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logan 02-03-2009 06:58 PM

Is my water heater large enough?
Hi everyone.

My apartment has a 50 gallon electric water heater. Both the top and bottom burners are set to the "middle" position on the thermostat, which I think is just called "hot." There is barely, but not quite, enough hot water for two 10-15 minute back to back showers. Does that sound right? I thought that a 50 gallon tank would be plenty for just two people. Any thoughts?

To be exact, my heater is the M-2-50T6DS from Bradford-White -- specs are here

Chicago, IL

brokenknee 02-03-2009 07:19 PM

Sounds to me one of the heating elements is burnt out.

Bob Mariani 02-03-2009 07:48 PM

When was it last flushed? It should be plenty of water for two normal showers. But are you using multiple heads and two hour showers. If the unit is flushed be sure the sediment was actually removed. Many times the flakes are too big to get through the valve You may need to remove the bottom element and spoon out the calcium buildup. But you need to check both elements first. You can get a cheap water heater tester at Home Depot or Lowes and the directions for testing are on the package.

brokenknee 02-03-2009 08:24 PM

Can also check it with an ohm meter. Make SURE the power is off, disconnect one of the leads to the element, check for continuity, repeat for other element. If you have continuity the elements are most likely good, if not they are bad. If the water heater is over ten years old and the elements are bad I would replace it.

handyman78 02-03-2009 08:40 PM

You said apartment- that you rent? If so then you don't "own" the heater. Talk to the building super or owner about getting a replacement since it is not up to your needs.

brokenknee 02-03-2009 08:47 PM


Originally Posted by handyman78 (Post 224710)
You said apartment- that you rent? If so then you don't "own" the heater. Talk to the building super or owner about getting a replacement since it is not up to your needs.

Yep, could not agree more. I need to slow down when I read these post as sometimes I have a tendency to miss these important little details. :(

logan 02-04-2009 06:25 AM

Sorry, I should have said "condo" instead of "apartment." Yes, I own the heater. It is only 6 months old. I have opened the drain valve recently and there doesn't appear to be any sediment, as you'd except from a new unit. I suppose it's possible one of the heating elements is bad. We don't have a fancy shower...just a single shower head, probably low flow.

DangerMouse 02-04-2009 06:58 AM

hmmmm, when i put in our brand new 50 elec., i thought it'd have enough for my daughter's long (20, 30 min.) showers, but it still wasn't quite enough. though it heats up in 10 or 15 minutes. so i'd say with yours, it's probably ok. i could be wrong, i sometimes am, but i don't think you have a problem with the heater. take shorter showers or go to an 80 gallon tank?
water flow is what? around 2 gal. a minute in a normal shower?
Nestor Kelabay (very informed guy) or someone else here can give you that info, i'm sure. i don't have the time this morning to google it.
now i'm off to the woods with my trusty chainsaws!


logan 02-04-2009 09:30 AM

Everything I've read online would suggest that 50 gallons is MORE than enough.

Home Depot says that 50 gallons is about right. One of the commentors on this Yahoo post said that a 60 gallon tank was more than enough for their family of SEVEN!

But when I just do the basic math: Let's say two showers at 12 minutes each, with water flowing at about 2 GPM -- that's 48 gallons right entire tank! That doesn't take into account the First Hour Rating of, I believe, 70+ Gallons for my heater. But I'm not convinced it heats quick enough for back to back showers.

Is it possible that my wife and I take unusually long showers? Is 12 minutes that long?

Thanks again,

DangerMouse 02-04-2009 09:36 AM

ok, i'm back with a truckload of hardwood to saw up later. i googled this--> Low flow showers usually operate about 2.246 gallons per minute (gpm). The national average for shower head flow rates is 2.6426 gpm
so i guess i was close.
what type shower head do you have?
if you could wait 10 to 15 minutes between, you'd probably see a difference.

DangerMouse 02-04-2009 09:37 AM

just an fyi, my shower is usually less than 5 minutes. it don't take THAT long to scrub, wash yer hair and get out....-=chuckle=-


logan 02-04-2009 09:39 AM

Argh! I hope this isn't the conclusion I reach after all this.....that we just need to take shorter showers.

I'll take a look and see what kind of showerhead we have. If it's not low flow, I'm sure replacing it will help.

Thanks everyone.

DangerMouse 02-04-2009 09:43 AM

in your typical dual element heater, the top one kicks in to heat the top water to keep it 'always' available, once the desired temp is reached, the bottom kicks in and heats the rest. now... if you don't have kids or elderly (scaldguards highly recommened if so) then you should be able to get longer showers by increasing the temp on the tank's 2 thermostat settings for the elements. at 130 or 135, you will increase the length simply by having hotter water to mix with the cold. Po) oh heck with it, get the dam scaldguard anyways, you'll love how it stops toilet shock and pressure loss! hehehehe


DangerMouse 02-04-2009 09:51 AM

of course, there will be a monetary penalty for this solution.


logan 02-04-2009 09:56 AM

Well, I would definitely turn up the temp on the water heater before getting a bigger tank, needless to say.

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