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ngk 03-28-2013 12:04 PM

Hot water problems - not sure what's causing it
We just moved into our first house, and - annoyingly - the hot water seems to have some issues. It was hot enough to pass inspection, but now that we're trying to shower we realize things aren't quite right. Advice is very appreciated!

These are the details:

- Electric hot water heater, very new. I'll check the paperwork, but I think it's about 1 - 3 months old. 50 gallon tank, installed in the basement. It was installed 1 month ago. When we inspected the house the first water heater installed (a new gas heater) was leaking from the TP valve. We assumed the seller would just fix the valve or replace the malfunctioning heater with another one; they replaced it with this electric one. Not sure why.

- House has 3.5 bathrooms.
1) One bathroom in the basement, near the hot water heater. Water is hot in the sink, hot in the shower - but ran out in the middle of a second shower. There were only 2 showers taken that morning. There was a shower the night before that was fine.

2) Half bath on the main level + kitchen sink have consistently hot water (though we don't run them for more than usual, brief use).

3) Two full bathrooms on the 2nd floor. One bathroom has great water pressure in the shower but just lukewarm water (not cold). The sink in that bathroom has great cold water pressure and just a trickle of warm water. Never gets hot. Same situation in the 2nd bathroom on that level. We've let the water run in the shower for quite a while, and it never gets hot.

The house is old (80+ years), recently renovated (in October) with new plumbing. No apparent leaks, all work was permitted. We checked all the hot water valves we could find leading to the bathrooms, and they all seemed like they should be working. It's a row house in the DC area, and even if the pipes aren't insulated (they don't seem to be), there's no way they should be losing a lot of heat in their short trip up to the 2nd floor.

There are no cold water pressure problems.

I'm planning to check the heating elements in the hot water heater when I get home, but what could be the cause of these problems?
- malfunctioning water heater?
- problem with the installation of the water heater?
- pipe problems leading to the 2nd level? Maybe debris blockages from renovation? A valve we missed that isn't open?
- something else?

jagans 03-28-2013 12:38 PM

First of all, I consider replacing a NG hot water heater with an electric a step backward. The annual cost to operate an electric is about double what a Natural Gas unit is. Your contingency should have stated to replace in kind, but basically this was just a dirty trick that was pulled on you, and I would complain about it. I would personally be livid, and somebody would be buying me a new gas HWH. I would install it, and I might just put the electric where the sun dont shine, if you get my drift.

You can set the thermostat up on your water heater, and this will give you hotter water to mix, but I don't think it will recover anywhere near as fast as a gas unit. My new 52 Gallon gas unit recovers 45 gallons in about 45 minutes, and the incoming water is well water.

As far a some fixtures trickling your anti-scald features on your fixtures must be set all wrong. Google your fixtures and adjust them.

How hot the water is, and how much pressure you have are generally unrelated, for the most part.

Ghostmaker 03-28-2013 01:57 PM

What is the temperature of the hot water from the tank at the nearest fixture?

What type of faucets did they install when they renovated?

Does your house have a recirculation system on the hot?

ngk 03-28-2013 02:11 PM

Jagans - We agree. We weren't happy to see the electric hot water heater, but they installed it two days before closing and had already agreed to pay for a new roof, plus other things. In retrospect, we should have been more firm, but I guess we'll have to learn from our mistake.

I'll check the anti-scald settings on the fixtures. I've never had to open one up (we are newbies at this stuff) but I found some videos online and it looks like something I can tackle. I was worried that the problem might be more serious since there are so many fixtures with little / no hot water, but maybe they all have the same default setting (they are all the same brand).

Ghostmaker - Thank you for the questions. I'll have to check all of them tonight. I don't think there is a re-circulation feature on the hot water. Please excuse the very basic question, but how can I tell? Would there be a pump near the water heater, or somewhere else? We haven't seen any pumps at all and I don't think there are any on the plumbing diagrams.

The temperature of the hot water at the nearest fixture (basement bathroom sink) is very hot. I love an extremely hot shower, and the water coming out of the sink and tub/shower when on the hottest setting is a little too hot for me.

Ghostmaker 03-28-2013 02:20 PM

Usually you will have a pump installed by the hot water tank on the return side. It will usually tie into the cold water. The other line should tie into the hot at the farthest fixture away.

ngk 03-29-2013 05:40 PM

Just finished adjusting the anti-scald settings in both showers, and now the water is nice and hot. It was easier than I thought once we got some the covers off. The faucets are trickier. They seem to be Jieni brand faucets, and its not clear how to adjust them. I can't find a manual online. I'll keep looking, but I'm thinkimg of trying to slide the cartridge out by the brass collar.

The water heater definitely does not have anything recirculating. There's a place where a pipe could be attached, but nothing there.

ddawg16 03-29-2013 06:42 PM

Side thought.....

If you had gas before....and he went to electric....that means he had to run electric to least a 30A 240Vac ckt.....not exactly something that people have laying around in their basement. Are you sure he ran the right power to it?

And....unless your electric rates are really low....I bet you could justify the cost of a new gas water heater.......your not going to like your electric bills otherwise.

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