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Thread: salt on water heater

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member liam o k's Avatar
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    Default salt on water heater

    A friend asked me to look at her water heater that has a white mineral build-up on top. A plumber told her that it was because her chimney was inadequate and so the heater was not venting properly, so she called me. Using an incense stick while the water heater was running, I found that it drew the smoke very well. I found that a fitting was seeping (damn, i didn't check to see if was the hot or cold) and there was a layer of mineral on top that looked like the salt flats. I tasted it, and sure enough it was SALT. She does not have a water softener, and never has. She can offer no explanation as to why there should have been any salt in the vicinity of the water heater. It was installed in '94, is dripping at the drain, and purportedly pops and carries on while heating (though not while I was there) so it might as well be replaced, but what's up with the salt? PS Our local water supply is notoriously hard, but I've never heard of salt in the water.

  2. #2
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    The principal minerals of concern are magnesium chloride and calcium chloride. CaCl for sure tastes like salt. It is used as a salt subsitute.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; I tasted it, and sure enough it was SALT

    It was her water heater so maybe you should have had her taste it. You were lucky it was not cyanide or something just as deadly.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  4. #4
    DIYer, not in the trades LLigetfa's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by liam o k View Post
    She does not have a water softener...
    She should get one. The popping noise is due to all the mineral buildup inside the tank. Probably looks like the one in this thread.

    http://www.terrylove.com/forums/show...r-water-heater

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    It is caused by rust/calcium nodules on the center flue which have small openings in them. The hot gases turn the water in the nodule to "superheated steam" which is then forced out of the small openings into the tank's water where it instantly condenses creating a "mini explosion" which is the popping sound. Over time as the openings get larger the water can circulate through them better so they no longer turn to steam and the sounds disappear.
    Licensed residential and commercial plumber

  6. #6
    DIY Junior Member liam o k's Avatar
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    So, what i'm getting out of all this is that there may be calcium chloride in the water. But, i've seen many leaky water heaters in this area with calcium (we always call it lime) build-up, and none have had that salt-flats type crusting that is so indicative of salt. Admittedly, i've never tasted a water heater before, since the deposits have never suggested salt to me before, but i have tasted the scale on my teapot: it's not salty. Could it be there's a peculiarity with her heater (the condition of the anode rod...) that causes an excess amount of calcium chloride to be produced? Or a peculiarity with her neighborhood's water supply?
    Last edited by liam o k; 10-22-2012 at 08:33 AM.

  7. #7
    Jack of all trades DonL's Avatar
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    It could be rodent piss.

    I have never tasted it but I would guess that it taste salty.

    Normally the rodents will leave some turds also, That is not chocolate but may taste like it.
    Theory only works perfect in a vacuum.

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