salt on water heater

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by liam o k, Oct 20, 2012.

  1. liam o k

    liam o k New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    indiana
    A friend asked me to look at her water heater that has a white mineral build-up on top. A plumber told her that it was because her chimney was inadequate and so the heater was not venting properly, so she called me. Using an incense stick while the water heater was running, I found that it drew the smoke very well. I found that a fitting was seeping (damn, i didn't check to see if was the hot or cold) and there was a layer of mineral on top that looked like the salt flats. I tasted it, and sure enough it was SALT. She does not have a water softener, and never has. She can offer no explanation as to why there should have been any salt in the vicinity of the water heater. It was installed in '94, is dripping at the drain, and purportedly pops and carries on while heating (though not while I was there) so it might as well be replaced, but what's up with the salt? PS Our local water supply is notoriously hard, but I've never heard of salt in the water.
  2. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    The principal minerals of concern are magnesium chloride and calcium chloride. CaCl for sure tastes like salt. It is used as a salt subsitute.
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,315
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    quote; I tasted it, and sure enough it was SALT

    It was her water heater so maybe you should have had her taste it. You were lucky it was not cyanide or something just as deadly.
  4. LLigetfa

    LLigetfa DIYer, not in the trades

    Messages:
    3,842
    Location:
    NW Ontario, Canada
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,315
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    It is caused by rust/calcium nodules on the center flue which have small openings in them. The hot gases turn the water in the nodule to "superheated steam" which is then forced out of the small openings into the tank's water where it instantly condenses creating a "mini explosion" which is the popping sound. Over time as the openings get larger the water can circulate through them better so they no longer turn to steam and the sounds disappear.
  6. liam o k

    liam o k New Member

    Messages:
    11
    Location:
    indiana
    So, what i'm getting out of all this is that there may be calcium chloride in the water. But, i've seen many leaky water heaters in this area with calcium (we always call it lime) build-up, and none have had that salt-flats type crusting that is so indicative of salt. Admittedly, i've never tasted a water heater before, since the deposits have never suggested salt to me before, but i have tasted the scale on my teapot: it's not salty. Could it be there's a peculiarity with her heater (the condition of the anode rod...) that causes an excess amount of calcium chloride to be produced? Or a peculiarity with her neighborhood's water supply?
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2012
  7. DonL

    DonL Jack of all trades

    Messages:
    3,820
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    It could be rodent piss.

    I have never tasted it but I would guess that it taste salty.

    Normally the rodents will leave some turds also, That is not chocolate but may taste like it.
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