Water Heater Trouble Shooting

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by IaHawk, Mar 26, 2008.

  1. IaHawk

    IaHawk New Member

    Messages:
    27
    Hi all. I've been having some issues with my water heater and I was wondering if anyone can give me some advice. We are having our basement finished, and I had some issues with the original plumbers (see separate post). In any event, I'm on company #2 and so far so good. They will not be coming in to finish for another couple of weeks. Here's the deal...

    We've got a 50 gallon Ruud gas water heater (see pic of similar type of unit). After the initial installers left, I noticed that our water heater didn't seem to be producing as much hot water. In other words, it seems we run out pretty quickly. We've got a 3 bedroom, two bath home, and none of the runs are particularly long. Even if one or two are, we never had these issues before. I initially thought maybe these guys accidentally bumped the dial, so I kicked it up a bit. I have since kicked it up more and more until it's almost to the max. No changes.

    A good example of the problem we're having is this morning I took a shower (outside temp is warmer than before we had these problems). The water is initially really hot, but I continually have to nudge the lever to the left to keep it hot. I take about 5 minute showers and by the time I was done, I had the handle all the way to the left and could tell the hot was running low--normally all the way to the left would be too hot to handle.

    I've checked the hot at other locations thinking maybe these guys crossed a line or something. No issues there, all locations suffer from the same problem. When the second plumber was bidding the job I asked him to take a peak at the heater and connections and he didn't notice any issues (this was very early into the problem though, so I don't fault him for not taking a closer look at that point).

    The only thing that I can see that the first set of plumbers did to the water heater was that there was a hose attached to the bottom outlet valve. I assume they drained some of the water when they were doing their install?

    So to summarize:

    I've got a water heater that seems to be running out of hot water. Prior to these guys coming into the house, I had no issues.

    The temp dial is set hotter than it was before, but the problem still remains.

    The gas is working and the water heater does kick on once there is some demand from the unit.

    No lines are crossed--problem is at all locations in the house.

    This water heater is just over two years old and we do run a softner in the house (our water is very hard without the softener).

    When the water has not been run for a long time and I place my hand on the copper output, the pipe is fairly warm, but so is the cold input. When I turn the hot on, the cold pipe get cold real quick, which seems like that's the way it should be.


    Any advice? The only thing that I can point to that the first set of plumbers did was to attach the hose and they must have drained some of the water. On Ruud's website, the instructions say that if you are going to drain your heater, you should shut the gas off. I don't know how much they drained or if they shut the gas off. Could this draining (if it occured) with the gas not shut off be causing my issues? Please help.

    I have no qualms about calling a plumber in to fix this, but if there are some things I can do to trouble shoot, I'd like to try. Thanks.

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Mar 26, 2008
  2. dip tube issues????

    I dont know the whole story....


    did they move the heater to a new location o r is this a new install??

    You probably have a broken of dip tube in the heater...

    Maybe when they installed the heater they soldered the
    copper adapter directly on the cold nipple going into the heater...

    you are not supposed to heat that nipple up which will

    melt off the plastic dip tube where it connects to the nipple


    you might want to look closely at the cold nipple inlet and see how badly
    it is cooked up around that inlet
    and you will probably have to go get a new one


    http://www.weilhammerplumbing.com/galleryiii/
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2008
  3. IaHawk

    IaHawk New Member

    Messages:
    27
    Sorry. I should have clarified. This is the exisitng water heater. It was not newly installed by them. It's been in the same locaiton and had the same connections for about two years. I'll check the cold water connection. Call me crazy, but could it be possible that when the thing was installed orginally, the original installers melted part of the tube but maybe for some reason it was still hanging on? Then once these guys apparently drained it, without the water to support the tube the tube snapped off? Only speculating since I have no idea how far down that tube extends.

    Thanks for the link. Yeah, I'm way past the "danger" range on the dial.

    When you say replace, do you mean the dip tube or the whole unit? :(

    Thanks.
  4. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,349
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    I does sound like the dip tube has broken. The dip tube is flanged on the top and is inserted into the tank through the intake on top of the tank where it is supported by the flange. It just hangs down to the bottom of the tank. To replace it, turn off the water, disconnect the intake, including the nipple, and fish the top end of the tube out. Replacement tube are readily available in hardware stores as well as plumbing shops. Just drop a new one in, replace the nipple, connect the water supply, and turn the water back on. Don't be concerned about the broken tube inside the tank, it doesn't hurt anything. You do not have to drain the water in the tank to do this.
  5. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
  6. BAPlumber

    BAPlumber Plumber

    Messages:
    227
    Location:
    Vashon, Washington
    if the heater was drained, it may have been dry fired and burned out an element. you may also have some cross over from a mixing valve, (washing machine, shower valve).
  7. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Hey BA I know its late so I figured I'd repeat... It's Gas!:D
  8. Wrex

    Wrex New Member

    Messages:
    126
    Location:
    New Jersey
    Wasn't me :rolleyes:!!

    Anyhow didn't those installers read that don't heat up the PLASTIC TUBE YOU BIG DUMMY warning right on the heater :)?

    The dip tubes job is to make sure that cold water gets deposited at the BOTTOM of the tank the cold water stays there because its denser when the water heats up it rises to the top where its collected by the hot water stub.

    Here is a link showing the dip tube for clarification:

    http://www.rustylayton.com/htmlxtra/diptube.html

    The diagram is of an electric but that doesn't matter.

    The method I used when installing my heater (I don't really know of any other one) was to solder the 3/4" threaded to sweat connection onto a foot of 3/4" copper pipe stub OFF OF THE HEATER. Then I threaded the pipe on next I installed a sweat coupler which joined the stub to the cold line. No problems here the distance keeps the brunt of the heat away from the fragile plastic tube.

    Its also important though that you just bring the pipe up to temp solder it and cool it down and not OVERHEAT it though.
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2008
  9. IaHawk

    IaHawk New Member

    Messages:
    27
    Thanks for all the replies. Unless there are issues related to dip tubes manufactured and used by Ruud in the past three years, then I think something must have happened on the initial install or later. Unit was new when installed in late 2005.

    I looked at the threaded to sweat connection and it didn't look overly cooked up, but it seems the consensus is that is probably where my problem is.

    So, to disconnect the intake, do I just need to heat up the soldered joint and push up the 3/4 pipe? Sorry if that is a lame question, but I can't just simply unscrew the connection since the intake copper pipes run straight down. I'm not sure how much vertical give I'll have on that connection. Seems like Wrex's advice for the reinstall makes a lot of sense.

    Any recommendtions on brand of replacement tube?

    Thanks again for your help. I appreciate it....
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2008
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,635
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    heater

    They could have the hot and cold reversed into the heater. Either turn off the water inlet valve and open the lever on the safety valve to see if you still have pressure on the tank, or grab the two pipes above the heater while running water to be sure the left one stays hot. You might also have a mixing valve at the heater and they are notorious for malfunctioning.
  11. IaHawk

    IaHawk New Member

    Messages:
    27
    The hot and colds look to be correct. When I turn on the hot water, the output is hot (for a while) and the cold is cold. How would I know if the mixing valve were the problem?
  12. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,006
    Location:
    New England
    If the hot is hot, and the mixed output is cold...the tempering valve is bad.You should be able to feel it just like you did. This assumes you have a tempering valve (don't remember!).
  13. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,450
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Do you have one of these on the outlet of your water heater?

    [​IMG]
  14. IaHawk

    IaHawk New Member

    Messages:
    27
    Thanks for the replies. I do not have one of those valves. I've got a straight copper pipe going down to the cold connection (does have a shut off valve about 18" up), and then the hot looks the same, but with no shut off valve. The hot is just a copper pipe running straight up from the connection on the water heater over to the manifold where it distributes to the rest of the house.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2008
  15. Wrex

    Wrex New Member

    Messages:
    126
    Location:
    New Jersey
    If you don't have that valve then pull off the cold water line and check the dip tube.

    You will need to first shut off the cold water to the heater.

    Now open all of the hot water faucets in the house.

    After that is done open the pressure relief valve at either the top of the heater or on the side depending on the model to release any pressure there should be none.

    The easiest way to get the pipe off is to cut the cold water pipe and join it again later. Buy a tubing cutter they are not very expensive and are easy to use. Be sure to sand around the area you intend to cut for the sweat coupling later its alot safer then sanding with the pipes dangling after they're cut.

    If you don't have enough play to get the pipe out then make another cut so that you have about a 1/2" gap between the sections of pipe.

    After the pipe is cut water will pour out so have a bucket ready.

    Using a wrench remove the threaded male coupling from the heater and remove the dip tube.

    To reinstall wrap the threads on the threaded fitting with teflon tape and tighten it securely then join the cut sections of pipe with a sweat coupling. Don't forget to sand the ends of pipe to be joined if you didn't do it before cutting and to wire brush the inside of the coupling and flux the joints before installation.

    If you have some soldering experience this will go smoothly.
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2008
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