Flushing / Cleaning Hot Water Heater Help Needed

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I have a Bradford White 50 gallon hot water heater and it has been in service for about 4 years and never been cleaned. Recently I noticed the water coming out from the hot water faucet is yellow/brown (cold water faucet has clear water). It is either corroded pipes or sediment build up from the hot water tank. I tried different hot water faucet around the house and they are all coming out with stained water so my bet is the water heater needs to be flushed or cleaned.
Looking through the user manual I do not see a step by step procedure for doing this but I know it is not just connecting a garden hose to the spout and turn it on and let the water drain. There are heating elements at the top and middle of the tank and I don't think I can just drain the tank like that. Do I need to disconnect the power to the tank first? Do I need to turn off the water supply into the tank? What can I do to "stir" up the sediment while I drain it to get the most junk out of it? Really would appreciate if someone can provide a step by step guideline or if there is any resource online I can learn from.
Thanks in advance,
Cuse
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"I know it is" "just connecting a garden hose to the spout and turn it on and let the water drain". Sounds like you've got it now. Cold water comes in the top, hot water goes out the top. If there's sediment, it stays behind. The cold water goes by way of a dip tube towards the bottom. So you connect the hose, open the valve, and let the cold water coming in provide the turbulance to help clear the sediment. Run it for about 15 seconds, close the valve, let it all rest for an hour or so, do it again. Repeat as necessary, and on Christmas and 4th of July, repeat before seeing it being necessary.

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If you want to be extra sure you're not going to hurt anything, kill your water heater breakers before doing the flush. Just in case you were able to make more water go out than was coming in, and that you were able to manage to let the water get down below the first heater. Not very likely in a 15 second flush. Or you can do it the way you're told to do it http://www.chilipepperapp.com/flush.htm I've done it that way, and found that the turbulance of incoming water helped clear it better. Better to clear stuff from near the drain valve by doing it the recommended way first, though, since you haven't done it in several years.

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I concur. You don't need to turn the power off with this procedure, which probably all one needs to do. If after this procedure one is not satisfied, then turn the power off, turn the inlet valve off, open the drain valve (hose attached), and pull the lever to open the relief valve. It could take as long as an hour for the tank to completely drain. Open the inlet valve and let flush for a minute or two, close the relief valve, close the drain valve, and after the tank is full, turn on the power.
Michael Baugh wrote:

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Problem...
I went to turn off the cold water and as I turned the valve it kept turning. It does not seem to be tightening or loosening at all as I turned the valve either way. I think it is broken for some reason. However this did not stop me from draining the tank since the worst can happen is the tank will not be completely drain since cold water will keep coming in as I drain from the bottom.
So I turned off all power to the house, opened the temp relief valve, connect a hose to the drain, and open the drain. Hot water came out and I can feel the tank draining fast. However I do not seem to hear or feel any cold water re-entering the tank. I let it drained for about 30 minutes and then I closed the drain. Now I know the tank is quite empty - I can push it a little and it tipped a bit.
Only no water is entering the tank!
I opened the hot water faucet in one of the bathrooms, nothing.
I waited 30 minutes, nothing.
I think the tank is dead. Somehow cold water has stopped entering that tank.
I cannot turn the power back on, the heating element will burn out. I don't know which switch the heater is on - this was why I turned off all power to start with.
I am not sure what to do now. What I am seeing makes no sense. The cold water valve should be opened.
Is it possible that this 50 gallon heater refills super quietly and it takes a few hours? This seems to be the only logical explanation but my gut feeling tells me it is not refilling now.
Any idea? I am getting desperate.
Thanks,
Cuse
George E. Cawthon wrote:

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you probably tightened it shut, then stripped the handle. id probably try to put some vicegrips on the stem, and reopen the valve.
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This is unlikely. The resistance is about the same either way and not different from when I first touched it.
I did noticed something strange. If I turn on the water in my kitchen, I hear activity inside the tank that sounds like refilling. If I turned off the water, it stops. Not all faucet in my house will cause this, but some of them. Why?
Some sort of pressure problem created by the draining?
I did pulled the tempearture pressure relief valve during the draining. Pulling means pushing that lever until it is 90 % (vertical) right?
Cuse
SoCalMike wrote:

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It seems keeping the kitchen faucet running I got the tank filled now. However I am not sure if it is partially filled or fully filled. I took a chance after the filling sound stopped. The heater started and the sound seems OK, sounds like a whirlpool being turned on.
After 10 minutes I still have my kitchen faucet running, then the water shot out with lower volume, higher volume, fluctuating like crazy. There must be air and/or pressure imbalance somewhere. Should I open the pressure relief valve on top of the tank?
What really happened?
When I drained the water I had the relief valve opened. so as the water drained is sucked air into the tank? and when I closed the drain and valve the air in the tank prevented the water from entering the tank until I turn the kitchen faucet on to draw air out? Is this right?
Confused and still not sure I will get hot water tonight.
Cuse
Cuse wrote:

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At this point I have no hot water. I turned on the hot water faucet, nothing comes out. Not a drop. I turned on the cold water faucet, and water comes out ok. If I put the lever in the middle, the faucet is singing.
Cuse
Cuse wrote:

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wrote:

It sounds like you might have a problem with that shutoff valve that you talked about. Shut off the water to the house...take the valve apart and see what goin' on with it. It should probably be replaced.
Wishing you and yours a happy Thanksgiving season...
Trent
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after waiting several hours still no hot water coming out the faucet. Something has seriously went wrong and I have no clue what.
If I turn on the cold water faucet in the kitchen the heater will make noises.
Is it possible after I switched off the main breaker for the house, it will cause the heater to turn itself off? This Bradford White 50 gallong heater has two panels (one on top and one at the bottom). If I unscrew them there is a red button and a whitel button inside each panel. Not sure what those are. It is possible I need to re-activate something?
Any help would be appreciated. My wife is yelling at me for making a perfectly good water heater bad now.
Cuse
Cuse wrote:

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Yes you need a tap opened to fill the tank. If you open the kitchen faucet to hot water, (or any other faucet) the tank should fill and then water would come out the open faucet. Since that doesn't happen, you either didn't wait long enough, or the coldwater valve is not letting water into the hot water tank. It sound like that has happened and by now you have probably burned up the heating element (which should make little or no noise).
Hopefully you closed the relief valve. You could have left it open until water started running out of it. Btw, the hotwater tank is 220v, so you don't need to turn off all electricity to the whole house, just turn off the 220 breakers. You recognized a problem with the cold water valve at the tank and failed to do anything. Big mistake.
Your next step is to turn the water off at the street and replace the coldwater valve at the water heater. Before you do that, again turn the handle and make sure the stem is turning. If the stem is not turning, remove the handle and put vice grips on the stem and turn it. After you get the valve fixed or replaced, you can turn the water on, fill the tank, and see if the heater elements are working. If after and hour or two you get very cold water, the elements are burned out and you will have to drain the tank and replace the elements. Should you do that? I'm not sure, maybe just buy a replacement tank for $150.
Cuse wrote:

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Thanks. I did not know I need to open the tap to fill the tank. Of all the step by step water tank drain instructions never did they mention this. I do feel the tank is now full of water, but is lacking pressure to push the water through the line.
The shower at the most downstream end does not even drip a drop of water when I turn it on now. It has a pressure balanced valve so I figured if I have no hot water pressure it will not run at all. The sink faucet has normal cold water, and no hot water. But if I go back to the kitchen (which is the closest to the water heater) and turn that on, the bathroom faucet will now have water out with the lever on hot. Granted, the water is cold, but now my worries is not so much hot water, is this exercise seems to have cause the entire house water pressure to drop or somehow air has gotten into the system.
Cuse
George E. Cawthon wrote:

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If at any time you drained the water level down below a heater, it will likely have burned itself up, and they can be replaced.
If you replace a valve, I suggest using a ball valve instead of a gate or other style valve.
Start at the beginning. Under each of the cover plates, there are round things that are individual thermostats. One for each of the heaters.
Is the line coming into the house, the one at the main water cutoff valve, steel or copper line?

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Michael Baugh wrote:

I will keep this in mind.

Galvanized steel I think, but painted.
Here are the diagnosis I have done so far.
I left the power to the heater on last night, and this morning I felt the hot and water copper pipes that comes out of the heater. They were both hot. This tells me the heating elements are working and the water inside the tank is hot.
I then turned off the power to the heater.
I then opened the kitchen faucet (hot side) for 30 seconds. Water came out, hot water, but the pressure is very low, I would say the hot water flow rate is about 10% of the cold water flow rate. Then it practically reduced to a dizzle after 10 seconds.
I went back into the garage and felt the copper pipe section after the valve. It felt cold now. This tells me while I had the kitchen faucet on, hot water was drawn from the heater and cold water entered the heater and now the pipe contains new cold water. The valve was not closed. I also turned on the kitchen faucet for another 30 seconds, shut it odd and listen closely to the copper pipe, I can hear water flowing through it.
I feel the tank is full but there is no water pressure to deliver the hot water.
Next, I decide to look at the valve to see may be there is a partial blockage.
I used a marker to place a dot on the shaft of the valve stem. I turned the valve and it moved. So this tells me it is not the handle By the way the stop valve is a T connection, brass, says "Mueller Streamline 3/4 200 WOG" not sure if this means anything. All it tells me is that it is 3/4". It has a blue, circular handle. I am not sure if it is a ball valve, or a gate valve, or a compression valve. All I know is that when I turned the handle in both directions, the shaft does turn with it, but the shaft does not go higher or lower like I am tightening or loosening it.
I turned off water supply to the house, the unscrew the nut on top. The seems to loosen the handle but nothing else. I retightened it.
Next, I tried to open the bigger nut at the bottom, I think the call it the "valve stem"? But I cannot. If I turn it real hard it starts to stress the copper pipe. If I try to steady the valve itself while I do this, it is impossible, the heater is located at the corner of the garage and the connection is right above. The angle is such that I cannot do this by myself. I am not sure about getting a plumber. Last time when the heater was installed, the plumber had to solder a pipe inside the wall, it burned the insulation and started a fire that went all the way to the ceiling.
I just cannot figure out what is wrong. The most logical explanation is that the stop valve is bad (or is clogged) but is partially opened, could this account for all the pressure loss?
Sum

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Michael Baugh wrote:
>If at any time you drained the water level down below a heater, >it will likely have burned itself up, and they can be replaced. > >If you replace a valve, I suggest using a ball valve instead of a gate >or other style valve. > I will keep this in mind.
> >Start at the beginning. Under each of the cover plates, there are >round things that are individual thermostats. One for each of the >heaters. > >Is the line coming into the house, the one at the main water cutoff valve, >steel or copper line? > > Galvanized steel I think, but painted.
Here are the diagnosis I have done so far.
I left the power to the heater on last night, and this morning I felt the hot and water copper pipes that comes out of the heater. They were both hot. This tells me the heating elements are working and the water inside the tank is hot.
I then turned off the power to the heater.
I then opened the kitchen faucet (hot side) for 30 seconds. Water came out, hot water, but the pressure is very low, I would say the hot water flow rate is about 10% of the cold water flow rate. Then it practically reduced to a dizzle after 10 seconds.
I went back into the garage and felt the copper pipe section after the valve. It felt cold now. This tells me while I had the kitchen faucet on, hot water was drawn from the heater and cold water entered the heater and now the pipe contains new cold water. The valve was not closed. I also turned on the kitchen faucet for another 30 seconds, shut it odd and listen closely to the copper pipe, I can hear water flowing through it.
I feel the tank is full but there is no water pressure to deliver the hot water.
Next, I decide to look at the valve to see may be there is a partial blockage.
I used a marker to place a dot on the shaft of the valve stem. I turned the valve and it moved. So this tells me it is not the handle By the way the stop valve is a T connection, brass, says "Mueller Streamline 3/4 200 WOG" not sure if this means anything. All it tells me is that it is 3/4". It has a blue, circular handle. I am not sure if it is a ball valve, or a gate valve, or a compression valve. All I know is that when I turned the handle in both directions, the shaft does turn with it, but the shaft does not go higher or lower like I am tightening or loosening it.
I turned off water supply to the house, the unscrew the nut on top. The seems to loosen the handle but nothing else. I retightened it.
Next, I tried to open the bigger nut at the bottom, I think the call it the "valve stem"? But I cannot. If I turn it real hard it starts to stress the copper pipe. If I try to steady the valve itself while I do this, it is impossible, the heater is located at the corner of the garage and the connection is right above. The angle is such that I cannot do this by myself. I am not sure about getting a plumber. Last time when the heater was installed, the plumber had to solder a pipe inside the wall, it burned the insulation and started a fire that went all the way to the ceiling.
I just cannot figure out what is wrong. The most logical explanation is that the stop valve is bad (or is clogged) but is partially opened, could this account for all the pressure loss?
Cuse
>
> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>>>Problem... >>>>>>> >>>>>>>I went to turn off the cold water and as I turned the valve it kept >>>>>>>turning. It does not seem to be tightening or loosening at all as I >>>>>>>turned the valve either way. I think it is broken for some reason. >>>>>>> >>>>>>> >>>>>>> >>>>>>> >>>>>>> >>>>>>you probably tightened it shut, then stripped the handle. id probably >>>>>>try to >>>>>>put some vicegrips on the stem, and reopen the valve. >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> >>>>>> > > > >
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I guess there is another logical explanation. Somehow the draining of the tank induced a leak somewhere in the hot water pipes which accounts for the complete loss of pressure?
Also does the hot water heater add any pressure to the pipes? Is there any mechanism in the heater to add pressure? The heater saids "Bradford White HydroJet..." is there something inside that may need to provide the pressure?
Cuse
Cuse wrote:

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One more thing. The pressure relief valve is connected to a copper pipe that goes inside the wall. I remember when I drained the tank I heard a lot of noise coming from behind the wall (which I thought was strange at the time). Could there be some sort of reverse siphoning going on from the drain? Or am I going nuts?
Cuse
Cuse wrote:

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Is it possible somehow when the water was drained it caused some sediment to be stirred up and one big piece is somehow flushed into the hot water outlet and stucked somewhere, causing the reduced pressure?
Sum
Michael Baugh wrote:

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Cuse wrote:

It sounds like you have a gate valve and the somehow you managed to pull the stem loose or something with the valve mostly closed.
You keep looking for other answers, but everything you say points to only one thing.
Repeat after me: It's the damn valve. I will replace the valve. It will fix the problem. I will replace the valve, I will replace the valve.
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