Debris plugging shower head - conundrum

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by homeowner4080, Feb 27, 2007.

  1. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Background: Me- home owner, not a plumber and have not done plumbing work, and do not intend to, but I have a problem that is puzzling the installers.

    House: 1993 construction, copper pipes, recirculating system on hot water, with no pump involved (convection I guess). Two 80 gallon water heaters in series, 3/4 pipe on outputs, but the return for the recirculation looks to be 1/2 pipe. I do not see a check valve on the recirculating return pipe.

    Water heaters are less than 3 years old, AO Smith. Water softner in place, also about 3 years old.

    Problem. Every few weeks the shower heads in the main bathroom are obstructed by greenish white particles, and have to be removed and cleaned. Interestingly only one other faucet in the house has a significant issue, the other showers and faucets have not had to be removed or cleaned. Plumber that installed the water heaters suggested a problem with the softener, figuring that it is regenerating over night and the first shower used in the am is getting the debris. Softener people have been here twice, water tests ok, they have no suggestions.

    I would be interested in any suggestions on how to figure this problem out. I am wondering if there is a problem with the recirculation system, causing corrosion somewhere in the pipe system, leading to the problem.

    Thanks for any suggestions!

    Ross
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    try placing some in a glass 1/2 full of vinegar and see if it dissolves.
  3. dip tube residue??

    It sounds like you have some dip tube residue
    still hanging around in your pipes from the original
    1993 water heater.....

    If those particles dont dissolve in vinegar, they are probably plastic....


    you will need to back flush your hot water side of the plumbing system..
    ..to get the old dip tube tailings out of the
    hot line......
  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    He said the water heater is only 3 years old.
  5. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    One night in Lime away, and some of the particles look smaller, but they are still there. Softener company took some for analysis, but I have not heard back from them.
  6. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    Did you put any in the vinegar?
  7. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    An hour in the vinegar has not disolved the particles. Will report back in the am.

    Here is a link to what the screen filter on the shower head looked like today:

    http://tinyurl.com/ytxk8e

    Thanks again for any suggestions!

    Ross
  8. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Particles sat in vinegar all night without any appreciable changes.

    Ross
  9. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Messages:
    874
    Location:
    Marin Co. Ca.
    Just My Gut Opinion

    i AM GUESSING YOUR PROBLEM IS DIP TUBE FAILURE. Do a search on this and
    folliw the fix. Both dip tubes should be pulled and measured first. To My fellow tradesman,I know the dates on the w. h. don't apply. Thiss is any e z check. As recommended backflush hot water system. Please keep us in the info. loop.
    My experiance is Jr. to many on board. We never stop learning, though.
    If it is dip tube failure ,the bad tube may be at the dump. particles still in system!
  10. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Checked some links on dip tube failure. From the information I found, it sounds like the particles from dip tube failure should float. My particles sink in water and vinegar.

    The AO Smith water heaters were installed in 2003.

    Ross
  11. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    21,892
    Location:
    New England
    While it might be unusual for the heaters to sit in a warehouse for a long time, I'd double-check their serial numbers and (if present) a date code to see when they were actually built.

    Don't remember if you said - what type of piping is in the house?

    Is the white stuff hard, or soft?

    If it was going to dissolve, you would have seen at least some progress overnight - might not completely dissolve depending on the size, but you'd have noticed. So, it sounds like plastic. Could it be from inside of the shower head itself?
  12. toolaholic

    toolaholic General Contractor Carpenter

    Messages:
    874
    Location:
    Marin Co. Ca.
    Not Dip Tube If It Sinks

    the water softner EXPERT HERE[IN my opinion] Is Garry SLUSSER. . i WONDER IF YOU HAVE A w SOFT. FAILURE
  13. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    The particles in the aerator do not look anything like the white flakes we see from dip tubes. I suspect softener, but am not well versed in that area. Hopefully one of those guys will see that and let us know.
  14. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Checked the hoses to the washer this morning, and neither the cold or the hot have any of the particles present.

    It seems to be restricted to the master shower, and rarely one sink in the basement. Very odd. I expected to find some particles in the washer hoses I guess. Unless there is a filter in the hoses, I just detached them from the washer and looked at the screens built into the washer input.

    Ross
  15. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    If you place the stuff between your fingers and squeeze them are they hard or on the soft side?
  16. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    They seem hard when you pick them up, like sand, but they are easily crushed with some pressure. Running my fingernail over them in my palm, it reduces to a powder pretty quickly. This was done after they were dry, from the material in the photo linked above after sitting out and drying.

    Ross
  17. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Messages:
    5,980
    Location:
    Ohio
    I have seen a substance very much like the pic and your description in the bottom of some water heaters I have changed elements in.

    It came out when I removed the element, changing it on the fly.

    It is, I think, some product of a softener system. It is possible it is calcium build up on the bottom of the heater that is being attatcked by soft water.

    This could happen if the softener was installed after the heaters had run for months /years without it, or if the softner runs out of salt and remains that way for long periods of time before salt is added again.

    I have also heard it is a binder used by some salt companys to create salt pellets, but I'm not sure if that is true.
  18. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Water softener company's opinion is that it is an anerobic bacteria in the water heater causing the buildup.

    ???

    Does this sound plausible?

    Thanks,

    Ross
  19. homeowner4080

    homeowner4080 New Member

    Messages:
    9
    Problem solved.

    The debris plugging the shower head was a precipitate on the anode in the water heater. The AO Smith company provided the answer:

    " The debris is aluminum hydroxide from the anode rod. This occurs when you place an aluminum anode in water with a pH level of 7.5 or above. We would recommend using a magnesium type anode rod or, if you have a water softener on the system, using a zinc/aluminum type anode. Either of these rods should prevent the buildup of this material. "

    Second part of the problem was the recirculating system, which from the master shower had pressures such that it pulled water off the bottom of the water heater and in reverse direction through the 1/2 inch return line for the recirculation. Issue solved with a check valve, but that added enough resistance that the passive system did not work, so we added a recirculating pump.

    This seems to have solved it!!!

    Just thought I should get back to the forum with the final answer.

    Thanks everyone for all of the suggestions.

    Ross
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