Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Temporary Fix for Leaking Hot Water Heater

Difficulty Level (Easy, Medium, Hard, Insane):

So I got up Monday morning, turned on the shower and waited for the water to get warm. And waited. And waited. After a few minutes I realized there was something wrong so I got out of the shower and made my way to our utility room where I heard this faint 'pshhhhhh' sound. At first I thought it was the natural gas but after some investigation I realized there was a little pin hole in the middle of the water tank, about 4" from the top right where the hot air ascends to heat the water.

Unfortunately, I had to go to work so I showered in ice cold water (which was NOT pleasant, but very quick) and started thinking about my options.

I called Enbridge Gas NB who told me that since I owned the hot water tank I could simply subscribe to their $20/month plan and they'd take care of it and we'd have hot water again before the end of the day.

They reluctantly admitted that there was a 10 year warranty on that tank (ours is only 8 years old), but that apparently the company that does the install can take up to a month to get it done AND I'd have to pay them $700 bucks for the installation, PLUS $100 for the gas permit PLUS $100 for freight.

Forget that!

So I called the distributor in town who said that they could provide the replacement hot water heater, but that I'd have to get a certified natural gas installer to do the install, BUT that if I did it that way, the warranty would cover everything.

Well, of course I'd rather spend some time phoning around and save $1000 than spending $2500 bucks over 10 years for the rental.

Unfortunately, after 3 days with no hot water plus some stove-heated-warm-water-watering-can-showers later, it was getting just a little bit too much hassle so I decided to lower the air agitator (not sure what exactly it's called) down the flue 4", cut a piece of 1/2" aluminum to the widh and radius of the 3.800" flue and jamb it cross-wise into the flue with some silicone baking pan material that I had bought for my Cappuccino Maker Leak. This fixed the pin hole leak and allowed me to turn the heater back on and hopefully will hold for a day or two until we get the new heater installed.

Man, it's amazing how much it affects your life to not have hot water in the house and to think that not too long in the past this is how normal families lived is hard to imagine.

Although I don't have the hot water back to normal, at least it's a temporary fix until tomorrow (hopefully)

So after 4 long days of making phone calls back and forth between:

1. Enbridge Gas NB
2. Bob's Heating (installer)
3. Kerr Controls (distributer)
4. Giant (manufacturer)
5. Cornerstone (extended warranty provider)

they were able to confirm that my 10 year warranty apparently is "pro-rated" which means that after 8 years, I'll get exactly $209 paid towards the purchase of a new hot water heater and does NOT include any installation or parts. Well, that really sucks, so after calculating that the purchase of a new water heater would run me about $2000 and the rental (through Enbridge) would cost me $2500 over 10 years (free maintenance and repairs throughout the rental period) we decided that we'd just rent one, and wouldn't you know it, 12 hours later we had a brand new heater installed and ready....Ughh...

Since we had purchased the original hot water heater, I decided that I was going to keep it and have Nathaniel help me take it apart. We spent about an hour and a half in the shop taking it apart and scavenging it for parts, the rest of it went to the scrap yard and I even got $3.50 for the metal. Yeah...

Having a further look at the area that was leaking it was definite corrosion. The sacrificial anode (which they conveniently made inaccessible) was completely eaten away. If they had made it accessible, I would have checked and replaced it 3 years ago (I even called Enbridge to ask them where the anode was located and they said that they didn't have any...yeah right!)...

Anyways, the hot water is back on and our bill has increased by $20/month. Not a lot, but definitely something I was hoping to avoid considering I had this wonderful "extended warranty"...


R10 insulation around the water tank
A small amount of water that leaked out of the catch pan
The vent and fan removed
Hot water tank info
The cut open hot water heater tank
The stalakites (or stalagmites?) at the top of the heater from all the calcium in the water
Close-up of the disgusting hot water heater insides
The leaking area cleaned off
Close-up of the corroded pipe with the hole that was leaking
Scavenged gas control module & heating probe
Screw driver
Metal lathe and accessories
Metal band saw
Dry/wet vacuum

10" of metal wire
4" of 1/2" aluminum rod
1 piece of silicone baking pan material




Taking warm showers is so nice!!!


Richard said...

Hi, Chris. There are two things that kill water heaters: 1) corrosion, which eventually results in a leak and 2) accumulation of sediment. Both can be prevented, and you can make your water heater last virtually forever. First, replace the anode every 5 or 6 years, depending on your water conditions. If you can't get to the anode, or can't get it out, install a "combo rod" in the hot water outlet. (If you can replace the other anode, you can install an additional combo rod, giving twice the life.) Second, the little plastic valve at the bottom doesn't open enough to get all the sediment out when you drain the tank. Take it out, throw it away, and replace it with a 3/4" nipple and 3/4" ball valve. Then drain the tank a couple of times per year. The other parts rarely fail. Our two water heaters are over 26 years old, and still going strong.

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