Master Plumber and hot water heater swap out

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by augusta, Mar 23, 2011.

  1. augusta

    augusta New Member

    Messages:
    97
    Location:
    Augusta GA
    Contacted licensed plumbing company on Thursday last week around lunch to go ahead and swap out a hot water heater (from gas to electric on plumber's advice since I've had to replace the thermocouple 2 times on the existing Whirlpool...the class action law suit on them makes the part free, but labor ain't cheap). To speed things up, because I know how long Augusta Plumbers take to do the most remedial tasks with every excuse in the book, I disconnected the gas line and water lines from the existing gas water heater, delivered the new electric water heater and placed it next to gas water heater on the day before the Plumbers were given the go-ahead to do the swap out. There are no pipes to sweat, only a few lines to connect along with just connecting the newly run electrical line. Several days prior to Thursday, I had the Plumber's preferred Electrician run a line from the breaker box, that is within arm's length of the water heater you see in the picture, up through the attic and back down the wall.

    Questions:

    1. Why would the electrician put a junction box right there in the middle of the wall? I've only had to add a junction (I'm no electrician by any means) if I guessed the distance wrong and had to add to my run, and I only did that when I was running expensive copper wire over 150' in a crawl space up and out to a hot tub. This was the Electrician's response to my question, which made absolutely no sense at all: "He said there was no access to drill a hole via attic, so he had to run down the wall."

    2. Wouldn't you say it would take a licensed Plumbing company, like, an hour to do the swap out? This house is a ranch, you could back your truck up to the front door, the laundry room is about 6 feet from the front door, and there are no step-ups/step-downs in the entire path.

    Tomorrow makes one week that it's not done. The plumber has made 2 trips out so far. First they said that the Electrician didn't label the breaker, so they couldn't figure out which breaker went to the water heater - so they left. I asked if they had ever heard of a multi-meter, and that I was pretty sure even my mom could figure out which breaker went to the water heater. Below are the pictures I took a few hours ago. I mean honestly, is it just me, or is this task really that hard? Anything else you see that's not quite right? I depend on you guys because it really is that bad in Augusta.

    waterheater2.jpg
    waterheater1.jpg
    panel.jpg
  2. jacobsond

    jacobsond DIY Junior Member

    Messages:
    59
    Location:
    ND
    2 trips fro that really.Wire not secured into the water heater:rolleyes:. The old vent for the gas still there:rolleyes:. Easy water hookup with the flex copper.Looks like a hack job to me.Electrician took the easy way,but that hopefully saved $$$$.Where is the disconnect for the electric? is the breaker box in the same room?If not need a disconnect or a lockout breaker. Plumber IMHO is not professional. Not to sure about the electrician.
  3. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,350
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    You'd have been better advised to scrap the Whirlpool and get a good gas heater. Whirlpools are dawgs! Have to agree with Jacobsond about the quality of workmanship.
  4. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,011
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I notice that the plumber reused your old flex connectors. We always use new ones. Old flexes get thrown out.

    You old heater was a Whirlpool. It would have made way more sense to replace with a Bradford White or Rheem water heater. They don't have problems with thermal couplers.
    It would have cost you less, and you would be saving money on your monthly heating bills, and you would have more usable hot water.
  5. augusta

    augusta New Member

    Messages:
    97
    Location:
    Augusta GA
    Thanks for the responses. So, what do plumbers usually do with the vent pipe in this scenario? Is that PVC ok? Any good reason you can think of as to why the electrician would put a junction box in the middle of the wall? The plumber (the owner of the company) is supposed to finish it up today. I have to question everything with contractors. They honestly all think they are top notch when their apprentices are on the level of handymen.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2011
  6. that is beautiful

    bored again , and I just saw this one.....

    you should have kept the gas heater or gone with a rheem or bradford

    the electric heater on average cost you about 500 bucks a year

    the gas heaters on average cost about 225 per year


    this looks like a mess,,, but now you are in it up to your chin

    the junction box is no big deal, actually I dont know the codes
    but just some 10-3 wire form that box down to the heater would have passed in this state

    Please , please post the final pictures....;)
  7. augusta

    augusta New Member

    Messages:
    97
    Location:
    Augusta GA
    Ok. Here goes.

    Got a text this morning from the Licensed Master Plumber saying the hot water heater swap out is complete (requested work order on March 17). I hear you on costs but here's what I'm concerned with:

    New GE electric 40gal 4500 Watt Double element 240volt water heater 6YR = $229 (what I purchased)
    * one time $205 for electrical line

    New RHEEM 40 Gallon FVR NATGAS Low WATER HEATER 6YR 22V40SF = $273
    * $44 more expensive than electric
    * didn't want to take a chance on another bad thermocouple at $200 per visit
    * common to replace pop-off valves at $100 per visit

    Can't disagree on the cost of use - gas vs traditional tank electric water heater. This particular home is part of a property management company. As a business, I am concerned with cost of purchase and maintenance - not cost of use. Tenants know in advance of the gas/electric setup in the homes and have access to recent previous energy bills in order to make informed decisions.

    With the events in Japan, other unpredictable natural disasters, and any excuse energy companies can look for, expect those natural gas prices to rise to the point where the difference between gas/electric bills between gas and electric traditional tank hot water heaters is negligible.

    Below is the finished work of the Master Plumber. The reason for the junction box is still a mystery, although I can safely guess the electrician ran a line that was too short, and instead of taking a little pride in his work by running a new line at the proper length, he just put a junction there on the wall and continued on.

    water1.jpg

    water2.jpg

    water3.jpg
  8. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,022
    Location:
    New England
    I didn't think you could use plastic pipe within about 18" of the tank.
  9. Basement_Lurker

    Basement_Lurker One who lurks

    Messages:
    668
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    Holy crap Augusta, is it really possible that your city is completely full of useless construction workers and handymen? Can't you even find one decent tradesman in the entire city? Everything about this simple water heater installation is just as much of a joke as your simple shower valve replacement project.

    The 18" plastic tubing restriction is only on water supplies to the tank, and the flammable materials restriction no longer applies as it's an electric tank.

    A junction box is used because you don't normally have the entire run from the panel exposed...it's hidden in the walls like it's supposed to be. And since any external wiring as to be BX/armoured, you need an external point on the wall to transition to BX/armoured wiring properly. Also, it makes future replacement of the tank easy in case you need to run a longer supply (as not all tanks have the junction box in the same location).
  10. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    The j-box is OK, but if the electric panel is not in that room, it should be a disconnect box instead. The white plastic looks like PVC, not CPVC..so that would not be OK.

    Plumbers are not really supposed to be electricians...but I think he was pulling your chain to tell you he couldn't figure out if the braker was off!

    A plumbing contractor that could not get you hot water for 4 days would have a pretty negative reputation before too long!
  11. augusta

    augusta New Member

    Messages:
    97
    Location:
    Augusta GA
    Plumbers stumped by breaker.

    Basement Lurker: I think much of the problem here is that our code standards and/or inspections are so low. When the standards are so low, business owners do the bare minimum just to meet the low standards. They continue this nonsense because, a. everyone else is doing it, and b. they can get away with it especially if the home owner doesn't know any better. To make that even worse, you're labeled as a PITA if you say anything about it. I'd much rather be a labeled a PITA than let this garbage slide.

    The problem with the junction box is that there is no transition. The line was run outside the wall from the ceiling all the way down. It's flex conduit on top:

    junctiontop.jpg

    and the same flex conduit on bottom:

    junctionbottom.jpg

    The only time you'd actually add the junction, is when you were swapping it out the next time and needed more/less line. I got an electrical inspector friend of mine to look at this thread earlier today. He laughed and said, "yeah, they were just piecing together some spare wire to use on your job. It meets code, but it's poor craftsmanship."

    Jimbo: the electric panel box is in the same room and within arm's length of that hot water heater. Oh he was completely serious about his guys leaving because they couldn't figure out which breaker went to the hot water heater. Keep in mind this home is vacant. They could have just cut the main breaker off and problem solved.

    Concerning the PVC, you're right, it is in fact PVC.

    pvc.jpg

    I borrowed this from another discussion about T & P Relief Piping:

    I suppose I'll call the master plumber on Monday and ask him to:
    a. put my gas line shut off valve back (there was a double shut off valve there where the tenant had the option to use a gas dryer. Instead of capping the shut off valve to the gas water heater, he removed both shut off valves and capped the entire line. That's not what I asked him to do.

    b. replace that PVC with CPVC T & P Relief piping and let him swear up and down that he puts PVC on all water heaters for T & P Relief and passes inspections in both Counties.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2011
  12. Basement_Lurker

    Basement_Lurker One who lurks

    Messages:
    668
    Location:
    Victoria, BC
    I, for one, actually enjoy Augusta's posts. I wish more homeowners would post pictures of horrible workmanship performed by so called "professional plumbers." And I am not really sure why so many of dlarrivee's posts are so negative and condescending when it's clear he is not even a journeyman plumber, let alone a contractor. It's very easy to criticize on the internet, and I wish the mods would manage the site a little better at times. And for the record, I did listen to the recording out of sheer curiosity, and the only thing I thought of when I heard the conversation and the southern accents....was that both parties sounded very young to me on account of their accent (like a couple of 20 year olds)!
  13. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,011
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    I enjoy the pictures too. Augusta always gives us a lot to work with.
    In the future though, for those of you that made the mistake of buying a Whirlpool gas water heater, instead of converting to electric, which did give the contractor a lot to work with, just change it out to a Rheem or Bradford White gas water heater and be done with it.
    There would have been no need for adding electrical and money would have been saved.

    But thanks for a different perspective.
    I'm still a believer in gas water heaters.
    Now if only I can get the search working on the forum.
  14. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,647
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The junction box would be to transition from rigid to flex conduit, except they used all flex. If the panel is "within arm's reach", why did the go up into the attic?
    The PVC for the T&P valve discharge is the wrong material
    The water flex lines look like they have been "abused" and do not have "smooth" bends.
    Romex should not be run inside conduit, and I hope it is 10/2 w/ground. Here, the final connection to the heater has to be inside a flexible conduit, usually metal Greenfield.
    Why did they connect the wires to the heater BEFORE they secured the flex?
    The water heater breaker is the one which is turned off, or at least should be until the heater was installed and filled with water.
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2011
  15. augusta

    augusta New Member

    Messages:
    97
    Location:
    Augusta GA
    What I love about coming to this forum is that if my question isn't answered completely and accurately (by those of you who replied, and I thank you for that), I at least get enough pieces to the puzzle so I can figure things out for myself. Since I'm a technical and procedural guy, I wanted to lay this out thoroughly.

    Plumbing question? In the United States? Check to see whether your State conforms to IPC or UPC. I'm in Georgia. They use IPC. But does my city of Augusta adopt IPC? Yes, they do.

    IPC is now the gospel. I can get to a digital copy of it for free here http://www.archive.org/details/gov.ga.plumbing (it's a 2006 version but includes updated Amendments...thank you Basement_Lurker and bsperr). I prefer to download the IPC because the online interface is quirky on that site. Now I can search for "relief valve" in the IPC on my computer. Perfect. Here's what comes up:

    Since PVC is not in the table, we're left with whether or not it's "or materials tested, rated and approved for such use in accordance with ASME A112.4.1." So, next question is, does PVC 1120 schedule 40 pr 48 (the pipe installed by the Master Plumber in the photo above) meet ASME A112.4.1?

    After contacting the manufacturer of my electric hot water heater (GE), they said the T&P Relief is set for 210F and 150PSI.

    Related IPC:
    After contacting the Director of Training and Product support of a major PVC supplier in my area, he wrote:

    The above response definitively answers the question of PVC being not rated for T&P Relief valves by the PVC manufacturer.

    In addition, the PPFA (Plastic Pipe and Fitting Association) states that a metal-to-CPVC transition fitting should be used at the TPR valve connection.
    cpvctransition.jpg
    Common argument:

    While the above is true, there must be a line drawn in the sand somewhere, and there is - it's in the IPC. The minimum is CPVC, not PVC.

    How dangerous is the T&P Relief valve? You're not going to believe this until you see it for yourself. Seattle gets mentioned. Got a bed in the room above your water heater? Sleep tight. Myth Busters:
    [video=youtube;pu3FwgIHsQA]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pu3FwgIHsQA[/video]

    Interesting further reading:
    http://www.ashireporter.org/articles/articles.aspx?id=1568

    P.S. It's practically April 1. This work order was placed on March 17 (we are talking roughly a one hour job here). The plumber has yet to come out and correct this work. He told me on Monday that he would let me know when he can come back out. Haven't heard from him since.
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011
  16. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,011
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Myth Busters video was a bit long. I have always prefered this video. And if Myth Busters had seen this video, they wouldn't have been so close to their exploding water heater.

    Augusta, that's good research on the high heat leading to the collapse of the PVC.

    [video=youtube;GF_Wrm-Ns0I]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GF_Wrm-Ns0I[/video]
  17. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    That is why I am the advocate of an intermediate pressure relief valve in plumbing systems. Why would anyone rely on one valve if that is the result of its failure?

    For the OP, that water heater is a POS unless you change the joke anode rod which is about 24" long, and aluminum. It should be a 45 or 54", you can cut them with an angle grinder to just reach the bottom. Magnesium is better and now you have a 15 year water heater. Also remove the JUNK 'drain' valve and put in a full port ball valve and drain it down a bit a few times a year. When I pulled the anode on my ge 6 year job, the anode was coated with pipe dope and metallic shavings.

    http://fierychill.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=anode

    http://www.inspectapedia.com/plumbing/Water_Heater_Safety.htm
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2011
  18. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,647
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; That is why I am the advocate of an intermediate pressure relief valve in plumbing systems. Why would anyone rely on one valve if that is the result of its failure?

    PRESSURE is only part of the problem, and it makes little difference whether the pressure is 150 psi or 75 psi. When the TEMPERATURE increases due to a faulty burner control, the water is "superheated" (and accumulates a LOT of potential energy), at ANY pressure above atmospheric which is ZERO psig. WHEN the heater shell fails, or the pressure is relieved ANYWHERE, that superheated water is converted to steam with and ALL that potential energy is released with distructive force. The Mythbusters experiment was slightly flawed, but they did not redo with the revisions I suggested. Therefore, your "intermediate pressure relief valve" would NOT negate the end result of a water heater which went "wild".
  19. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    When the water is on its way to superheated, it expands and the pressure increases.

    Then the 100 psi valve opens. Even if the water in the heater is boiling, if the valve is open all you have is essentially a pot on the stove.

    Each house has other pressure relief 'valves' called fixture supply hoses, pex, and garden hoses if left on.
  20. redwoodvotesoften1

    redwoodvotesoften1 New Member

    Messages:
    78
    Good thang you isn't runnin a still cuz you dunno Jack!
    Yud git yur silly azz self blowed up fer sure.
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