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TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

Flush an old hot water heater?

The house I am closing on next week has a gas water heater that is 15 years old, and its thermostat needs to be turned up one notch below it's highest setting just to keep the water hot. I'm thinking that the tank is full of sediment, which in turn requires the tank to run the gas longer, costing me money in the long run.

I know how to flush out a hot water tank, but I've heard that flushing an old hot water heater could cause it to leak and/or outright fail as the sediment may be preventing leaks from forming.

I'm wondering if it's worth trying to flush the tank, or should I spend $350 on a new one to save myself from any potential issues?



Jon
Premium
join:2001-01-20
Lisle, IL

I personally would just spend the money and get a new one. After 15 years, it's probably ready for retirement. And you don't want to wake up to no hot water one morning.



rjackal
Premium
join:2002-07-09
Plymouth, MI
reply to TheSMJ

Ideally, you would tell the seller what you told us, and have them pay for all or half of the cost of a new one as a condition for closing.


Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
reply to TheSMJ

Don't open the drain valve.


TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI
reply to rjackal

Being as it's exactly one week before closing I doubt I could pull that off.

I learned about the water heater almost 2 months ago since the home inspection. Originally I was planning on just dealing with it until I have to turn the thermostat all the way up, and then replacing it. But, the more I think about it the more I realize I should try and deal with this before I actually move in and (in the case of a replacement) have to deal without hot water while the tank is replaced and reheats.



Jon
Premium
join:2001-01-20
Lisle, IL

said by TheSMJ:

I realize I should try and deal with this before I actually move in and (in the case of a replacement) have to deal without hot water while the tank is replaced and reheats.

That shouldn't be very long assuming no plumbing changes. I replaced ours over the summer myself. It was only a few hours for the whole process. Including going to HD to get it and hauling downstairs.


jack b
Gone Fishing
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
kudos:1
reply to TheSMJ

A 15 year old gas unit is not worth attempting to flush at this stage of the game.

Save yourself a headache and just replace it.

You might have trouble just draining the old one if in fact the sediment accumulation is as heavy as you anticipate.
--
~Help Find a Cure for Cancer~
~Proud Member of Team Discovery ~



SuperNet9
Go Ninja,Go Ninja Go..
Premium
join:2002-10-08
Harwood Heights, IL
kudos:5
reply to TheSMJ

I was thinking of doing the same thing to a tank that was made in 1997..
Seems to be running fine tho.

Bad idea?

Sorry for hijacking this thread.
--
»www.RestartYourComputer.net



aurgathor

join:2002-12-01
Lynnwood, WA
kudos:1
reply to TheSMJ

The flush should cost you next to nothing, so I think it's worth trying to do it, you just need to be aware that it may not help.

I have an electric heater and a couple of years ago I used up probably 2 gallons of vinegar to clean out all the sediments.
--
Wacky Races 2012!


Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
Reviews:
·Optimum Online

1. If sediment is that much of a problem problem, it won't come out the drain valve. When I retired my old water heater, the water just trickled out; the plumber had to knock off the drain valve with a hammer.

2. He'll never get the drain valve completely closed.


boaterbob
Premium
join:2005-08-01
Moncks Corner, SC

Some things to consider -
Probably the sacrificial anode rod has never been changed, thus 15 years is past the point (by only a couple of years) where it is protecting the tank from rust. And you probably would never get the old plug loose to put a new rod in (if you can find the plug as sometimes they are under the top metal cover). When buying a new heater, make sure the 'plug' is visible and, while new and before heating for the first time, unscrew the plug and reinstall with tape - unless you don't plan on checking the anode rod every 2 years or so.

Are you proficient in gas and water plumbing (esp if the water lines are soldered rather than using fittings you can unscrew).

Is the tank downstairs in a basement or in the garage? If the tank is in a basement and you can not get it to drain, it would be a heck of a chore to get it up the stairs while full of water. Never poke anything into the drain if it is plugged AND full of hot water. If the plug comes open and hot water sprays out onto you, well ...

Leaking drains can sometimes be fixed by getting a hose bibb metal or plastic screw on cap. So if you can't get a drain to stop dripping, just screw on a bibb cap. That often solves the drip problem.


TheSMJ

join:2009-08-19
Farmington, MI

1 recommendation

said by boaterbob:

Are you proficient in gas and water plumbing (esp if the water lines are soldered rather than using fittings you can unscrew).

I've seen it done a few times, and I plan to have guidance from someone who has done it a few times in the past. Gotta learn somehow.

The more I think about it, the more I think I should just replace it. Anything else would just be throwing good money and time after bad. I'll see how the current heater works after I close and decide if it's worth replacing right away or waiting.

At least it's not leaking...


Bamafan2277

join:2008-09-20
Jeffersonville, IN

At least it's not leaking...

Yet! You will probably be much better off going ahead and replacing it with a new energy efficent unit. The savings will be quite noticeable if you are having to heat the water to almost max in the old one to get warm water.

Bob4
Account deleted

join:2012-07-22
New Jersey
Reviews:
·Optimum Online
reply to TheSMJ

I wonder if you're really getting all the hot water. Make sure you don't have a mixing valve or some other connection between the hot and cold water. Turn off the cold water feed to the water heater and make sure the hot water really stops flowing. If it continues, you have a cross-connection somewhere.


switchman

join:1999-11-06
reply to TheSMJ

When I replaced mine, I had to bring it up to code. Even though it is electric, it now sits on a stand approx 2ft off the floor. The only bad thing is that when I want to replace the anode, I only have 1.5/2ft to the ceiling.



Bruschi
Premium
join:2001-04-16
Cape Cod
kudos:1

said by switchman:

When I replaced mine, I had to bring it up to code. Even though it is electric, it now sits on a stand approx 2ft off the floor. The only bad thing is that when I want to replace the anode, I only have 1.5/2ft to the ceiling.

They make flexible ones for tight places. »www.plumbingsupply.com/anoderods.html
--
Professional student pilot!

boaterbob
Premium
join:2005-08-01
Moncks Corner, SC

Or read »www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/···ter.html
for anode options and other useful info on water heaters.

A useful 'forum' on water heaters too.



Subaru
1-3-2-4
Premium
join:2001-05-31
Greenwich, CT
kudos:1
reply to boaterbob

said by boaterbob:

Some things to consider -
Probably the sacrificial anode rod has never been changed, thus 15 years is past the point (by only a couple of years) where it is protecting the tank from rust. And you probably would never get the old plug loose to put a new rod in (if you can find the plug as sometimes they are under the top metal cover). When buying a new heater, make sure the 'plug' is visible and, while new and before heating for the first time, unscrew the plug and reinstall with tape - unless you don't plan on checking the anode rod every 2 years or so.

So many people overlook this, they just install the heater and be done with it.. I do have a question if say you change the rod (I assume you can get them local?) do you need to allow the tank to cool?
--
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jack b
Gone Fishing
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
kudos:1

said by Subaru:

do you need to allow the tank to cool?

Not really, just turn off the water supply and depressurize it, is all.
--
~Help Find a Cure for Cancer~
~Proud Member of Team Discovery ~

boaterbob
Premium
join:2005-08-01
Moncks Corner, SC

Well ... If you had left the water to the heater turned on, it would spray out the hole once you removed the anode (guess you figured that); if the water was HOT, guess what would spray out!

But, no you do not need for the water to be cool before you remove the anode provided, of course, that you turned OFF the water AND turned off the electricity if your heater is electric. If power is ON and the tank water level drops below the level of the heating elements AND they were still ON, then the elements would be destroyed and you'd need to buy and install new elements.

The bigger question is, can you even get the old anode bolt unscrewed. I just did a 4 year old electric water heater and I used a pneumatic wrench (didn't work), a socket breaker bar (didn't work) a 3# hammer against the breaker bar (didn't work) and a 4ft long water pipe over the breaker bar with a lot of force (and it finally came loose). TIP: if you tank is soldered to the water pipes, do not let the tank twist or turn too much as you try to loosen the anode nut as you do not want to break any solder joints (or tip over the take full of water).


laserfan

join:2005-01-14
Texas

said by boaterbob:

The bigger question is, can you even get the old anode bolt unscrewed. I just did a 4 year old electric water heater and I used a pneumatic wrench (didn't work), a socket breaker bar (didn't work) a 3# hammer against the breaker bar (didn't work) and a 4ft long water pipe over the breaker bar with a lot of force (and it finally came loose).

Yeah, you need first of all the right sized socket (usually 3/4"), but then what works reliably is a 1/2" electric impact wrench (see harborfreight.com). I have 3 water heaters and this wrench works every time, with continuous short hard strokes that are better even than that 4ft breaker bar which, yes, will turn the WH on its base! Best $40 bucks I've spent on tools--it's been a godsend for a number of other purposes as well.

AFAICT with even the best water, an anode rod should be replaced every few years--the last one I took-out at 3 years was only mostly inner steel wire--very little sacrifical metal left to it.

BTW my WHs are all electric; I'm surprised to learn there are anode rods in gas WHs too and wonder if they deteriorate at a similar rate to electric...?


CylonRed
Premium,MVM
join:2000-07-06
Bloom County

Gas/electric should not matter - the rods are there to "An anode rod is necessary because it prevents any corrosion of a water heater's metal lining."

Electric does not cause more issues with the corrosion of the tank nor does gas prevent corrosion.
--
Brian

"It drops into your stomach like a Abrams's tank.... driven by Rosanne Barr..." A. Bourdain



Subaru
1-3-2-4
Premium
join:2001-05-31
Greenwich, CT
kudos:1

I was going to ask about the socket size because the one I tried to get to all I had was metric impact sockets and they were all too fat to fit down and the smallest size is 10mm and the largest is 24mm I think some of the foam insulation was in the way as well.



jack b
Gone Fishing
Premium,MVM
join:2000-09-08
Cape Cod
kudos:1
reply to boaterbob

said by boaterbob:

Well ... If you had left the water to the heater turned on, it would spray out the hole once you removed the anode (guess you figured that); if the water was HOT, guess what would spray out!

Well... as with any advice given here, it's sometimes wise not to assume a certain level of skill of the reader who asks a question.
--
~Help Find a Cure for Cancer~
~Proud Member of Team Discovery ~


ArgMeMatey

join:2001-08-09
Milwaukee, WI
kudos:2
Reviews:
·voip.ms
·AT&T Midwest
·Time Warner Cable
reply to Subaru

said by Subaru:

all I had was metric impact sockets and they were all too fat to fit down and the smallest size is 10mm and the largest is 24mm I think some of the foam insulation was in the way as well.

I have an AOSmith and I've used a 27mm non-impact three times with no trouble at all. It's very close to 1-1/16 actual size.

The first time, when the heater was about three years old, I put an eye bolt in a stud and wrapped a ratcheting cable puller around the T&P valve. I then used a 2' pipe on a 1/2" breaker handle.

My water heater was installed in March 2000 and I'm on my third anode rod. I get the flexible, cabled style due to low clearance.

$50 every four years doesn't seem unreasonable for my heater arrangement, which will require some re-engineering when it is finally replaced.
--
USNG:
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Find your USNG coordinates:
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Subaru
1-3-2-4
Premium
join:2001-05-31
Greenwich, CT
kudos:1

Yeah this one was a 80 gallon AOSmith as well it had never been changed and at this time it was 7 years in.. Oh well not worried about it now.


lutful
... of ideas
Premium
join:2005-06-16
Ottawa, ON
kudos:1
reply to CylonRed

said by CylonRed:

Gas/electric should not matter - the rods are there to "An anode rod is necessary because it prevents any corrosion of a water heater's metal lining."

Our gas water heater was installed Dec/1989 when the home was built and I never thought about cathodic protection. The hot water output and quality still seems to be fine.

Anyway the anode, if present, must be 23 years old. Where should I look for it? You can see bottom part of the blue heater here:
»noisy furnace fan


Subaru
1-3-2-4
Premium
join:2001-05-31
Greenwich, CT
kudos:1

most would be on the top it looks like a huge hex bolt but recessed, the AoSmith I think had a plastic cover over it I can't remember right now.. If yours does not have it maybe the outlet pipe is the anode?


boaterbob
Premium
join:2005-08-01
Moncks Corner, SC

So, back to the OPs hot water issue - by now you've read the suggested links - correct?

If by chance you skipped that part, you missed the #1 cause of your issue - read Sediment Control (about 2/3 of the way down at -

»www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/···nce.html

Also, on the same page are pics of anodes and where they are typically located.



Subaru
1-3-2-4
Premium
join:2001-05-31
Greenwich, CT
kudos:1

did you mean to reply to me? I was referring to the poster above me.