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Old 10-03-2009, 11:55 PM   #1
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


My son-in-law told me that he thinks my water heater is getting ready to heat it's last gallon of water. He says they've noticed that when they run only hot water to fill the bath tub, it comes out only long enough to put 5" or 6" of water in. It used to stay hot long enough to fill the tub 3/4 of the way or so.

This problem may have started last spring. It seems like they mentioned it back then.

I drained the tank this summer to get the sediment out of it, in case that was the problem. There was very little in there and it didn't really give us any more hot water.

Is there anything I can do to fix this without having to replace the water heater?

There's always enough hot water for showers and dishes, so I really don't care to replace it just because it doesn't fill the tub.

How long can it keep going like this before it stops working altogether?

Thank you.

Barb

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Old 10-04-2009, 04:41 AM   #2
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


Is your water heater Gas/Electric? If it is Electric then you might try and replace the heating elements. Worked for my older Electric water heater.

Good Luck............

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Old 10-04-2009, 08:21 AM   #3
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


The dip tube may need replacing. Undo the cold water inlet for the heater, then attach a 1/2 inch copper tube that goes down into the tank to about 6 inches of the bottom, then re-install that inlet pipe.

Unfortunatley I don't hints on how to attach the tube to the inlet fitting up top.

A common problem with working on hot water tanks, including timely replacement of the anode rod, is getting the fitting unscrewed. It is easy to have the whole tank rotate and snap off the gas connection and then you have an explosion or get asphyxiated. This is often used as an excuse to replace the entire heater.
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Last edited by AllanJ; 10-04-2009 at 10:29 PM.
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Old 10-04-2009, 12:21 PM   #4
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


Quote:
This is often used as an excuse to replace the entire heater.
...............

So this 'should-not-do-it-yourself' project could easily become a 'blow-up-your-house' project.

Hmmm. I think I'll wait until it stops working and have it replaced.

Thanks. I appreciate your help.
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Old 10-04-2009, 02:48 PM   #5
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


gma2rjc-You have not stated if your water heater is gas or electric. IF it is electric, and you stated that you "drained the tank this summer to get the sediment out of it", you probably did not get enough sediment out of it to do any good. Most electric water heaters can, and will, build up enough sediment, or lime, to enclose the lower element and render it useless. This is what it sounds like your problem is being as you mentioned the lower amount of hot water obtainable.
IF this is an electric water heater, then I recommend: Turning off the electric power to the heater, turning off the cold water supply to the heater, then drain off any residual pressure (open a cold and hot water faucet anywhere). Drain the tank using a garden hose to route the water outside. The water will probably run very slow, if you have a way to push air into the tank via the water hose you can, sometimes, push the sediment back enough to allow the water to flow faster. Once the water is drained, remove the lower element, and don't be surprised it is difficult to remove as the sediment will have it encased. A lot of times I have to destroy the lower element to remove them. Most of these are a long loop shape, and the shape will become distorted with the sediment build-up. Once the element is removed, you should be able to look into the tank with a flashlight and determine your sediment build-up. I have a 3/4" curved steel tube which attaches to my shop vac to clean this mess out of water heaters. Once most of the sediment is cleaned out, install a new element in the bottom, this is a good time to replace the top unit also. Be sure you replace them with the same wattage units. When filling the tank, look for leaks at the elements, and make sure the water flows continuously from both a hot and cold faucet to assure no air is in the tank before restoring power. This method has been know to revive many an electric water heater. Now IF is is a gas unit you have a different scenario. I actually do not know of a way to clean out a gas unit. Good Luck, David
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Old 10-04-2009, 04:02 PM   #6
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


Thanks Thurman. It is a gas w.h. I'm not sure if it would be better to have a plumber come over to fix it or just have him replace it.

I'm pretty sure it was installed in late '97 or early '98. It still looks pretty good on the outside, so it seems like it should last a few more years.
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Old 10-04-2009, 05:22 PM   #7
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


What brand water heater? It sounds like a bad dip tube.
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Old 10-04-2009, 05:50 PM   #8
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


do you own your heater, or rent it? some people rent it (and forget about it) so you might just get a new one by complaining to the supplier.

just a thought,

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Old 10-04-2009, 07:31 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gma2rjc View Post
a gas w.h.
it was installed in late '97 or early '98.
Only 20% get replaced this early.
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Old 10-04-2009, 11:40 PM   #10
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


Darn! All that and it turns out to be gas. That's fine also. I agree that you heater should not have given up this early and the likely culprit now is the dip tube. Your dip tube should be located where the cold water inlet attaches to the unit. You will have to somehow disconnect the cold water supply piping, remove the fitting that screws into the unit at the "C" or "cold" water inlet, and the dip tube should (usually) be located there. I believe most of them just slip down into the cold water inlet fitting and can be removed by using your finger to grab it. On occasion's I have had to use a paper towel around my finger to get a grip within the tube itself. I would not recommend using an metal object as they will likely break the plastic tube. New tubes are available at most big box and plumbing supply houses . Good Luck, David
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Old 10-05-2009, 06:36 AM   #11
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


That doesn't sound like it would be very difficult to do. The only thing is that even simple plumbing fixes turn out to be way over my head once I get started on them. I can do a lot of the repairs and remodeling around here, but Murphy's Law takes over when I try anything but very basic plumbing.

Thank you for explaining how to do it though. And it's good to know that the w.h. should last longer than this.

I'll probably play it safe and call a plumber. Thanks again for your help.
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Old 10-08-2009, 04:21 PM   #12
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


A lot of water heaters come with only a 6 year warranty now. You can buy one's with a longer warranty, but it is the same unit with a more expensive price. 10-12 years is a good lifetime for a water heater.
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Old 10-08-2009, 05:50 PM   #13
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


I agree with the above post, if you got 10 years out of it and are having a problem it's time to replace it. At the very best it is half way through its life cycle but more likely it is near the end. Don't pay much attention to the warranty when buying a new one. Look for the most energy efficient for the $$$.

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Old 10-08-2009, 05:52 PM   #14
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


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Originally Posted by log_doc_rob View Post
A lot of water heaters come with only a 6 year warranty now. You can buy one's with a longer warranty, but it is the same unit with a more expensive price.

That's because the premium on longer insurance policies costs more money and this premium is 1 to 10% of the purchase price. If the company assumes more risk it charges you more for it.

10-12 years is a good lifetime for a water heater.
I get 15 yrs replacement age [not equipment lifetime] for gas water heaters but the trend could be downward.

Last edited by Yoyizit; 10-09-2009 at 10:58 AM.
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Old 10-08-2009, 06:11 PM   #15
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Is my water heater on it's last leg?


Quote:
Originally Posted by gma2rjc View Post
My son-in-law told me that he thinks my water heater is getting ready to heat it's last gallon of water. He says they've noticed that when they run only hot water to fill the bath tub, it comes out only long enough to put 5" or 6" of water in. It used to stay hot long enough to fill the tub 3/4 of the way or so.

This problem may have started last spring. It seems like they mentioned it back then.

I drained the tank this summer to get the sediment out of it, in case that was the problem. There was very little in there and it didn't really give us any more hot water.

Is there anything I can do to fix this without having to replace the water heater?

There's always enough hot water for showers and dishes, so I really don't care to replace it just because it doesn't fill the tub.

How long can it keep going like this before it stops working altogether?

Thank you.

Barb
Not being a (professional) Plumber but speaking of personal (unforgerttable) experience, I'm afraid that the next time your hot water tank will give you notice that it finished its service, will be a wet reminder! That's what happened to my hot water tank. A puddle on the floor in the basement! So, if it's older than Ten years, it's worth considering to change it. (Now more than ever) Don't Drink and Drive!
p.s.: we ought to develop an Icon/smily depicting a car and a glass, with a big X over it. Maybe I'll import something.


Last edited by spark plug; 10-08-2009 at 06:12 PM. Reason: spacing for clarity.
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