On 12/21 I had a new 40-gallon natural gas water heater installed in my
69-year old house. The water heater is vented via a dedicated
chimney/flue. Previous heater was 13 years old and making lots of noise
(I just closed on the house 12/20). New heater is Rheem (but under the
GE label). 9-year warranty.
New heater working fine for about 2 weeks. We go out one day, come back
after a few hours and I mention to the wife that I smell exhaust and/or
gas -- from around the draft hood on the water heater. I notice that
the plastic caps that surround the hot/cold water pipes are melted
where they extend under the hood. I know this isn't right, so I call
the installer (local company contracted out by Home Depot).
They send a tech out. He takes a look in the flue and says it must be a
clog somewhere (but not where he can see) and that it's not his
problem: call a chimney sweep.
So I do. They come out and do a more thorough investigation inside.
Can't find anything -- and flue seems to be drafting OK, but they agree
to come out with a 40-ft ladder the next day and remove the cap (fancy
copper, shaped like a 'T') and advise me to install a carbon
monoxide/natural gas detector. I do -- reading remains at '0'.
Next day they remove the cap -- and an old, compacted squirrels nest
(no longer in use). They replace all the screening, clean everything
out -- and the water heater is now drafting out the flue like a champ.
That was 4 days ago. Now tonight I notice a similar (more faint) smell
of exhaust. I turn on the hot water tap in the basement sink; water
heater kicks in. Top of heater (draft hood and area underneath) get
fire-hot, exhaust pipe remains cool to the touch (initially). I let it
run for a bit, don't notice much of a change (pipe began to get a bit
warmer) -- then I crank open a couple of the glass block window vents
and the thing begins to vent much better (top of water heater cools
off, exhaust pipe gets hot).
I am at wits end. Any idea what could be going on here? With my most
recent gas bill (furnace is old, oversized and needs replacing), I
can't afford to keep the basement windows open (previous owner did not
need to). Could the heater itself be defective?
I am a 1st-time homeowner, and while I consider myself somewhat handy,
this one has me stumped. And I'm getting close to want to go back and
be a renter -- this has become ridiculous. Do I really need to scrap
the new water heater and replace it with a power-vented unit? That
seems crazy since this house has been here since 1938 and has used a
normal, dedicated chimney-vented flue since its construction 69 years