Removing Blower to Change Anode on A.O. Smith Powershot 50 100

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by DoubleEagle, Feb 18, 2013.

  1. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    I ordered a new aluminum anode for my 8 year old A.O. Smith Powershot 50 100 and hoped to change it yesterday. I unscrewed the 4 screws on top attaching the blower unit to the heater, removed the two clamps on the rubber transition that connects the exhaust of the blower unit (2" diameter) to a 3" white PVC tube that goes up (see pic). IMG_20130217_174949.jpg

    After doing this, however, there was insufficient space to lift the blower unit over the top of the water heater because the PVC tube was fixed and in the way; it's cemented to an elbow which goes into the ceiling and there is no wiggle room. There is also a metal bracket on top of the hole in the heater. See second pic. IMG_20130217_175002.jpg

    A friend (not a plumber) suggested I temporarily remove a 3" cross-section of the PVC tube, which will free up some room. Then I would buy a 3" to 3" rubber seal to reconnect the PVC tube when I'm done.

    Looking for the forum's suggestions on how else to proceed. Have you encountered this situation where there is no room to remove the blower? Thank you in advance.
  2. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    Cutting the PVC pipe and then re-assembling with a proper PVC coupling is one option. It might also be feasible to cut one of the copper lines and remove the pipe from the heater so that the blower can move sideways enough to get at the anode rod.

    Standard plumbing rubber banded couplings are not approved for that use. The flue gas can damage some materials. An HVAC supply might have something that is, but I not aware of one.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

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    Location:
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    The first picture shows the blower flush with the top of the heater, but the second one shows the anode rod projecting above the top of the heater. Does the blower cover the anode rod, and if so how do the two fit together. There are also anode rods that screw into the heater's hot water outlet opening.
  4. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    The blower normally sits flush on top of the heater and covers the anode rod opening. If I understand your question correctly, the blower is attached to the top of the heater by four screws. The second picture shows the blower after removal of the screws and lifted up on one side; the other side can't be lifted because of the PVC pipe pushing down on it. As a result, I am unable to get enough clearance over the anode rod to remove it. Also, the replacement aluminum rod I received was only 16"... seems short to me.

    By the way, is there a way to avoid removing the hot or cold water openings since it appears they have been soldered to the pipes above and would require re-soldering? Thanks again.
  5. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    I suppose if you were 100% against the idea of soldering, you could cut out a section of copper and then re-attach it with a sharkbite fitting when you are done.

    You are going through hoops to change an anode rod on a heater that could fail regardless.
  6. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    Not being in the trade, I had to search for what a sharkbite fitting is. I think it's a good suggestion because it would allow for future accessibility to the top of the heater (in case I need to change another anode rod if the heater lasts me another 7 years). In a "why'd they do that" moment, I do not understand how the builder expected people to change the anode rods.

    The question is whether to work on the hot or cold water pipe (and which segment to remove and replace with the coupler). Here is a picture of the hot side: IMG-20130218-00102.jpg

    The hot side looks more amenable for a straight coupler. To further prolong the life of the heater, maybe I should install an additional rod under the hot water pipe (as HJ has suggested)?

    Here is a picture of the cold side: IMG-20130218-00103.jpg

    Thanks again.
  7. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

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    Location:
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    You will have to buy not only the sharkbite, but also the removal tool if you ever plan on removing it again. The pipe copper should be cut with a tubing cutter and deburred to make sure the sharkbite fits properly and is not damaged during the install. I have a feeling this is going to be an additional investment for you.

    Replacing an anode rod is a once in a lifetime experience (in the lifetime of a heater) In my opinion, this would be a perfect time for you to learn to solder, and when you are done you will have learned a useful skill. When it comes time to change the heater, knowing how to solder will make it a 1 hour job.
    Last edited: Feb 18, 2013
  8. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    Thank you; you're right that going the sharkbite route would be additional investment. I'm open to learning how to solder. Based on the pictures of the hot and cold sides, would you apply heat to the hex nut connector and screw that off? After that comes off, I'm assuming the dip tube becomes free and is able to be unscrewed from the tank.

    On the hot side, the horizontal pipe above the 90 degree elbow actually makes contact with the PVC pipe. I'm thinking I need to wrap a wet cloth around that part of the pipe so as to not melt the PVC. Thanks.
  9. good luck with all of this

    just my 2c worth of advice here.....

    if the heater is a power vent and it is 8 years old and it is
    an a.o.smith,,, I might suggest that you leave it alone and
    let it live out the rest of its life in peace......

    There is no guarantee that after you work your ass off and
    cut everything out of the way that you will actually be able to
    remove that anode rod from the heater........

    I have attempted to remove anode rods from much newer heaters
    only to give up in disgrace and humilation.and utter defeat.:eek::(:(..
    .....
    you better have a HUGE-- HEAVY DUTY-- socket and a HUGE cheater bar
    to get that nut to budje out of the heater.... Also you better
    have someone holding the heater in place to be sure it does not move
    when you attempt to remove that nut.....

    the socket wrench we have for this job we have nick-named THOR

    if you actully complete this mission and win, there is still no guarantee
    that your power vent water heater will spring back to life after you have
    beat around on it for an hour or two.....

    leave sleeping dogs lie....
    :p
    .


  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,018
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; I do not understand how the builder expected people to change the anode rods.

    Because few people do it. My "replacement" for anode rods, and I only 'replace' them when they cause an odor in the water, is a 3/4" brass plug.
  11. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    Appreciate your view and the caveats.

    And all along, I've been under the impression that replacing the anode rod is a maintenance item that would prolong the life of a heater. Do you think there would be a noticeable difference if I replaced the current anode rod AND installed another rod under the hot water port? I understand that this is the setup in certain "long-life," extended warranty heaters.

    If you got a call and encountered a setup like mine, what would you desolder and remove to get to the rod? Thanks.
  12. knock your self out

    I just wont go on a call to change out an anode rod...It can become
    a manhood contest even on a brand new heater still in the box.... when they
    get older the nut just welds itself into that steel body and you dont know
    what you might cause to happen

    it can cause more trouble
    far than it is worth ... especially on a power vent unit....

    yes if you were to add an extra anode rod it is supposed to
    lengthen the life of the water heater

    your unit is like skateing on thin ice... it can be done
    but I would not do it for anyone without a huge bill and a
    disclaimor if the unit does not fire back up again

    if you are retired and dont have anything else better to
    do with your time..... and got another place to take hot showers
    in case you screw it up......

    go for it:cool::cool:
  13. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,257
    Location:
    New England
    A power impact wrench is much more likely to loosen the anode rod without twisting things off...as noted, they can be really hard to get out. Sacrificial anodes do work, but keep in mind, it's a glass-lined tank, and after awhile, the expansion/contraction can create cracks in the lining. There's only so much an anode can do. Sometimes, the only difference between warranty length is the length/diameter or quantity of the anode rods installed during manufacturing. Sometimes, there's literally no difference except the label and the extra insurance cost.
  14. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    OK, I plan on using an impact wrench (as I understand that is how the anode rods are installed from the factory). I just need a step-by-step on which pipe to desolder or remove... can anyone walk me through based on my setup?
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    27,018
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; Sometimes, there's literally no difference except the label and the extra insurance cost.

    When the difference between a 6 year tank and a 10 year one is the cost of the certificate and a replacement name plate, I guess that means there is NO physical difference.
  16. cacher_chick

    cacher_chick Test, Don't Guess!

    Messages:
    3,259
    Location:
    Land of Cheese
    It is a bit like a puzzle- you need to look at what is where and determine which way will be easiest to move the blower enough to access the rod. The fitting on the hot side would be the easiest to remove without risking disturbing any of the other joints. If the heat trap breaks off when you try to unscrew it from the top of the heater, then you have another problem. I'm shocked to see you are still going ahead with this give all the feedback from the pros. I would speculate that 97% of all water heaters do not get an anode rod replaced during their time in service.

    One thing that would be good for you to do is to buy a couple of fittings and a section of pipe to do some practice solder sweating copper. There are a million good "how to" articles and videos on the web for reference. The most important rule is not to burn the house down. It's harder to put out the fire when you have the water shut off too. :p
  17. I totally forgot about that




    I totally forgot about burning down the house from a fire...
    of course that could happen days or weeks after the actual job is
    completed if something goes wrong with the fan or system....

    something else is wrenching and tiwsting on that heater with a cheater bar
    to break offf the gas lilne....:D:D

    Every one we have ever attempted to do , their was always a guy working the

    cheater bar and the wrench and another guy holding the water heater in place so
    it did not move ...

    hope it all goes well for you.
  18. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    Update

    An update from OP:

    Finally got around to work on this again yesterday. With a little more will power (and muscle), I was able to slip off the rubber seal that connects the blower unit to the 3" flue pipe to remove the blower and get access to the top of the heater. This was the least invasive way and I did not have to desolder or remove any of the pipes.

    My buddy used a ratchet with a 4 foot breaker bar while I hugged the heater tight. The breaker bar made a world of difference and required little effort to untighten the anode.

    It was a little difficult to remove the anode rod upwards, gripping with both hands but slipping because of the Calcium deposits. The rod was caked with chalky calcium (we have hard water). There were a few sections of the rod where it looks like something took a bite out of it (but not enough to break it). However, the rod seemed to be in pretty good physical condition (but for the calcium).

    One question is the original rod was at least twice as long as the replacement rod I ordered (only 16"). Should I be concerned?

    Is there a way to scrape off the calcium in the future off of this 16" rod as a maintenance task?
  19. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,257
    Location:
    New England
    They make segmented replacement anode rods...there's a thin section between full-diameter lengths so you can bend it if you don't have enough vertical height. That short one may not last all that long, but then, while replacing one does help, the tanks still wear out, and it may not make that much difference after the first time.

    Bathing the old anode in something like CLR or even vinegar would disolve the mineral deposits....not sure what it would do to the anode, though.
  20. DoubleEagle

    DoubleEagle New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    Northern NJ
    Thanks for your post. Yes, I knew they made the segmented version of the rod but I have enough clearance up above so I did not need to buy the segmented version.

    Question is how long will the short one last (i.e., six-months? a year before it's caked over again?) Because the unit is on the first floor in a townhouse, having the tank leak would be disasterous.
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