GE/Rheem is sold by HD and is a very good heater. Whirlpool sold by L***s or anyone else is junk. Bradford-White is an excellent heater, but is supposed to be sold only to plumbers, but I have heard this rule is not always followed. Although there are a fair number of brands, there are only a few manufacturers. I concur with the suggestion of replacing the stupid plastic drain valve with a 1/4 turn ball valve. I think the way your heater failed is rather unusual. I think most heats begin to leak slowly giving you some warning. A drain pan under the tank might be a good idea for your new tank. These are required in some places.

  7. #7
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    There are various solutions to preventing a WH from flooding the area. A WAGS valve is one. Bradford White has a neat, optional leak detection alarm that can be enhanced with a cold-water valve shutoff. They also have another add-on that gives you a tempering valve (with dishwasher hot water takeoff) and a 7-day 4 period thermostat that shows the tank's current temperature, and allows you to set the periods of when you want the water the hottest, and at what temperature. Good for people who may regularly be away for awhile, or want an easier way to boost the temperature to extend available hot water when guests arrive. There are other leak detection devices that can shut the water off, too. So, more than one way to protect yourself.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    If the water came from inside the home, then insurance will cover it. If it had been water from outside, then it would have been considered a flood problem, and not covered under the standard policy.
    Some condo associations require replacement ten years to prevent what happened to you. Of course they can last longer, but the repairs for a burst and leaking water heater tend to far outweigh a perceived value in keeping the old dog and beating it.

    That being said, I replaced my mothers water heater two weeks ago, that is a big worry off my chest. Hers was pretty old. Still working, but old.

    I normally install either Bradford White or Rheem.

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    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    I found one place on online to check the price of the SS tanks. They get $5342 for the Phoenix100 model.

    There is no downside to the vinegar flush, it just may be overkill. The mineral deposit buildup is not what corrodes or otherwise shortens the life of a tank. A better maintenance plan would be to replace the anode rod every 5 years. Sometimes not easy, and in the end, if you just planned to replace the whole unit every 12 years, that will up your odds.

    Anything can happen at ANY time, so good insurance and some of the protective meausres like the WAGS or a water sense alarm, may be the best peace of mind.

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    One who lurks Basement_Lurker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by webgrunt View Post
    4. I found out through another thread here that self-cleaning is a useless gimmick which, if it does anything at all, results in sand being sent into the water system of the house, potentially clogging faucets, fouling valves, etc. This is more of a statement than a question, but please correct me if I'm wrong.
    The fancy cyclone swirl self cleaning marketing is more or less a gimmick, but bottom feed tanks aren't.
    Broken promises don't upset me. I just think, why did they believe me? -Jack Handy


    www.blackbirdkitchenandbath.com

  11. #11
    DIY Junior Member webgrunt's Avatar
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    Right, the anode rod. I looked in my manual and it says the anode is there to prevent corrosion of the tank by corroding instead of the tank--once the anode is all used up, the tank begins to corrode.

    Why all the hulabaloo about flushing, then? I mean, I can see where a lot of sediment reduces capacity as well as efficiency, but why does it seem like a lot of people think that's what causes the tank to fail? Or is it just me?

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    DIY Junior Member webgrunt's Avatar
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    Oops, accidentally posted twice. I don't see a "delete" option...

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    DIY Senior Member SteveW's Avatar
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    From what I understand, if a tank has a lot of sediment on the bottom, it impairs the efficiency of a gas WH since it kind of insulates the water in the bottom of the tank from the heat. In the case of electric WHs, sediment can build up to the level of the lower element, and render it useless.

    So, as near as I can tell (and I'm not a pro and could be wrong), sediment is more about efficiency. The anode rod, as you point out, protects the steel of the tank and "sacrifices" itself by allowing itself to be corroded instead of the tank.

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