hot water heaters need to decommission chimney

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by jeffrozycki, Aug 20, 2014.

  1. jeffrozycki

    jeffrozycki New Member

    Messages:
    4
    I have a 3 family rental with 3 atmospherically vented hot water heaters and unit 1's furnace in basement using a 100 y/o chimney which can't be lined.

    It can't be lined because inspector can't tee off 4 appliances into one liner. He also has doubt if he could get the required 6 inch liner in.

    Inspector suggested direct vent. Now every plumber I called keeps confusing power vent with direct vent. I don't want the ones with powered fans. When one finally understood when I explained the direct vents have no fans and use coaxial duct, he said he would NOT recommend it.

    All I'm after is the best solution to a big problem. There is more to the story. Furnace is 3y/o and 2 of the 3 hot water heaters are a few months. Chimney inspector showed up right when plumbers were installing the 2nd hw heater. This is my bad. I scheduled them both at same time thinking chimney was just going to be cleaned. Chimney inspector said it zig zags and he can't see light using mirror. Recommended decommissioning chimney.

    So now I have to eat a3 yo furnace and two brand new hw heaters. Luckily unit 2's furnace in that units closet was replace with high efficiency direct vent so it is already off the chimney. Unit 3 has a really old furnace in the attic which I plan to replace some day

    So the appliances in the basement need to move from center of basement to exterior wall for direct / power vent. Big bucks to move water and gas lines.

    But this is an investment property and I'm willing to invest to do it right. That is why I'm at this forum.


    Every tenant always asks what type of heat. I think they just don't want oil. I prefer to keep water on gas too but could go electric for hw. Not sure if each unit electrical panel can handle this yet.

    The silver lining if staying with gas and having to move every thing is that the current gas runs are done wrong. They mixed different types of pipe, etc...

    Any suggestions on a game plan? Direct vent vs power vent. One plumber had thought I wanted direct vent on demand at 3500 a unit!! Not for a rental. Thanks Jeff
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2014
  2. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

    Messages:
    1,347
    Location:
    Cincinnati OH
    Electric might be the cheaper as far as the W/H itself goes.Direct vent and power vent there is not much
    differance in price.Also you might be able to use a power vent in the same location as
    the older W/Hs.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,608
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    What you describe, while it is a "direct vent", is usually referred to as a "sealed combustion unit", which is why it needs the co-axial flue.
    cwhyu2 likes this.
  4. craigpump

    craigpump Member

    Messages:
    939
    Location:
    ct
    I'm not a chimney inspector, but I wonder why the chimney guy doesn't have a camera, I use mine in wells all the time.

    From purely a sales position, imagine being able to do a camera inspection on a chimney for a guy in your position and being able to give a definite answer? I bet you would pay another $150-200 for a definitive answer.
  5. jeffrozycki

    jeffrozycki New Member

    Messages:
    4
    I believe he does have a camera. He seemed liked a really honest guy and said of course he could charge me for a more thorough inspection but it was his profession opinion that it probably should/would need to be lined.
    But that even if he could get the required 6inch liner into the chimney, he wouldn't have enough space above the 4 appliances (all located in the basement) to tap into the liner. I guess by code each connection point has to be so far away from each other. Even with two tees he said he didn't have enough space.

    Are suggesting knowing if I could continue to use the chimney as is without a liner?
    I could follow up with him but I could have sworn he said being that the chimney is 100 years old, I shouldn't continue to use it unlined.
  6. jeffrozycki

    jeffrozycki New Member

    Messages:
    4
    right, I am aware of the premise how they work and why they have a co-axial flue. But why would do most plumbers gravitate towards the fan assisted units? Is there something seriously wrong with the seal combustion units?
  7. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

    Messages:
    1,347
    Location:
    Cincinnati OH
    For one thing you limited on how far you can place a direct vent W/H from an outside wall, 19" max for
    direct vent vs up to 30' and three 90s for a power vent. By the way all gas W/H are sealed combustion,
    federal law.

    Attached Files:

  8. jeffrozycki

    jeffrozycki New Member

    Messages:
    4
    plan was to move equipment, regardless whether they are power or direct, to the exterior wall because all gas lines need to be redone to code anyway.

    I just realized I had a big typo in my original post. I meant to say that the direct vent units were NOT recommended.

    Is there anything seriously wrong with the direct vent units or are the fan assisted units the way to go? I prefer to use a heater that doesn't require any electrical power.

    craigpump's response has given me the option of perhaps I can still use the unlined chimney if I get the OK from a more thorough inspection but if I can't then what should I do?
  9. cwhyu2

    cwhyu2 Consultant

    Messages:
    1,347
    Location:
    Cincinnati OH
    I just priced direct vent $1300 vs $800 for power vent.
    There is nothing wrong with direct vent as far as the W/H goes, but placement is critical.
    The electric for a power vent is 120 volts and can probily run 3 on one 20 amp circuit.
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