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spikesnet 10-19-2008 01:12 PM

water heater confusion - need help pls
 
Hi all,

My hot water is running out way faster then in used too. It also seems to be colder on the first shower of the morning then it is for the second.

Its a GE Smartwater heater 50 Gal that less then 10 years old (the outside of it looks brand new). We've owned the house since 2004 and the old owner said it was fairly new.

Anyway, I'm hoping I just need to drain it since I've never done that, and that might fix the problem.

The manual is pretty striaght forward on this:

1. Turn off electric
2. Attach hose to bottom drain
3. Open the pressure relief valve at the top of the water heater
4. Open the drain valve at the bottom.

Number 4 is where I run into the problem. There is nothing to open, its just a PVC pipe with male threads, no valve to turn it on or off.

Did the installer do this so the old owners would need to call them if they needed anything? Or is there some other way of opening that drain that I'm not aware of (and isn't in the manual)?

Thanks!

Mike Swearingen 10-19-2008 01:30 PM

Water heaters come with drain valves at the bottom that can be opened and closed, and with water hose threads. Most are plastic these days. Some have valve handles. Some have screws that need to be opened in the middle of the "handle".
The only way to drain a water heater is to open that bottom drain valve and open the T&P valve at the top, and the highest hot water faucet, for air.
Are you maybe confusing a PVC pipe coming down from the T&P valve for the heater drain? Most code calls for a pipe down to within about 6" of the floor for safety in case the heater T&P valve blows off steam and scalding water to prevent a heater explosion.
Check all around the base of the heater for an actual valve. If someone has removed the original valve and installed a plugged piece of PVC pipe, then you're going to have to cool down the heater and drain it out onto the floor into a floor drain (I hope that that is the setup if they have).
Good Luck!
Mike

spikesnet 10-19-2008 02:51 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Mike Swearingen (Post 174033)
Water heaters come with drain valves at the bottom that can be opened and closed, and with water hose threads. Most are plastic these days. Some have valve handles. Some have screws that need to be opened in the middle of the "handle".
The only way to drain a water heater is to open that bottom drain valve and open the T&P valve at the top, and the highest hot water faucet, for air.
Are you maybe confusing a PVC pipe coming down from the T&P valve for the heater drain? Most code calls for a pipe down to within about 6" of the floor for safety in case the heater T&P valve blows off steam and scalding water to prevent a heater explosion.
Check all around the base of the heater for an actual valve. If someone has removed the original valve and installed a plugged piece of PVC pipe, then you're going to have to cool down the heater and drain it out onto the floor into a floor drain (I hope that that is the setup if they have).
Good Luck!
Mike

I took some pictures so you can see but the drain valve has no on/off to it. I also took pictures of the relief valve, which is copper and vents to the floor on the backside of the heater (not visible).

The last picture is from the replacement parts part of the manual. It shows what looks like no on/off valve either on the drain, even though a few pages back the instructions say turn on/off the valve.

You can view the pictures here:

http://photos.walmart.com/share/p=50...=SYE/otsi=SALB

majakdragon 10-19-2008 02:54 PM

Is it a pipe with threads or a large (2") round plastic fitting behind the threads? If you turn the round "knob", the water will start flowing. I dislike this type of valve, but it is what they are using now. Electric water heaters don't usually have a sediment problem, like gas heaters. I'll bet you have one (of two) elements bad.
NOTE. Your pics came in while I was answering. That large thing behind the threads is the "valve handle". Attach your hose and turn it counter-clockwise and the water will come out.

kbsparky 10-19-2008 03:04 PM

That plastic thing at the bottom is your drain valve.

The one thing missing form your list is: "Turn water supply off" otherwise, opening the relief valve will cause a gusher of water to flow out the overflow pipe.:whistling2:

The main problem you have is much less available hot water. I'd be inclined to think that maybe your lower heating element has failed, due to either a bad element, or bad control (or associated wiring).

Most water heaters have 2 elements present. The upper one only heats the top 1/3 of the tank, the lower one heats the rest. If the lower one fails, you still will have some hot water available, but it will go cold much sooner than before, as you have reported.:furious:

spikesnet 10-19-2008 04:37 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by majakdragon (Post 174048)
Is it a pipe with threads or a large (2") round plastic fitting behind the threads? If you turn the round "knob", the water will start flowing. I dislike this type of valve, but it is what they are using now. Electric water heaters don't usually have a sediment problem, like gas heaters. I'll bet you have one (of two) elements bad.
NOTE. Your pics came in while I was answering. That large thing behind the threads is the "valve handle". Attach your hose and turn it counter-clockwise and the water will come out.


Thanks for the quick answer. So should I even bother flushing it out then since it's electric or should I just call a repair company to have the elements checked?

jamiedolan 10-19-2008 06:58 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spikesnet (Post 174080)
Thanks for the quick answer. So should I even bother flushing it out then since it's electric or should I just call a repair company to have the elements checked?

You can test and replace the elements on your own, there is a lot of info online about it, here is one site about it:
http://www.stretcher.com/stories/00/000626e.cfm

If you don't have a multi meter you can get one from Harbor Freight for about $10.

Jamie

spikesnet 10-19-2008 07:33 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jamiedolan (Post 174129)
You can test and replace the elements on your own, there is a lot of info online about it, here is one site about it:
http://www.stretcher.com/stories/00/000626e.cfm

If you don't have a multi meter you can get one from Harbor Freight for about $10.

Jamie


My multimeter I have only does resistance at 200, 2000, 20k etc, no 1000. Will using 2000 setting still give me a valid reading or do I need to go buy a new multimeter that does 1000 resistance?

Also, thank you everyone for all your help!

spikesnet 10-19-2008 08:54 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spikesnet (Post 174145)
My multimeter I have only does resistance at 200, 2000, 20k etc, no 1000. Will using 2000 setting still give me a valid reading or do I need to go buy a new multimeter that does 1000 resistance?

Also, thank you everyone for all your help!


Here is what my meter looks like:

http://www.cyberpoet.net/ebay/centech.html

jamiedolan 10-20-2008 11:28 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spikesnet (Post 174167)
Here is what my meter looks like:

http://www.cyberpoet.net/ebay/centech.html

They work in a given range, i.e. 200-2,000 then 2,000 to 20,000 etc.

Set it to the lower range (200) if the test suggests that you use 1,000.

Give that test a try with the power OFF and see what kind of reading you get.

Otherwise if you are comfortable testing something that is live, that will give an a fairly good answer right away. - It is fairly easy as safe to use a meter to test something live (assuming it is easy to access), but don't do it live if your uncomfortable with live power testing.

Jamie

spikesnet 10-20-2008 11:55 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by jamiedolan (Post 174336)
They work in a given range, i.e. 200-2,000 then 2,000 to 20,000 etc.

Set it to the lower range (200) if the test suggests that you use 1,000.

Give that test a try with the power OFF and see what kind of reading you get.

Otherwise if you are comfortable testing something that is live, that will give an a fairly good answer right away. - It is fairly easy as safe to use a meter to test something live (assuming it is easy to access), but don't do it live if your uncomfortable with live power testing.

Jamie


Jamie,

For live power testing do I still need to disconnect one of the wires? If not, and all I need to do is touch one prob to the wire and one to a screw then I'm ok with it.

But if I have to disconnect the wire then I'll probably want to do it with the power off.

jamiedolan 10-20-2008 12:21 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by spikesnet (Post 174348)
Jamie,

For live power testing do I still need to disconnect one of the wires? If not, and all I need to do is touch one prob to the wire and one to a screw then I'm ok with it.

But if I have to disconnect the wire then I'll probably want to do it with the power off.


I actually found a chart that shows you what the ohm readings are suppose to be for the size element you have in your heater. With the power off, you disconnect the wires from the elements and test it with your meter, you should get these readings based on the size of your element.
  • 15.5 ohms for 3500 watts
  • 13.0 ohms for 4500 watts
  • 10.0 ohms for 5500 watt
I couldn't find a little chart like this before that showed what the ohm readings should be at before, but since we have that now, I would go ahead and flip off the power then do the test.

These are the directions that were with that little chart I found,:

"to test the elements, you will need a voltage/OHM meter. Turn off the power to the heater first and disconnect the two wires to the elements. Set the meter to the "OHM" function, and check the flow between the two screw connectors of the elements: If there is a positive reading, then the circuit is "closed" and the element is fine; if there is no reading, the circuit is "open" and a new element is needed. Also, if you get a reading on your meter between either of the screw connections and the metal element, the element is shorted and must be replaced." quoted from http://www.plumbingsupply.com/elements.html

Let me know how the test comes out, You should be fine with your meter set to the lowest ohm setting. The resistance testing is actually the most accurate way to test, because with just testing if power is getting across it, you can assume that it is ok because it is running power across the element, but that does not necessarily mean it is conducting properly.

Jamie

spikesnet 10-20-2008 12:36 PM

Thanks Jamie, I'll test the elements tonight and post the results here.

spikesnet 10-20-2008 06:48 PM

I turned off the power and then removed the access doors to both the top and bottom.

I didn't remove any wires.

I'm uploading a picture of the bottom one. It looks like its round with a large nut holding it in place. There are two wires screwed to it.

Without removing any wires I put the meter on the top one, one probe on each wire going to th element. I got a 13.0 reading which I think is correct since it is 4500w.

Next I did the same to the bottom ones but the meter didn't change from 1.

I think that means the bottom one is bad? I'm calling lowes now to see if they have a replacement in stock.

spikesnet 10-20-2008 06:50 PM

here is the photo of the element:

http://photos.walmart.com/share/p=26...=SYE/otsi=SALB


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