Draining Water Heater (Jan 28, 2004)

Came home today to no hot water. The snow is deep enough that it's within an inch of the tops of my galoshes (probably 16 inches). Stomped out back to have a look, figured I could relight the pilot out.
Wrongo! The tank is leaking quite a bit. The only shutoff is the main that shuts off the entire trailer, and that's behind the skirting, and 16 inches of snow. It's also within a foot or so of the water heater -- and is probably in a big puddle of water.
I'm going to deal with it tomorrow. It's 11:24 PM now. Can't get another water heater tonight anyhow.
The faucet at the bottom of the water heater clogs easily, the WH is so full of calcium scale, it's really pathetic. I tried to drain it a couple times to drain the sediment. No such luck. The valve jams up with little particles of sediment.
That's going to be an interesting use of my day, to find a new WH, get it here, and drag the new WH out back. Figure out how to drain the old one, and hook up the new one.
It's a natural gas fired tall 40, if that's any help.
Anyone done this kind of thing, and any ideas how to make the job go easier? I know the easy way is to call a plumber. I've changed out several WH in my day, and I had this one out a couple years ago to reinforce the floor under it. I know I can do it, the challenge is to do it more easily.
I'm considering draining the tank by drilling holes along the bottom. I'm not saving the tank for anything, what do I care if it has a few holes in it?
Now, as a courtesy to all the folks who would like to call me a dumb home owner and tell me to call a pro, let me ask some dumb H.O. questions. Should I used a cordless drill, or should I bring out an extension cord? Should I use high speed bits, carbide, or a hole saw? Can I just replace the thermostat? My Aunt Myrtle says the only thing that is wrong with the WH is the thermodoohickey, and that anyone who wants to replace it cause it's leaking is trying to rip me off. Can I get a new thermodoohickey at Home Depot? Would a plumber sell me one for wholesale? Do I have to turn off the gas when I move the gas line over? Should I use electrical tape on the threads? Can someone mail order me a new thermodoohickey? I don't have the make or model number or serial number of the tank. Is that important?
--

Christopher A. Young
Jesus: The Reason for the Season
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On Tue, 27 Jan 2004 23:39:58 -0500, "Stormin Mormon"

OMFG.
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If the tank is full of water, I would think of turning off the water pressure and shooting a couple of 38 cal holes in the bottom. I have drilled a lot of 3/8 holes in a trailer with a 38 and it works fine as long as you think the whole process thru and KNOW where the bullets will stop.
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In this case I believe buckshot may be best to expedite the draining process.
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My neighbors will further question my sanity. I spent the morning with the snow blower making a path to the water heater door.
Update! I did find a water heater. Well, found two. My usual parts places (HVAC places) and one plumbing place don't have such a device. One retail house did have one for $424.99. Home Cheepo is going to get my business today, they have one for $199.99. I woulda bought one at a whoelsale house, if they had one in stock.
--

Christopher A. Young
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A simpler way to drain it is use a half stick, or 5 lb of black powder sealed in PVC with a fuse. Place under heater, light and stand away
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I was thinking some .385 holes -- I've got drill bits in that diameter. Either that or wrench the drain faucet off. Or both.
--

Christopher A. Young
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Stormin Mormon wrote:

get it to break off. Do that first (No, do it second, after turning off the gas) so while you're disconnecting the other stuff it can drain out, albeit slowly.
You can stick in and jiggle around a screwdriver or similar to break up crud which clogs up the hole during the draining.
Good luck, I've been there and done that...Just think of the money you're saving!
Jeff
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Jeff Wisnia (W1BSV + Brass Rat '57 EE)

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Jeff, you, sir, are also wise. I drilled a 3/8 hole right next to the drain cock, before I went to the store. Hour and a half later (when I got home) it was much lighter. And sure enough, clumps of sediment promptly clogged the hole right after I drilled it.
The boss and I did a WH change out awhile back. We wrangled the WH to the sump pump crock, and put a big wrench on the drain cock. Big yank, and it came off. Sure beats trying to carry water up the stairs. I remember we used a hammer and BIG screw driver one time, same deal.
--

Christopher A. Young
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On Wed, 28 Jan 2004 14:20:41 -0500, "Stormin Mormon"

Just wait for a tornado to come by and remove it for you. Better yet take that $200 you were going to give to Home Depot and buy another trailer.
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Open the pressure valve to drain the water to that point, then remove the valve, so you can make a siphon flow. Use plastic tubing, or if the pressure valve is in the top use flexible copper tubing.
Stormin Mormon wrote:

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Yea use a good 120 v drill, the biggest you got, the bigger bit the better. Dont worry about the spray it will cooool the drill and keep it from overheating. An old one with solid metal casing is preferred, cooools shockingly quick.
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Get the flexible copper fittings (aka the hot water install kit) for the in and out. The electric kit should do, since you probably won't need new gas plumbing.
Add a globe valve shut-off on the cold water inlet side, before the flex copper fittings, so that you can shut off the water to the heater w/o having to shut off everything in the future.

If it is leaking, just wait. Otherwise get a big pipe wrench and loosen up the drain valve, as you don't care if it breaks off at this point.
You might consider a floor pan, if you don't already have one, to catch any future leakage.

A new thermostat won't fix a leaky tank. If the heater wasn't turning on, maybe then it would fix it. But if you see water underneath, and can't see it coming from the exposed part of the plumbing, it is time for a new unit.
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Thanks, John. You are wise and polite.
I seriously considered a shutoff, the water pipe coming up from the floor is soft half inch copper. Woulda took me a half hour or so to wrench one in. Coulda got a compression type shutoff. Well, it's 24F outside, and I really didn't feel like spending a lot more time out there than I had to. Might get that in the spring when it's a bit warmer.
I made a dozen or so calls, the only place that had a fairly priced WH was Home Depot. So, off we go to get one. It is snowing, and it took an hour or more in travel time alone, driving at 25 MPH on the hard pack snow. I did get home safely, but I'm guessing there were a few frustrated folks behind me yelling "get it going, grandpa" at me.
The change out was unremarkable. Someone had put on right angle adaptors on the water fittings, angled to 1/2 copper flare. Whatever.... put it all back together the same way that it came out. It's been working since 1994 when I moved in. Pipe wrenches sure come in handy. Teflon tape plus rectorseal seems not to leak, on water fittings. Indoor heat sure is nice when I've been out pulling wrenches in the blowing snow. Snowblower does a nice job of making a path through the 18 inch snow to get from the driveway to the WH cabinet.
--

Christopher A. Young
Jesus: The Reason for the Season
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Next time, just drill the hole out, pound a wooden dowel into the opening, and wait till spring.
Stormin Mormon wrote:

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If I'd done that, I would have still had the mystery hole which was some where I couldn't see. And it woulda still been leaking.
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Christopher A. Young
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