Quick basic advice on a dripping gas 40-gal hot-water heater

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On Mon 18 Feb 2008 15:16:55, Donna Ohl, Grady Volunteer Coordinator

Hello Donna, you seem to have learnt quite a surprsing amount for someone who has was a novice just a few weeks ago and who does not have a background in mechanical engineering.
I'm impressed.
Or i would be impressed if I could believe it but I am afrain I can't beleieve it.
What did you say was your line of work?
If you have time when you're not posting extended posts to a "quick and basic" question?
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On Wed, 27 Feb 2008 21:54:18 GMT, John wrote:

Hello John, I wonder why intelligence bothers you so very much.
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Thee are some codes as to what materials can be used. I doubt your job will be better.
We're waiting to hear the results though. Bill should have taken his "first" hot shower hours ago.
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All this talk about water heaters and I came home today to find I had no hot water. Went out to the garage and found a puddle around the heater and the flame was out. Fortunately it seems this time it was just a leaking joint on the flex pipe but it's a reminder that I need to start looking at replacements.
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For a year or two, probably. Does it have a rubber flap in it or is it a real check valve? If it's a check valve, don't use it. They rattle after some time. (i'd question the rubber flap kind too; they'd get stuck in the 'outflow' direction eventually)
If you want it to work forever, make your own. Make a loop out of the flexible copper line or solder one out of rigid copper. You'll find out that flexible copper isn't very flexible. I did the latter, the side that goes up from the tank is hot, the side that comes back down is cold after it's been sitting for a while. Mine's 12" from top to bottom, 6" is probably ok. No ball to rattle, will work until the laws of physics are repealed.

If you put in a proper heat trap as described above, insulated pipes are unnecessary.

You'll need the unions.
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Another point about check valves. Some are swing checks that must be mounted horizontal. Spring checks can go vertical. Personally, I'd not use one
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message wrote:

It would be worthwhile to check the local plumbing codes, there's a national code, but additional requirements vary by location.
Assuming the original heater was properly installed, you should be fine to do the new one exactly the same way. 3/4" seems awfully large for a water heater, all those I've dealt with were plumbed with 1/2" gas pipe and 3/4" water pipe. I'm not sure why the ball valve for the gas is being replaced as well, isn't there already a suitable shutoff valve? If you mess with the gas plumbing ahead of the shutoff, you have to pressure test it and have it inspected. Assuming the original plumbing is not damaged, I would leave the ball valve and everything ahead (closer to the gas meter) of it alone. Take care to hold the pipe so that it doesn't rotate and cause leaks at the joints when you disconnect it from the valve. Replace the flexible pipe between the heater and gas pipe in the house, you may or may not have to rearange the pipe from the heater to the flex depending on the location.
I can't speak for your area, but here the standard setup is black iron pipe in the house, with a 1/2" branch split off for the water heater. This goes directly to a ball valve to shut off the gas to that appliance, and out of that is a short length of black iron joining to a stainless flex which then connects to another short piece of black iron, occasionally with an elbow or two to change direction and connect up to the gas valve on the heater. Older houses often lack the stainless flex and instead do the whole thing with black iron using a ground joint union between the ball valve and the heater to let you put it all together, but I like the flex better, it's a lot easier to get things lined up.
When you do the flue vent, sometimes it goes straight up through the roof, in that case you'll probably have to get up on top and remove a screw or two through the roof jack to allow you to push the pipe up through the ceiling to let you slide the heaters in and out. If it goes off at an angle and tees into the furnace flue or goes through a wall, you can usually flex it enough to work. Take extra care to get the vent right, a gas leak you'll smell, a water leak you'll see, but an exhaust leak will just kill you.
As for insulation, often the water heater will come with some sections of pipe insulation to take care of the flex lines in and out of it.
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On Sun, 17 Feb 2008 23:25:04 GMT, James Sweet wrote:

Hi everyone,
Please take a look at the photos uploaded earlier today. http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl /
Let's learn from this half-day effort replacing the water heater. We had to make a whole bunch of compromises we had not planned on! Would our final work pass your inspection? Why or why not (let's learn from this)?
By the way, just as you guys predicted: - The drain valve snapped off while the tank was full of hot water - The plumbing was corroded and broke in multiple places - The water heater (still full of hot water) tipped over on us - The anode had dissolved away to the bare steel rod - The galvanized plumbing was almost completely clogged with rust - The plumbing retrofit for the much larger heater was difficult - The dialectric fittings and check valves were useless etc.
And, a few things you guys didn't predict: - We found an ancient machete hidden behind the water heater! - Trying to save the box to put the old heater in isn't worth it - The cold water leaked due to thread corrosion even tightly screwed on - Hot water leaked back into the heater when the cold water was shut - The overflow pipe wasn't installed yet due to a question for you - We loosened sandy sediment which clogged our showerheads etc.
Now that we're done, we have MORE QUESTIONS to ask (and hopefully we can all get the answers together).
Take a look at the photos uploaded earlier today: http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl /
Let's learn from this half-day job. Would this hot water heater R&R pass your inspection? Why or why not?
Donna & Bill
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On Feb 18, 2:51am, "Donna Ohl, Grady Volunteer Coordinator"

can't see your photos at work, but definitely brush a soapy water solution over all gas connections and check for bubbles.
nate
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On Mon, 18 Feb 2008 06:28:15 -0800 (PST), N8N wrote:

Hi Nate, Yes, I personally did the check for natural-gas leaks.
Bill slathered on the TPE cream, taking care to leave the last two threads bare, and we didn't see any bubbles with a solution of Dawn and water brushed on with a toothbrush. http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273276731 /
One minor question we had for the natural gas line was whether or not to kink the gas hose in an S-shaped curve to trap sediments before they enter the thermostat. http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273276741 /
Do you arrange the gas hose in any particular manner?
Also, does anyone know the significance of the red aluminum ring around the gas hose? Does it have any meaning? http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273250275 /
Donna http://www.flickr.com/donnaohl
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Yes. There should be a tee.
It would go something like this: The incoming gas goes to the heater thru the tee, but at the bottom of the tee is a 6" piece of pipe to catch oil & other impurities in the gas. tailpiece, drip loop, whatever you want to call it. The -hose- goes from the tee to the heater; the rest is solid pipe.
incoming gas water heater tail piece
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all your galvanized needs replaced, when corroded that bad soon it will leak:(
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On Mon, 18 Feb 2008 06:54:10 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Hi Hallerb,
It was disgusting how corroded the *inside* of the galvanized pipes were! http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273250265 /
We had to reuse the 3/4 inch galvanized elbows. http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273268515 /
Why? Because we just couldn't get them off no matter how much we twisted!
We had to put Jack's stands against the wall just to hold it back. http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273268509 /
The horizontal pipe kept bending and twisting with every application of force.
Three questions came up that we'd like to ask:
1. We could easily twist the horizontal galvanized pipe; but how would we replace this corroded pipe since it apparently connects to an elbow *inside* the wall? http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273268515 /
2. Could/should we have just hack sawed the horizontal galvanized pipe and rethreaded somehow (it's leaking very slightly from where the corroded threads meet the new steel nipple)? http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273262551 /
3. Is our cold water shut off valve too close to the hot vent flue for safety?
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2385/2274079134_7986c459d6_m.jpg
Please advise as this job brought up more questions than answers! Donna http://www.flickr.com/donnaohl
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On Mon, 18 Feb 2008 15:45:12 GMT, "Donna Ohl, Grady Volunteer

prevented that. You need to see how a plumber does it. Those ells would come off easily enough. Don't need jackstands, though that was creative, I must say. Good for you. You have initiative. BTW, older pipes were sometimes assembled with a hardening dope. Whacking the joint repeatedly with a hammer usually breaks the bond.

pipe, and it may very well be fairly unrestricted. Scale forms more at fittings, where the water changes direction, or becomes turbulent. If the pipe connects to an ell inside the wall, you would have to knock out the wall to get a bite on the ell with a wrench to prevent the possibility of breaking a pipe. If the pipe goes into a tee (for example the run continues to feed elsewhere) you can probably just twist it out. Just remember that one has to continue replacing if anything screws up.

fouled with hardened dope. That's a good reason to replace ells. OTOH the external pipe threads can often be cleaned of old dope and inserted further than before into the fitting, making up for any corrosion. If the leak doesn't stop, you'll have to redo that. There may be remedies for the leak, but I can't recommend any.

done was to install the valve with lever away from the vent, 90 degrees rotated from where it is. I doubt it's an issue though, unless the valve has plastic that can melt. See how hot it gets after a heater run.

Except for the leak, you did fine. Don't overthink it. Galvanized pipes can easily last 50 years. The pipes in my house are that old and in fine shape, but perhaps restricted a bit with scale. If you decide to replace them with copper or PEX, you can no doubt do that yourself, since you are willing to study how. It will be tougher than a water heater though. Somebody mentioned the gas flex you used, and you should be absolutely certain you've done that safely. I have used only black pipe for gas, so don't know about the flex fittings, except I use the new, certified ones when I replace a range. There was a batch of faulty gas flex hoses installed on ranges that caused some explosions/deaths, so check into that too.
--Vic
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On Mon, 18 Feb 2008 10:50:04 -0600, Vic Smith wrote:

I watched Bill crank it like crazy so it's certainly tight enough! :)
We think the threads on the 50-year old galvanized steel elbow are clogged up and that's what is causing the slow dribble out of the cold water inlet pipe.
We now have the confidence to tackle this job - we just were unsure how to remove the elbow or cut the pipe or remove the pipe from the wall.

Do others feel we must do that (we don't mind as parts costs are miniscule).
We just want to do the job right.
Thanks for the advice. One thing that is still undone is the overflow vent (we'll ask separately).
Donna
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on energy costs, this heater was designed after the energy guide label specs were created, thats why its energy use is under the lowest.
the intricate baffels are there to help efficency.
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On Mon, 18 Feb 2008 06:55:46 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Hi Hallerb,
That was another question we had in the queue!
1. What exactly do these intricate baffles actually do?
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2040/2273991351_1cb7542339_m.jpg
I'm guessing they slow down the heated air so that it has more time to heat up the water by passive convection. Is that true? http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2273276725 /
Donna
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On Mon, 18 Feb 2008 06:55:46 -0800 (PST), snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote:

Interesting!
The Energy Guide label for this 0.63 Energy Factor water heater: http://www.flickr.com/photos/donnaohl/2274085480/
Says the thermal energy factor comparison is: This model uses 238 therms per year. Uses least energy: 242 therms Uses most energy: 272 therms Only models with FHRs of 87 to 99 gallons are used in this scale. This model's estimated yearly operating cost is: $216 dollars Based on a 2004 US Government national average cost of 0.9100 per therm. (41,045 btu/0.63)($0.9100/therm * 1 therm/100,000 btu) x 365 = $216/year
However, my estimated thermal energy factor is closer to: (41,045 btu/0.63)($1.21106/therm * 1 therm/100,000 btu) x 365 = $288/year
So, the Energy Guide label is off on energy costs by a whopping 75 percent! (I think.) Donna PS: I never know whether the best calculation is this way or that? $216 / $288 * 100 = 75% or $288 / $216 * 100 = 133%
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I appears that you re-used the flex gas line. That should be replaced with any new installation and would be a code violation in most, if not all, places.
From the photo, it looks as though you used on SS line and one copper line. If so, that is a sure sign of a hack job. Meantime, start thinking about replacing all of that galvanized pip with either copper or pex.
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On Mon, 18 Feb 2008 15:30:03 GMT, Edwin Pawlowski wrote:

Hi Edwin,
Thank you! That was another of my questions! (strangely I have more questions after the job than before).
Looking at the nicely packaged yellow gas lines, we asked EVERYONE in the stores if we should replace and they all (multiple stores) said nobody replaces the gas line. They said leave it so we don't introduce a leak.
So, purely for safety reasons, we didn't replace the gas line (using the store logic).
But, we would have been happy to replace the gas line as the costs for quality parts is miniscule in this job, given the major cost for the heater itself.
Where do I look up our local code requirements anyway? I went to our town site and saw they have an office but nothing on the web.
Donna
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