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fire1112

join:2014-01-03

[Plumbing] Frozen Tankless Water Heater Help

I recently moved into a new house that has a Rinnai tankless water heater mounted on the exterior of the house. Last night we had below freezing temps and woke up this morning and nothing is coming out of the hot water tap. Called the plumber that installed the water heater and he said it should thaw on it's on eventually. Is there anything that I can do to expedite the process of thawing without causing any damage. The house has PEX plumbing so I am hoping that can withstand the frozen water. The cold water tap is running fine. I should have let the water trickle overnight but I'm down south and that is not something we are used to having to do here.


Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
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[Plumbing] Re: Frozen Tankless Water Heater Help

Check to see if a anti freeze heater was installed on your water heater. The low power option includes a low power electric heater to maintain the interior water heater temperature hardware above freezing. If included make sure the anti freezing heater is turned on. On the other hand depending how the water lines were plumbed water can freeze in the water inlet and outlet lines blocking the flow.


fire1112

join:2014-01-03
reply to fire1112

According to the manual there is freeze protection as long as there is electricity (power has not gone out). I am guessing this only protects the internal plumbing of the water heater and not the inlet/outlet. I am not even getting a drip when opening the hot water faucet nearest to the water heater.



cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
reply to fire1112

Water pipes outside the house when it can freeze = dumb.
Find a plumber with a brain and move the system inside. Cold weather will happen again sooner or later, you may not be lucky next time.


fire1112

join:2014-01-03

I agree that it does seem dumb to put the system outside when it is still possible to receive below freezing temps even in the south. I am guessing the builder didn't want to take the extra steps to run the vent from inside to out. Wish there was something I could do to thaw the lines as it won't get above freezing today. I have tried running a hair dryer on the inlet and outlet but no success.


bmilone2

join:2001-01-26
Mays Landing, NJ
reply to fire1112

The freeze may be earlier in the feed line so heating the inlet and outlet right at the water heater may be useless. How far does the supply line run from the meter to the heater? And how much of it is exterior or along an exterior wall?



pende_tim
Premium
join:2004-01-04
Andover, NJ
kudos:1
Reviews:
·Comcast
reply to fire1112

If home is new, should be some kind of warranty.
I would suggest you get the builder back and have him fix the problem, for good.... Move the heater and associated pipes inside on the warm side of the building envelope. And have this work done on his dime.
--
The difference between genius and stupidity is that genius has its limits.


bmilone2

join:2001-01-26
Mays Landing, NJ
reply to fire1112

pende_tim,

it may not be a new home, it may just be a "new" home for him. And besides, even if new construction, if the water heater was installed in accordance to the approved plans the plumber or general contractor would have no direct responsibility.


fire1112

join:2014-01-03

This is a new construction and is up to local code. The run from the meter to the house is about 100 ft underground. I've been doing short bursts with a hair dryer on the inlet/outlet fittings and it finally started flowing again and there are no leaks. The home warranty states that they are not responsible for frozen pipes so I am going to have to take my own measures to make sure this doesn't happen again. It does seem like the builder is banking on the mild southern winters to save money on not mounting the water heater inside. Also just talked to some of my neighbors and they are having the same issue.


bmilone2

join:2001-01-26
Mays Landing, NJ
reply to fire1112

Glad to hear you are finally getting it freed up. Guess you could always let water slightly trickle anytime you would have simlar weather, but such a waste of water.



Tursiops_G
Technoid
Premium,MVM
join:2002-02-06
Norwalk, CT
kudos:1
reply to fire1112

Maybe install a weatherproof outlet enclosure and one of these:
»www.amazon.com/Farm-Innovators-T···006U2HD2

add some Heat Tape and insulation to the pipes, and you should be good to go...

-Tursiops_G.
--
If You're Unsure, "RTFM"... If You're SURE, "RTFM" Anyway.



Msradell
P.E.
Premium
join:2008-12-25
Louisville, KY
reply to fire1112

I'm not sure you can use heat tape on PEX tubing. It seemed like it would deteriorate the tubing over a period of time.

To the OP, what part of the country are located in, Florida?


fire1112

join:2014-01-03
reply to fire1112

I am located in South Carolina. It is unusual for temps to get to teens or below with subzero wind chills, but it does happen on a rare occasion here.


robbin
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-21
Leander, TX
kudos:1
reply to cowboyro

said by cowboyro:

Water pipes outside the house when it can freeze = dumb.
Find a plumber with a brain and move the system inside.

It is very common in southern areas for tankless water heaters to be installed on the exterior of the house. It doesn't take much to let the faucet drip on the few days every few years when the temps get cold enough to potentially cause damage.

laserfan

join:2005-01-14
Texas
reply to fire1112

Yikes installed on the exterior of the house? I was gonna say "yeah pipes run in an exterior wall can be problematic" but yours sounds even worse.

I have a bathroom with some pipes in a wall in a "innie"-type corner that faces Northwest and with the right combo of wind and cold the pipes can freeze. I initially stacked-up a few hay bales against that wall, then ultimately put-in a portable shed (cabinet really) against it. You might consider the same depending on your configuration:




You might e.g. cut the back out of it or something.


Msradell
P.E.
Premium
join:2008-12-25
Louisville, KY
reply to fire1112

said by fire1112:

I am located in South Carolina. It is unusual for temps to get to teens or below with subzero wind chills, but it does happen on a rare occasion here.

We used to live in South Carolina, prior to moving to Kentucky and while it's unusual if not that uncommon temperatures to go quite cold for a period of a couple of days. That tankless water heater definitely needs to have some kind of protection to keep it from freezing in the future! Since this is a new home the builder should take care of it for you.


cowboyro
Premium
join:2000-10-11
Shelton, CT
reply to robbin

said by robbin:

It doesn't take much to let the faucet drip on the few days every few years when the temps get cold enough to potentially cause damage.

If you're home and if you remember. I'm willing to bet that very, very few will remember.

garys_2k
Premium
join:2004-05-07
Farmington, MI
reply to fire1112

I'd look for some way to enclose the whole thing (if it can't be moved inside), maybe in a shed, and then putting in an electric heater that kicks on of the space falls below freezing.


Mr Matt

join:2008-01-29
Eustis, FL
kudos:1
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reply to fire1112

Check these heat tape products out:

»www.emersonindustrial.com/en-us/···ult.aspx

Available at Lowes here: »www.lowes.com/Search=heat+cables···cables#!

My Uncle used heat cables in his pump house in Pennsylvania to keep the pipes from freezing.


scooper

join:2000-07-11
Youngsville, NC
kudos:2
reply to fire1112

I have my electric tank WH outside in an AquaHut enclosure. When I installed it there, I took care to both insulate the PEX plumbing AND put heat tape on both lines to the WH. After one time where inadequate insulation in the wall lead to frozen pipes, I've been pipe frozen free ever since. Last night was the first time since 2000 (14 years) since there have been single digit lows, and we had absolutely no problem with frozen pipes (and we did not "drip" the lines overnight).

SO for the OP - if you don't move the Rinnai inside (at least to somewhere it stays above freezing) - at least heat tape / insulate the waterlines.


ke4pym
Premium
join:2004-07-24
Charlotte, NC
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reply to fire1112

All external Rinnai tankless heaters have built in freeze prevention. That said, it won't keep the pipes from freezing. How exactly would you expect it to do that?

An external Rinnai tankless can't be moved inside if I recall correctly.

And cowboyro, water pipes inside the house can freeze. Unfortunately a couple of my friends found that out today. And 1 of them isn't even in the south.



tp0d
yabbazooie
Premium
join:2001-02-13
Carnegie, PA
kudos:5
reply to fire1112

Re: [Plumbing] Frozen Tankless Water Heater Help

Fire1112:

Post a few pics of this install, particularly where the piping connects at the bottom of the heater, and the wall penetration..

Some heat tape and proper insulation will solve this problem, not too expensive.. I`d still give the plumber shit though, it shouldn't freeze..

Where are you located?

-j
--
if it aint broke, tweak it!!
currently on FiOS (kick aZZ!)


kherr
Premium
join:2000-09-04
Collinsville, IL
Reviews:
·Charter
reply to fire1112

Re: [Plumbing] Re: Frozen Tankless Water Heater Help

Codes here in IL are designed for the WORST possible case. Although footings and water mains are spec for a 3' freeze (in my area), I have never seen this happen even in the extreme winters in the '80s. Someone in the state/local coding authority doesn't know what they are doing.



Msradell
P.E.
Premium
join:2008-12-25
Louisville, KY

said by kherr:

Codes here in IL are designed for the WORST possible case. Although footings and water mains are spec for a 3' freeze (in my area), I have never seen this happen even in the extreme winters in the '80s. Someone in the state/local coding authority doesn't know what they are doing.

I grew up in Rochester New York which have the same 3' minimum depths for water pipes. In 1978 we had over 40 days with below freezing temperatures many of them below 0°. Water pipes were freezing everywhere, some never even buried much deeper than the requirement of 3'! If you had continued with soft copper supply line with no fittings you could actually hook up a welder to each end and gently warm up the pipe. If your supply pipe of anything else, you were out of luck and had to wait until the warm weather came back.

kherr
Premium
join:2000-09-04
Collinsville, IL
Reviews:
·Charter

They make a "welder" type devise just for thawing copper pipes and it is $$$$. The guy I was working for almost bought one in one particularly cold spell, but we ended up just using a battery charge type thing he scrounged up somewhere to thaw interior pipes. When using any of these thing you have to be real careful that you don't melt the solder joints. We repaired frozen pipes that were on the house side on 5' tub/showers that were 5' inside the house. Crappy insolating jobs. Whenever I plumb a house and there's a stall on an outside wall, I demand that the wall be insolated before I push the unit it in.



TJ_in_IL

join:2006-06-10
Winthrop Harbor, IL
reply to fire1112

Re: [Plumbing] Frozen Tankless Water Heater Help

At least you had an excuse (exterior mounted). My interior mounted tankless froze up yesterday morning- same symptoms. In my case we had wind chill of -45, and the cold wind made it past the damper, and froze the heat exchanger. A simple 10 minutes with the heat gut thankfully opened it right up, with no splits or leaks. I must say I got lucky. Unfortunately not much can be done to prevent it, except to run the hot water every few hours to keep the internals warm.



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1

1 recommendation

Wind chill has no effect on equipment.



TJ_in_IL

join:2006-06-10
Winthrop Harbor, IL

My bad. Real temps were -20, and we had high winds.



Jack_in_VA
Premium
join:2007-11-26
North, VA
kudos:1

Still cold



C_Chipperson
Monster Rain
Premium
join:2009-01-17
00000
kudos:3
reply to Jack_in_VA

said by Jack_in_VA:

Wind chill has no effect on equipment.

Wouldn't it? If there is zero wind, then objects can form a small layer of warmer than ambient air near their surface. If the wind is blowing, this can't happen. I'm not saying you're wrong, just something I've wondered about.