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Thread: Need suggestions for too small water heater in attic

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member charlesm1950's Avatar
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    Default Need suggestions for too small water heater in attic

    I bought my current house in 2005 and paid a contractor to do an addition with new master bath in 2006. He put the electric water heater in the attic above the bathroom. There's an access panel in the bedroom wall about 9 feet up. The panel is about 2 1/2 x 3 feet, although I haven't measured it. I asked for a 50 gallon water heater because the master bath has a shower and large garden tub. Problem is, you can't fill the tub without running out of water. When I went into the attic I found a 40 gallon water heater. Lot's of finger pointing and no resolution at the time, just compensation for the cheaper water heater's cost.

    Today, I'm trying to figure out the best way to be able to fill the tub with hot water. My life has changed and my knees would appreciate soaking in the hot water. The water heater is now 6 years old. Should I replace it with something larger? Or, put another tank in series or parallel to supplement it? There doesn't appear to be much additional height for the usual height water heater, but there is enough floor space for two.

    In any case, I will need to get the new water heater up there. If needed, I'll screw some heavy duty hooks into the ceiling to hoist it up. I can touch up the hole afterwards with a little spackle and paint. Do professionals use a sling or any special gear to hoist a water heater? Would a Marathon water heater with plastic tank be a better bet because it is lighter or less likely to get damaged?

    I have lot's of questions. I'd appreciate some "wisdom of experience."
    Thanks.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    One way to make the tank appear larger is to run it hotter. TO prevent danger of scalding, you would then install a tempering valve at the tank. This will give you more hot water. But, if you can't do this work yourself, the labor to add the tempering valve would be in the same order as changing the tank. An electric tank could last a very long time, or it could die tomorrow. Hopefully, when they installed it, they installed a drain pan for the inevitable time when it does start to leak.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member charlesm1950's Avatar
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    I never heard of these valves before but it looks like a good solution... much easier than getting a new water heater into the attic. They did put a pan under the water heater but I don't know where it drains since there is nothing outside. I'll get that checked out when a tempering valve is installed. Thanks for the great idea!

  4. #4
    In the trades Dana's Avatar
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    A tempering valve and bumping the storage temp will help, but it may not be enough- even a 50 gallon and elevated storage temp won't be enough for some soaking tubs. What's the fill volume on the tub you're trying to fill?

    Before springing for the valve you can (carefully) test the thesis by increasing the temperature on the tank, wait for it to heat up, then fill the tub. At storage temps north of 140F the scald risk goes way up, so you'll want to be extra careful about running any taps other than the tub during this experiment.

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