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Old 09-04-2008, 07:35 PM   #1
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Exactly what is my City inspector DO when he inspects a replaced hot water tank?


He came today, I stood beside him, I asked if he needed a flashlight, he said, no, but all he had in his two hands was his clipboard. I got my flashlight and proceed to ask about the fact that this tank was installed on Aug. 26th and I had hot water ONE DAY. The next date on aug 28th, Fri. I went to turn on my new hot water. There wasn't ANY. It was 4:10 p.m. and called the plumbing company and all I got was a "leave a message". Since this was the holday weekend, I could only call on TUESDAY (2days ago) and the man who installed came promptly at 8 a.m.. When I asked why he THOUGHT the light went out, he said, he didn't know, but MAYBE since I had the Blue Angels flying over my house last Thur. and Fri, MAYBE an air draft went down my flu and sucked it out. (I absolutely DID NOT LAUGH). I went upstairs, I heard him bang on a pipe and then I heard the pilot light ignight. He said it was ok now.
I finally had a shower and did one load of laundry. I washed 4 days of dishes in the sink. I took a nap.
I called the city to ask about having it inspected. The man said, there wasn't any permit for the installation. I became alarmed because this company has operated in my city for many years and in fact was the company who had installed my PREVIOUS tank that lasted 11 yrs. and when THAT pilot light kept going out (I had it lit 4 times before I called for a new tank). The city inspector said he would come over. (See above report). He called me back and said a sticker won't be issued by the city till a permit is purchased and he will contact the plumbing co.
My question is this: what if this new AMERICAN WATER HEATER, for which I paid a total of $695. (that includes an extra $100. for the 12 YRS. guarantee) what if it is a LEMON? Can I insist they take out this one and bring me a different one. Then how would I know it's a different one. Lastly WHAT EXACTLY is a city inspector supposed to do when they inspect??? I'm 73 a widow, but there's still a fire in MY furnace!!

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Old 09-04-2008, 08:59 PM   #2
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Exactly what is my City inspector DO when he inspects a replaced hot water tank?


As a city building inspector, I think I can shine some light on the inspector's responsibilities, as well as those of the plumber.

The fact that your water heater doesn't function has to be attributed to the installer or the manufacturer. If it is a manufacturer issue, your plumber should have caught it. If he didn't purge the air from the burner unit or light it correctly the first time it probably just didn't stay lit. If the problem persists, there may be an issue with the unit itself of the gas delivery to the unit.

Now, the inspector...
He's responsible for safety, not necessarily function. I'll cover function first. Because of liability, most inspectors will not adjust the dial on a gas water heater to determine that the unit lights. It would be an easy lawsuit for someone if they were scalded. Most cities' attorneys make this very clear to their inspectors. The residential plumbing code does not require that the water reach a certain temperature, or that it be limited to a certain temperature to prevent scalding. Tempered water (hot, but not hot enough to burn you) is in fact a requirement in most commercial construction based on accessibility laws and codes.

When I do a water heater inspection, I'm looking for the following:
  • Is the unit stable? Will it rock back and forth?
  • Is it vented correctly? Is the vent installed in a workmanlike manner? Is the vent too close to combustable products? Is the vent sloping uphill to facilitate good flow? Is the vent running too far horizontally?
  • Is there adequate combustion air for the unit to use, given the space the unit is located in? If not, it won't burn as efficiently and will produce more carbon monoxide than usual.
  • Is the water plumbing installed per code and in a workmanlike manner?
  • Is there a gas shutoff valve and a union? If a flexible gas whip is used, is there a shutoff valve? Are all the gas fittings legal for gas use? If there are any new gaslines, are they sized and installed per code, and have they been pressure tested and approved?
  • If there are copper or galvanized water lines, did they use dielectric unions or dielectric nipples? An 8 gauge copper bonding jumper must be installed to restore electric continuity to the homes grounding/earthing system.
  • Did they install a water heater that is in good saleable condition? A while back a jurisdiction I worked for had a heck of a time with an unnamed big box (rhymes with crows) store's installation subcontractor. They'd install dented water heaters. I got about a dozen homeowners new undamaged water heaters, even after they'd been lead to believe that the units were just fine and would last as long as an undamaged one.
  • Is the T&P blowoff properly piped down to the floor?
  • I always ask the homeowner if the unit is functioning satisfactorily for them. If not, we can try to determine why.
There's a lot to look at, and I can do all of it in about 40 seconds without crawling around or making a big deal of it. When a homeowner is with me, I normally walk them through the inspection and show them exactly what I am looking for, just so they know the permit was worth obtaining. I've seen a lot of scary installations of water heaters that would have been guaranteed to get people hurt or killed.

I'm glad there's a good fire in your furnace! You're advocating for yourself! You paid good money for something that should work perfectly. Remember that the inspector is also advocating for you by requiring a permit. He's not making any money off of it, and could just as easily ignore the issue. Hopefully he's looking for all the things I listed (and anything I forgot to list but should have).

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Old 09-04-2008, 10:52 PM   #3
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Exactly what is my City inspector DO when he inspects a replaced hot water tank?


Not only did someone reply, but it was exactly what one would hope for! With your great explanation, now I won't make a fool of myself when I call that inspector tomorrow and inform him that I don't have any hot water again, which isn't HIS fault. My first call of course will be to the company and request that they send SOMEONE ELSE to look at it!
Great to have such a site as this. You've made an old lady happy again!
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Old 09-04-2008, 11:15 PM   #4
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Exactly what is my City inspector DO when he inspects a replaced hot water tank?


Glad to help. You've got the right attitude in dealing with the inspector, and probably have the right idea in asking that the plumbing company send you someone else to get it running. Perhaps someone that won't make Blue Angels jokes after you've spent a weekend taking cold showers.

Not sure if the inspector has approved the installation, but if he hasn't, request that he doesn't until you are confident that it is functional. Your permit probably has a duration of at least a month or two, so you might wait to make sure everything's good before he cuts the approval loose. Assuming he's willing, delay the inspection a few days. The City is often the only "free" leverage that you have in dealing with a problematic installation that has already been paid for.
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Old 09-05-2008, 06:27 AM   #5
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Exactly what is my City inspector DO when he inspects a replaced hot water tank?


Good one, kc!
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Old 09-05-2008, 07:46 AM   #6
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Exactly what is my City inspector DO when he inspects a replaced hot water tank?


Thanks.

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