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rkenney

Water Heater Maintenance

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During a recent home inspection while in the basement, I overheard the realtor advising the client on the need to drain the water heater as regular maintenance.

Not something I would normally recommend a new homeowner to undertake because of the steps involved (this was gas).

I never felt this was particularly effective unless you turn of the water inlet. Of course if you do this you have to turn off the gas. If you've gotten this far you also need to open the TPR to allow water to flow. Clean up the mess and if the valves don't leak after you've messed with them, refill the tank and relight the gas.

So, what would you do/say to a young client after hearing the short (drain the tank) advice from a realtor to a client during a home inspection?

A.) say nothing?

B.) explain all the necessary steps to be effective (and contradict the realtor)?

or

C.) let them believe they are accomplishing something by merely draining the tank with the water running?

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A tank style gas water heater lasts about 15 years in my area if it receives routine maintenance. If you completely ignore it, it still lasts about 15 years. Unless your client is handy enough to handle the drain and flush, and thoughtful enough to change the anode rod while he's at it, he's wasting his time.

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I say nothing, but that's only because the water quality here is better than usual. I've never seen a water heater lost because of water quality. It's almost always corrosion.

Marc

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Out of about 50 gas waterheaters I've seen so far, only one was noisy when fired up, making a boiling noise and indicating buildup in the bottom of the tank. That went in the report as just what I said above. It was past it's expected life anyway.

I've not noticed any difference between tanks that get regularly drained and those that don't as far as longevity, and I live in a very hard water area, Los Angeles.

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Sorry to be redundant to Tom's post. I will sometimes mention to drain the sediment from the tank, I think it depends on the client. With some clients you just know they are going to hurt themselves or damage their property based on what they think you said.

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During a recent home inspection while in the basement, I overheard the realtor advising the client on the need to drain the water heater as regular maintenance.

I do a one hour walkthrough with my clients and drag them around and thru the whole house. I use my powers of mental telepathy to tell the babbling relator to shut the fffk up.

I will say something like, "Yes, they say it is a good thing to do, (diplomacy comment), BUT always remember to shut the gas (or power) off before you try to drain your water heater. If not, you will do more damage than good". You have to take control back or you can spend half the time as the realtor's audience and Yes-man. If mental telepathy doesn't work, staring at your watch every time they open their mouths might. i don't wear a watch, so I stare at my wrist. [:)]

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I suppose maintenance might be necessary in areas with poor water quality, but that's about it. This is stuff that plumbers that need work recommend, or folks that are changing careers learn in a dumb class taught by someone that learned it in another dumb class, taught by someone that read it in an old book, or heard it from a plumber that needed work.

I've never done it (maintenance), never recommended it, and don't plan on starting to do either.

OTOH, I talk about drain pans, T&P discharge pipes, and vent repairs all the time. That's what's important, not spending hours to possibly drag another couple years out of a water heater.

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Well you all are certainly preaching to the choir here. I concur with all those that expressed what a colossal waste of time it is to drain a water heater.

On this occasion, however, the realtor was already well into his speil about water heater draining, so I was curious what YOU would SAY.

I don't like to be the middle man, but I can't stand bad information being delivered under the guise of "knowledge." I don't know if the realtor was showing off, making small talk, or some kind of 'test' for me.

If it was a test I guess I failed by virtue of 'shooting down' the realtor. I was gentle and not arguementative.

So, what would you SAY under this scenario?

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I'd immediately leave the room, unless the Realtor was interrupting my verbal report to the client. In that case, I'd be quick and eager to interrupt and inject my opinion to my client about anything I didn't agree with, which is usually just about everything. I'd not address the Realtor yet. If interrupted more than a few times, I'd then interrupt the Realtor mid-sentence and ask, in no uncertain terms, if I could complete my verbal without further interruption.

That has worked for me.

Marc

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And what do you tell your client when you can hear the rocks burbling around inside a gas water heater?

Never heard that before. Come to think of it, never heard much of anything at all before.[;)]

Seriously, I've felt it (that's how I sense engine rpm so I can drive a stick shift), but not since becoming an inspector 8 yrs ago. I'm in the habit of touching running appliances to gauge their functioning. I can feel bubbles in the refrigerant of AC's.

I'll ask other inspectors in my area but I think that WH problem is unusual in my immediate area.

When I drained my own WH several yrs ago to replace it, the water was perfectly clear all the way through.

Marc

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Well you all are certainly preaching to the choir here. I concur with all those that expressed what a colossal waste of time it is to drain a water heater.

On this occasion, however, the realtor was already well into his speil about water heater draining, so I was curious what YOU would SAY.

I don't like to be the middle man, but I can't stand bad information being delivered under the guise of "knowledge." I don't know if the realtor was showing off, making small talk, or some kind of 'test' for me.

If it was a test I guess I failed by virtue of 'shooting down' the realtor. I was gentle and not arguementative.

So, what would you SAY under this scenario?

Ignore the whole thing while it was happening, then when I was inspecting the water heater, casually and efficiently explain that all the stuff about draining water heaters is claptrap.....do it if you want, but don't expect etc., etc.......

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Sediment build up in a gas water heater is like a layer of sand on the bottom of a pot of water on the stove. Gotta heat the sediment before you start heating the water. Don't hurt anything, just less energy efficient.

I've found a couple over the years that I could hear the rocks chunking around in. Someplace I've got a sound video of it. Ain't no way to get it out when it's that bad. Easier to just replace the water heater or bear the cost of heating the sediment rocks before heating the water.

Electric: Sediment on the bottom don't really do or harm anything.

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Sediment build up in a gas water heater is like a layer of sand on the bottom of a pot of water on the stove. Gotta heat the sediment before you start heating the water. Don't hurt anything, just less energy efficient.

I've found a couple over the years that I could hear the rocks chunking around in. Someplace I've got a sound video of it. Ain't no way to get it out when it's that bad. Easier to just replace the water heater or bear the cost of heating the sediment rocks before heating the water.

Electric: Sediment on the bottom don't really do or harm anything.

While sediment on the bottom of an electric may not be a problem it is with a gas fired heater. The sediment acts as an insulation barrier so without full contact with the water, to carry the heat away, the bottom of the tank superheats and cracks. Boilers have the same problem.

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With a gas-fired water heater, there is some value to draining the tank if you do this from the time the water heater is new. If it hasn't been done in a few years, it isn't likely to accomplish anything. It also isn't that hard to do - just open a tap inside at a fixture to prevent a vacuum, shut off the water valve at the top of the WH, and turn the gas to the pilot setting.

A couple of things can be done to extend the life of a water heater beyond the manufacturer's warranty. One is to replace the dip tube with one that is curved on the end, so that the water on the bottom of the tank is agitated. Sediment will mix with the water going to the taps instead of accumulating on the bottom of the tank. Another is to install a second sacrificial anode (some water heaters have an extra fitting for this). The difference between a 5-year manufacturers warranty and a 10-year warranty is a second anode.

Large commercial water heaters sometimes have a cleanout opening where the sediment can be scooped out after draining the tank.

Water heaters in my part of the world (hard water) often fail right after the new homeowner moves in. If the utilities are off for any period of time, the sediment in the bottom of the tank is more likely to stick to the tank. The first time it is heated up again, water that reaches boiling in the sediment cavities will dislodge it, sometimes taking a piece of the tank with it, and causing a leak.

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With a gas-fired water heater, there is some value to draining the tank if you do this from the time the water heater is new. If it hasn't been done in a few years, it isn't likely to accomplish anything. It also isn't that hard to do - just open a tap inside at a fixture to prevent a vacuum, shut off the water valve at the top of the WH, and turn the gas to the pilot setting.

Did you mean to say 'just open the TPR valve to prevent a vacuum'?

A couple of things can be done to extend the life of a water heater beyond the manufacturer's warranty. One is to replace the dip tube with one that is curved on the end, so that the water on the bottom of the tank is agitated. Sediment will mix with the water going to the taps instead of accumulating on the bottom of the tank. Another is to install a second sacrificial anode (some water heaters have an extra fitting for this). The difference between a 5-year manufacturers warranty and a 10-year warranty is a second anode.

Where I'm at water heaters don't even have an anode rod. They probably average at least 20 years or more here.

You wouldn't mind if I stole your post for my 'Book of HI', would you?

Marc

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Did you mean to say 'just open the TPR valve to prevent a vacuum'?

Water heaters around here ship with a TPRV pre-installed in the side of the water heater, within the top six inches of the tank. The valve is underwater, and it is much simpler to introduce air to the tank by opening a hot water tap.

Where I'm at water heaters don't even have an anode rod. They probably average at least 20 years or more here.

You wouldn't mind if I stole your post for my 'Book of HI', would you?

Marc

You're welcome to it; I'm honored to find anyone thinking my stuff is worth repeating. FWIW, the ultimate water heater nerds are Larry and Suzanne Weingarten, authors of The Water Heater Workboook. http://www.waterheaterrescue.com/pages/ ... asics.html It is a treasure of information.

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In my area, it's routine to see electric water heaters with enough crud in them to bury the lower element. The drain valve is almost always plugged--compressed air must be used to encourage water drainage when replacing the tank.

.........Greg.

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I haven't flushed my gas water heater since I moved into our home. We do have hard water and it's not that difficult of a process to do but now I'm wondering if I should even bother with it. If it doesn't make much of a difference then I won't do it but if it doesn't hurt to do it but may not help then I might as well do it.

Terrell - I'm in need for an ~link deleted~ specialist

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It's really about water quality than anything else. Hard, mineral laden water, I suppose it matters.

Clear, good quality water, I don't think it's necessary at all. I've opened up a few 35-40 year old tanks, and they're clean. Chicago has some of the "best" water quality in the nation, if you're willing to accept the government's definition of water quality.

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TerrellT, Thanks for bringing my attention to this thread. You sneaky devil.

I don't like to be the middle man, but I can't stand bad information being delivered under the guise of "knowledge." I don't know if the realtor was showing off, making small talk, or some kind of 'test' for me.

If it was a test I guess I failed by virtue of 'shooting down' the realtor. I was gentle and not arguementative.

So, what would you SAY under this scenario?

Bob, I hate to answer a question with a question, but why are you the least little bit concerned about correcting someone whose training is very likely on par with that of a child with a lemonade stand?

You're a professionally trained home inspector. You're being paid by your client to provide them with accurate information.

Good for you, good for the client, and good for the agent. If he worries more about a bent nose than having the correct info he can use in the future, then he's a meat head, anyway.

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Ha, Gary, I like the lemonade metaphor. My thoughts exactly. I'm not really worried about it. I said my piece and let it go at that.

The question was really about diplomacy or maybe tact would be a better word (how to say, not what to say). My wife assures me I lack both.

I have no desire to get into a pissin' match with anybody, but curiously I can and do quite easily.

Someone once said, "People won't remember what you say, but they will remember how they felt." I am often remembered, I'm just tryin' to improve my average.

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Ive always told homeowners to drain about 5 gallons of water out through bottem drain of heater about once a month to keep crud out of bottem of tank,especially if they have bad water

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