Calcium buildup in water heater

Discussion in 'Water Softener Forum, problems, installation and r' started by Elliott, Oct 16, 2008.

  1. Elliott

    Elliott New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Hello Everyone, this is my first post here.

    I built a new house that has a private well and moved in about 6 months ago. Right after moving in I noticed the water heater was making sizzling noises kind of like water being boiled. I was surprised at how loud the noise was. The water heater is an 80 gallon Rheem "self cleaning" electric.

    Recently the plumbing in the house has been getting clogged with calcium particles. A while ago I started noticing a decrease in water pressure and found the screens were getting clogged with whitish particles that break down when rubbed between my fingers. Over time the frequency of the clogs increased to the point where they would get clogged within 30 seconds after cleaning. At this point I installed a whole house filter on the output of the water heater. That has pretty much solved the problem with the calcium particles fouling the fixtures. I'm still concerned about the amount of scaling that is occuring in the water heater.

    I've had the water tested on several occasions by water specialists in the field and 2 independent water labs. I also had the particles microscopically examined which confirmed they were calcium. The field test indicated total hardness of 3-4 gpg and the two water labs were 47 and 66 mg/l. Everyone I have talked to has said my water is only slightly hard and I should not be seeing this level of calcium buildup. I'm in the Seattle area where hard water is not particurlaly common.

    An iron filter was recommended and installed after some field tests indicated iron was present in the water. The filter is a Water-Right backflushing model with Calcite/MC-10 media in it. It also has a retention tank and aerator. Recent water lab tests found iron levels to be <0.3 mg/l. The sample was taken before the iron filter. When I told my water specialist who installed the iron filter about the lack of iron in the water he said he was sure there was some when he tested it. This was based on the color of the water and field test of the water.

    I'm suspicous that the iron filter has something to do with this calcium problem and I'm wondering if I still need the iron filter at all.

    I had another water specialist out who ran some field tests and while he can't explain why I'm seeing so much calcuim buildup is recommending a water softener to solve the calcium problem. His field test also showed a slight amount of iron which he said would be enough to stain fixtures over time.

    At this point I'm not sure how to proceed.

    Thanks,
    Elliott
  2. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    With water as low as 3 - 5 grains per gallon, you should have practically no calcium deposits. As for iron, .03 is practically non existant. Yes it can stain, but it's certainly not bad.

    You said your water specialist installed a filter with Calcite/MC-10 media in it. The only Calcite I'm familiar with is a PH correction media. It has nothing to do with removing iron. However it could add to your hardness somewhat.

    Putting a whole house filter in after your water heater might be a bad idea. I'm not sure it can stand the heat for long. By the way, these things are not really whole house filters. They are one faucet filters. This is demonstrated by the size of it and your actual Calcite filter.

    I would have some more testing done to see what your actual PH is before the Calcite filter or any others for that matter.

    bob...
  3. Elliott

    Elliott New Member

    Messages:
    24
    I'm not sure why he selected this media. When I questioned him he said it didn't have a high concentration of calcite in the mix and has worked successfully in the past. I currently have the filter bypassed and am planning on having it removed.
    You're right, I checked the label and it's only rated for 100 degrees. Are there any filters I can use that are designed to work at higher temperatures? I currently have the thermostat set at 130 degrees.

    I had the water PH tested when the well was initially installed and I recall it was in the low 7's. I had it tested again a couple of weeks ago post filter and it was 8.1.
  4. Elliott

    Elliott New Member

    Messages:
    24
  5. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    I do not like in line filters at all and the one you have in your link even though it will handle the temp and pressure is still a 10" filter.

    I have trouble understanding why your getting this only in the hot water. It makes no sense to me.

    I can understand why your PH is higher after the Calcite filter. That's what the Calcite does. It raises the PH. What is the PH before the filter now?

    bob...
  6. Elliott

    Elliott New Member

    Messages:
    24
    I don't like the situation either but until I can figure out what's going in the water heater a filter is needed to keep the calcium particles from plugging up the house plumbing. How large does this filter need to be? Would this 20" filter suffice?

    http://www.filtersfast.com/Pentek-150111-High-Temp-Filter-Housing.asp

    The water specialist that conducted the test last week didn't measure the pre-iron filter PH level. I should probably get a test kit so I can do it myself. Any recommendations?
  7. speedbump

    speedbump Previous member

    Messages:
    4,540
    Location:
    Riverview, Fl.
    The thing wouldn't plug up so often.

    Get a test kit for a swimming pool. It has a PH test and a chlorine test. They are inexpensive. Most grocery stores in my area sell them, but in Florida there are a lot of pools.

    bob...
  8. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    Calcite will not over compensate low pH; in other words it usually does not raise the pH above about 7.2 but.... Corrosex will. Calcite or Georgia Marble will remove some iron as the pH is increased.

    You may have a well that has fluctuating water quality. I have seen serious scale build up in water heaters with very little hardness in the water and very little scale with very high hardness. I think it has to do with the ratio of calcium and magnesium, they make up hardness and if there is more calcium than magnesium you get more scale, but that's just a guess.

    Back in the mid/late 1990s a large number of water heaters had dip tubes that eventually disintegrated and the small pieces blocked things up. And hardness scale in water heaters rarely is soft, but dip tube plastic was. Another symptom of that is not having much hot water, it goes cold quickly.

    I'm with Bob on filtering the hot water and the disposable cartridges. Have you drained and then repeatedly flushed the heater? If not you should and don't forget to turn off the power or gas/oil first.
  9. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,689
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    calcium

    One factor that could cause it is the self cleaning heater. Normally faucets do not flow enough water to even actuate the feature, but if they do, and a bathtub/shower or washing machine could, then the self cleaning feature is SUPPOSED to pick up the calcium in the heater and send it to the faucets. Where else could it go, unless it was atomized somehow?
  10. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    You should post your water test results. If you have 4 gpg in your water you would notice some build up. You will also see alot in the water heater because the hardness minerals basically get baked out of the water when heated and precipitate. Why on earth someone would install acid neutralizer to combat water hardness is beyond me. An acid neutralizer, if the ph is low, will create up to 8 grains of hardness depending on how low the ph is. So he could have made your situation much worst. A water softener will resolve the problem but before coming to that conclusion you need someone that knows what they are doing to look at the water test report. If the ph is low then an acid neutralizer followed by a water softener will do the trick.

    sammy

    www.tylerwell-pump.com
  11. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    You may have something from your water heater other than calcium giving you grief.

    Check this link out! It may be a water heater diptube that is defective.
    This link explains the problem very well and lists the manufacturers and serial numbers of affected units...

    http://www.rustylayton.com/htmlxtra/diptube.html
  12. Elliott

    Elliott New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Here's the results of my water tests.

    8/16/06 Test sample taken directly from well pump

    Arsenic - None Detected
    Barium - None Detected
    Cadmium - None Detected
    Chromium - None Detected
    Mercury - None Detected
    Selenium - None Detected
    Beryllium - None Detected
    Nickel - None Detected
    Antimony - None Detected
    Thallium - None Detected
    Total Cyanide - None Detected
    Fluoride - None Detected
    Nitrite - None Detected
    Nitrate 1.4 mg/l
    Iron - None Detected
    Manganese - None Detected
    Silver - None Detected
    Chloride - None Detected
    Sulfate - None Detected
    Zinc - None Detected
    Sodium 5.8 mg/l
    Hardness (CaCO3) 47 mg/l
    Conductivity 95 umhos/cm
    Turbidity - None Detected
    Color - None Detected
    Lead-GF - None Detected
    Copper - None Detected
    pH 7.65
    Aluminum- None Detected
    Calcium 12 mg/l
    Magnesium 4.2 mg/l

    9/25/08 Sample taken from house hot water fixture after the iron filter was installed. These tests were recommended by the chemist at a local water lab after I explained my problem.
    Total hardness 66 mg/l
    pH 8.1
    Silica 14 mg/l
    Iron bacteria - None Detected
    Sulfur bacteria - None Detected

    A microscopic examination of the particles revealed: Monoclinic particles producing gas with the addition of acid most probably Calcium Carbonate. Flat crystals resembling silicates.

    I just flushed my water heater last night. Here's what the elements look like after only 5 months of use.
    [​IMG]
    I replaced them with some Camco ultra low watt density elements.
    http://www.camco.net/Menu.cfm?SupCategoryId=10200&SubCategoryId=233&ProductId=2344

    Here's what my contractor said about the acid neutralizer. He's agreed to take it back if it's determined I don't need an iron filter.
    "We used the acid neutralizer unit for the tank and control head, but it was
    supplied without media. We added MC-10 media which we have used extensively in MacClean iron filter which we no longer sell. MC-10 does contain some Calcite, but high concentrations are only used to raise the pH to 7.5 for removal of manganese. We haven't noted the problem you are having with MC-10 in (many) other installations."


    Has anyone used one of these water heater scale inhibitors? Seems too good to be true. http://aquapure.com/apspecs/AP430.pdf

    The self cleaning water heater may be compounding my problem. From what I understand the cold water inlet is directed at the bottom in a way to prevent the scale from settling to the bottom. That keeps all these particles to be suspended in the water and sends them through the house plumbing. What kind of solution is that? I also have a hot water recirculator pump, maybe that's what's sucking this stuff up out of the water heater?
    Last edited: Oct 17, 2008
  13. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    The larger pieces that fall off the elements will not make it up to the top of the tank and out into the plumbing because of their weight. Your hot water recirculation is probably sucking them off the bottom and spreading the stuff throughout the entire hot water system.

    You need to find out if your well water quality has a fluctuating iron content or, install a softener and remove this aeration/iron/acid neutralizing filter. BTW, air increases pH. You can use a dip strip iron test kit to do an iron test every week for some time to see what the iron content is over time.

    The Aquapure is a sacrificial polyphosphate sequestering agent that is supposed to encapsulate hardness ions. I don't suggest it.
  14. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Could you post the water heater Model and Serial #s.
  15. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Slides the big pile of chips onto "Perfection Tube" diptube...:cool:

    This long shot is going to pay off well...
    Cause it's actually a lot better than even odds!:cool:
  16. Elliott

    Elliott New Member

    Messages:
    24
    I looked at how the recirc system is plumbed and the return line is connected to the top of the water heater. There aren't any lines connected to the bottom.

    Any recommendations for a water test kit that wil do iron, pH, calcium, magnesium?

    If there is no iron present is a softener still recommended for the calcium?

    The water heater is a Rheem 83XR80-2 s/n RH1107R00004
  17. Gary Slusser

    Gary Slusser That's all folks!

    You can get a test kit at most hardware and big box stores or take a sample to Sears or any water testing lab, or maybe a water treatment dealer. Or the county extension office, or call a local treatment dealer to come out to do the tests but...

    You aren't testing for calcium and/or magnesium, you test for hardness. It is made up of both calcium and magnesium.
  18. Elliott

    Elliott New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Just got a tester, pH -s 7.6
  19. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Redwood slides the chips off the table while the dealer is distracted...
    11/07 is much to new for the dip tube defect...:cool:
  20. sammyhydro11

    sammyhydro11 Previous member

    Messages:
    709
    Location:
    Massachusetts
    The first thing you want to do is get rid of the guy who installed the iron filter to remove the iron that isn't present in the water. You don't remove water hardness with a filter,it should be removed with cation exchange resin. To put an end to your water quality problem, just install a good quality water softener.

    sammy

    www.tylerwell-pump.com
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