Hot water heater question

Scott L

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This is our first winter in our townhome, the hot water barely lasts a full shower in the morning (didn't do this in the summer). I figured one of the elements needed changing so I bought a tester and opened up the hwh panels to find this:

bottom panel
top panel
model #

Looks like the top one is just a dummy one to save on electricity use? The bottom one tested out fine, just wondering if it's common practice to have that at the top.

Also if I wanted to put a working one up there how can I get access to the power wires? Thanks for any help.
 

DougR

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That's a 50 Gallon Tank............
do you take hour long showers??


Do you know how old the unit is?

Is there a Drain at the Bottom?

Did you try increasing the Thermostat Setting (Pic #1)

It shows 125 degrees!

It was wired up Properly....DON"T Mess with the Wiring !!

( it Only has ONE Heating Element )
 

Bob Graz

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Looking at the pic of the thermostat and given the position of the screw, it looks like it could possibly be less than 125 degrees. It's hard to call though from a pic.
I would do two simple things. I'd open the drain a bit and see if any sediment is released.
I'd bump up the temp a bit and see what impact that has on your volume of hot water. I agree, don't even think about messing with any wiring.
I have a 50 gal tank, set to about 135 degrees and it supplies plenty of water for 5 people. If I try to go lower than about 135 degrees I do not get sufficient volume of hot water. By the way, my drain valve started slowly leaking a few weeks ago. Drain valves on hot water heaters tend to be a weak point due to cheap plastic valves. I went to Sears and spent $1.99 and put a shutoff valve that you would buy for an outside faucet or hose. It was rated for 160 degrees. A bit of plumbers tape on the threads, carefully thread new shutoff valve on threads and bingo, fixed.
 

Steve_Pannell

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Good advice on the sediment issue.

I've had water heaters where the bottom element was actually embedded in sediment and it had to try to heat the water through all that sediment. The water never really got as hot as it should have and it was costing a fortune because the element was on for longer periods.

If the sediment is very bad it can be cleaned out through the element hole after draining the tank and removing the element. It's a real pain in the neck if it's really bad.

Your water heater could possibly be converted to a 2-element unit by a professional but it would probably be cheaper to just buy a new water heater.
 

Scott L

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ahh it's probably the sediment. I'll attach a hose to the release valve and see what's what, thx guys
 

mylan

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Make sure you turn the power off to the heater or you will burn out the element.
 

JohnRice

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Probably a good idea.

Also, and this can be pretty critical. As was mentioned, the drain valve on the heater is usually very cheap, and the design of them doesn't work very well when trying to shut them off with hot water flowing through it. They often use an O-Ring in a configuration where the ring comes out of its seating, and it then won't shut off. So, shut off the cold water supply line to the heater, there should be a metal valve right above the heater, first, then open the drain valve, the open the metal supply valve a bit and drain a few gallons through thhe valve. Shut off the supply (since it is all sealed, it will still virtually if not completely stof flowing), close the drain valve and then slowly open the supply valve to let the tank repressurize.

Be aware a little air will probably get in your water line and faucets will spit the first time you turn on thhe hot water after doing this. It's not bad maintenance to do this every few months.
 

Jay H

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Cool, thanks for the link.. I haven't done this on my new house but I will. My question is:

Is a 40gal water heater actually true? Or is it one of those things where you buy a 1/2 gallon of ice cream when in fact it's really only 56oz (vrs 64oz)? Or a 2x4 isn't really 2"x4"

I figure since I have a sump, I can calculate the volume a full flush on the sump drains and then I can calculate 3/4 of my 40gal heater by the # of flushes the sump runs....

Jay
 

JohnRice

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Scott, the directions you linked to are for completely draining and clearing a tank, which may be necessary when problems have developed. The procedure I explained is more a routine maintanance to prevent problems in the first place. Prevention doesn't require draining the tank, as was described in your link. You just flush out a few gallons from the bottom of the tank without ever emptying it. Much better to do that every few months and avoid problems to begin with. If you are getting that much sediment, the sacrificial rod is probably shot and problems will continue until it is replaced, but that's a whole other topic.
 

Greg_R

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I recently had a similar problem and my plumber knew what it was immediately: an eroded dip tube. There is a tube that brings cold water into the heater and deposits it at the bottom of the unit (closest to the heating elements). These are cheaply made and can erode after a few years. Thus, the cold water is dumped at the top of the heater and you never get a hot shower. Check the dip tube before doing anything else! (It's a $2.50 part)
 

Johnny Angell

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I've got a HW heater related question. Is it worthwhile to install one of those insulating HW heater blankets? Do you really save energy $$$?
 

DougR

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I think if your Water Heater was in a unheated area such as a Garage,it would Help and save a few $$$ over time.
 

GordonL

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My parents just bought a new water heater from Home Depot. The owner's manual says that using a blanket voids the warranty so you should check your owner's manual.
 

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