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Thread: Water heater query

  1. #1

    Question Water heater query

    My water heater runs out of hot water too quickly. My assumption is that the lower element needs replacing. How do I know if it is the element and not the thermostat that is bad? Thanks

  2. #2
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Turn the electric off to the water heater, remove the upper and lower panels to the thermostats, remove the two wires to each element and check for continuity. If they don't show continuity then you know one of them is defective.

    If the tank is around 10+ years old you might have a defective dip tube.

    If you have hard water or haven't drained the tank in some time the bottom element might be sitting in sediment/buildup fighting to heat the water.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default testing

    The most positive/accurate tests are made with the power on to the heater, so I would be hesitant to tell you how to do it, unless I knew you were capable of doing it.

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    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking the easy way to test element

    testing the elements is a pain in the neck....

    you can still get a good reading from that bottom element
    even if it is bad becasue sometimes it " grounds out..."

    I have even rigged up a special "tool" with a light bulb
    in the line that will let me know when the element is grounded out...
    but I have not used it in years...


    I find the most easy way to check that bottom element is
    to simply take both side panels off the heater....

    ##turn the power off to the heater if you are a moron and have 6 thumbs....

    then simply feel the metal wall of the exposed steel inner tank with
    your bare fingers........ the top and bottom should be pretty hot
    and their should be very little difference in the heat levels.


    9 times out of 10 you will find that the bottom steel wall is
    going to feel very cold, almost ice cold to the touch......
    and it shouldent be that way...it should feel warm to hot.....


    In conclusion......therefore ....I surmise......,
    by calculated reasoning and sound plumbing
    logic ....
    that the lower element has bought the farm...,
    ate the big one.....shot its wad.....ect..ect

    and should be changed out
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 11-16-2006 at 03:44 AM.

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    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Just to add to what MPM said..... since your there and working on the heater perhaps without the aid of testing equipment, and if it is an older heater, just replace the 2 elements and the 2 thermostats. Total cost would be around $50.00 and you will have all bases covered. Just a suggestion. If it is a dip tube the tank will be hot top and bottom.
    Last edited by Cass; 11-16-2006 at 04:06 AM.

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    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default element

    In conclusion......therefore ....I surmise......,
    by calculated reasoning and sound plumbing

    logic ....
    that the lower element has bought the farm...,
    ate the big one.....shot its wad.....ect..ect

    and should be changed out

    Good surmising, now all they have to do is figure out whether the upper thermostat is stuck so it does not turn on the bottom element, or the lower thermostat is defective, or they have a hot water leak that is draining the heated water faster than the element can heat it, before they decide that the element has to be changed.

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    DIY Senior Member ToolsRMe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RUGGED
    If you have hard water or haven't drained the tank in some time the bottom element might be sitting in sediment/buildup fighting to heat the water.
    What's the recommended maintenance on a gas water heater? Do they need to be drained, too?

  8. #8
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    The only WH that does not specify regular draining (normally only a few gallons to flush out accumulated deposits) is an indirect one - the localized temperature does not get hot enough to cause deposits, or at least enough to worry about. Normally annually. Now, they all also say to regularly check the T&P valve. If you do that on a regular basis, you'll remove or break up most crud that can prevent it from working. But, if you've not done it on a regular basis, it may never close properly again.
    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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    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ToolsRMe
    What's the recommended maintenance on a gas water heater? Do they need to be drained, too?

    Gas or electric I recommend at least once a year draining. If there is any sediment that is building up on either style tank, both can cause problems.

    The gas type more than electric since the way it heats.

    You won't get it all out but you are better off doing it than not.

    I have to change lower elements on a water heater in my area that pratically takes brute force to get it out due to all the buildup inside the tank. It wouldn't be so bad if the customer drained it periodically.

    No way that electric heater is operating efficiently like that.


    Just like a garbage can, you consistently don't clean the bottom out it causes failure and that includes plastic as well.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

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    DIY Senior Member molo's Avatar
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    Default Draining the tank

    1. Wouldn't he want to drain the tank if it is sediment build-up around the lower element that is preventing it from heating?
    2. Also, I have a 30 gallon gas tank that only provides about 5-minutes of hot-water for a shower. I doubt it has been flushed in years. Can I drain this off and get the sediment out so that it will provide more hot water? Will the sediment come out by draining it?

    Thanks for any help,
    Molo

  11. #11
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by molo
    1. Wouldn't he want to drain the tank if it is sediment build-up around the lower element that is preventing it from heating?
    2. Also, I have a 30 gallon gas tank that only provides about 5-minutes of hot-water for a shower. I doubt it has been flushed in years. Can I drain this off and get the sediment out so that it will provide more hot water? Will the sediment come out by draining it?

    Thanks for any help,
    Molo

    30 gallon water heater produces 18 gallons of ready to use hot water. If you are taking extremely hot showers with a 2.5 GPM flow restrictor from the shower head @ 5 minutes, well, you are close. If the flow restrictor was removed then it is right on target.

    Definitely you would want to drain the tank regardless, any prevention to protect any device from premature failure is recommended.

    Usually every water heater I drain that has been installed for some time always comes out with buildup. As I repeat, you will not get it all.
    Last edited by Dunbar Plumbing; 11-16-2006 at 03:10 PM.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  12. #12
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking I can just feel the love

    thank you for correcting my errors HJ....
    criticism from someone of your stature
    is always appreciated....


    please let me restate myself.....

    If I were doing the reapirs to a ele water heater I would

    change everything on the unit .. both elements and both

    upper and lower thermostats.....

    so you dont have to chase ghosts....

    I install Stainless Steel heavy duty elements
    Normal Rheem Thermostats....


    I usually like to change the elements with the tank totally full
    of water ......


    when I take out the bottom element, I reach into the unit
    with a special copper scrapeing tool and pull out all the lime and
    sediment as the water is pouring out of this hole......

    In this area I usually can more than half way fill
    up a 5 gallon bucket
    with lime and sediment.....

    its a fairley wet process and I need lots of old
    towells to contain the water...

    and I wont do it without a floor drain near by...

    but its usually the best way to do
    a complete job.....flushing out the lime....

    I usually charge about $250-75

    I have done this three times this week already...

    Oh yes, I forgot to mention...I usually turn off
    the water and power to the unit before I start.

  13. #13
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    And I'll bet the rude awakening you get when you don't, helps remind you the next time! How many lives of the cat have expired?
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  14. #14
    Master Plumber master plumber mark's Avatar
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    Talking I have lit my self up before

    I have lost one or two lives.......

    the absolute dumbest thing

    that I ever did .....


    I did not realize that the 220 volt prong type tester

    that lights up orange had gotten soaked in the bottom

    of my wet tool box.....not good.....

    when I knelt down to test the 220 volts at the

    thermostat on the water heater it literally blew up

    in my face....

    I was completely insualted and safe because of the insulated

    prongs , but the glass bulb in the tester exploded something

    like a bright orange cherry bomb , and it sort of singed my

    eyebrows........it all hapenned in an instant.....

    but I had glasses on......


    now that was a rush......
    Last edited by master plumber mark; 11-16-2006 at 07:16 PM.

  15. #15
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default test

    I always test with the power on so I can tell if the elements should be heating and then if they are heating. That gives me all the information I need to tell where the problem is so I don't replace good parts.

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