Replace or repipe a water heater that was piped incorrectly?

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I4k20z3

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Hi all,

I moved into a new house about a year ago and since moving in, i've had suspicions that my water heater might be piped backwards (minimal hot water, water heater set on very hot, hot water duration is short but reheats quickly, etc.). After having an HVAC guy tell me it was piped correctly, I thought I was crazy. But after watching more videos and experiencing weird water related issues I have not felt in my other homes, I reached out to a few plumbers who said I was correct that the water heater does indeed have the hot water line going into the cold side of my gas tank and cold water line going into my hot side. They tested this by turning off the cold water inlet and than going to faucet and running cold water, which still flowed at full capacity. It was the hot water that would not flow on the faucet.

Both plumbers told me that there isn't a need to replace my water heater and they can repipe things, but it will cost ~$735, basically the cost of a new install. It is worth mentioning this install includes, repiping the water heater, a new expansion tank and install, and removing a gas flexline to pipe with black steel. Neither of them actually did anything to analyze the water heater though. They didn't look at the dip tube or do any kind of tests, but just said that since the water heater is from 2017, there is no need to replace. In my head, i am thinking that if the water heater has been working inefficiently this whole time, it makes no sense that there can't be any damage internally and i'd much rather pay the full cost now, versus paying $735 now and a couple hundred again in another 2-3 years (+ the cost of the water heater).

Some questions I had for you all:
1.) Would you agree that it is probably better to replace the water heater than to reuse the current one? Or, am I not thinking about this correctly?

2.) Both plumbers also said my expansion tank was no good and useless. How necessary is an expansion tank? No one else that I know in real life has an expansion tank on their water heater, so I am having a hard time understanding the worth/value.

3.) Currently, the water heater is piped with a flexible tubing for the gas line and apparently this is not up to code. To get the tubing to be black steel, it costs about ~$150. Is this a big concern? Both told me it isn't necessary, but it is the right thing to do which leads me to think I should do it, but am interested in your thoughts.

4.) We also have a Mister Mini Duct Mounting Atomizing Humidifier (Link for reference), should this be on the cold water or hot water side of the water heater?

5.) If we get a new tank, I would like to get a good quality one that is easier to maintain as I am not a handy person. (As an example, I am too scared to drain and refill my current tank, as google tells me that often times the valve will break and you need to replace a valve. I am too scared to attempt drain and refill once a year because if the valve breaks, thats a problem I don't know how to fix and don't want my family to be screwed without water.). Likewise, we are really limited on space but I would like a bigger tank if at all possible, is that at all possible (see pictures). Our house is a two story house with the water heater on the main floor in a utility closet. Current water heater is a Richmond 6G40-36F3.

I know this is a lengthy post, but I was trying to give an accurate description of what we're facing. If you need more details on anything, please let me know.

Very eager to hear everyone's input!

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Reach4

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I would be considering some push-on corrugated water heater connector lines, and criss-cross. https://www.uswatersystems.com/3-4-inch-fnpt-x-24-inch-quick-connect-flex-connector-set-of-2.html is a good brand.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/SharkBi...ter-Heater-Connector-SS3088FLEX18LF/205545583 is another alternative. There are variations.

The Falcon Mega-flow have higher ID. The braided stainless lines may be ok, but they are metal braid over rubber or plastic. Some of those decompose and make black residue.

If the city puts a check valve as part of, orin series with, your water meter, you need a working thermal expansion tank.
 

Jeff H Young

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Does it say how old water heater is in that post? if its a year old I wouldn't change it. sure go bigger if it fits , Not all homes need an expansion tank , your friends house might be different , You might have a code against flex lines we have literally millions here on the gas connection Wouldn't scare me but If I was where its required I'd be getting paid to change that a few pieces of pipe and union pretty easy. my guess is if its 750 to fix that its over 1500 to replace tank total price for the job so its not just a few bucks
 

I4k20z3

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Does it say how old water heater is in that post? if its a year old I wouldn't change it. sure go bigger if it fits , Not all homes need an expansion tank , your friends house might be different , You might have a code against flex lines we have literally millions here on the gas connection Wouldn't scare me but If I was where its required Id be getting paid to change that a few pieces of pipe and union pretty easy. my guess is if its 750 to fix that its over 1500 to replace tank total price for the job so its not just a few bucks
The tank is 5 years old.

Absolutely, but I am okay with the cost if it means I'll be getting more for my money in the long run. and more hot water.
 

John Gayewski

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Your water heater is in deed fine it's little more than a tank of water running the wrong direction makes for bad performance on the user's end but does not harm the tank in any way. The cost difference to supply a new tank and repipe cannot be the same as just a repipe so I think that part your also thinking about incorrectly.

If the plumbers said you don't need an expansion tank you probably don't need one there's no reason for them to steer you wrong. I'm kind of questioning why you think they would?

If the code in your area says hard pipe pay for the hard pipe. Generally there's a reason for it and it's local experience. Lighting is a good reason not to use flex connectors.
 

WorthFlorida

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To be absolutely sure, run the hot water from a faucet, say the bath tub. The pipe on the right is the cold water inlet, place your hand on the copper, and as the water runs, it should be cold, the other pipe will feel hot. If it's the opposite, the cold water inlet is warm and the other cold. then definitely it is pipe backwards.

Installation instructions from the water heater manufactures require an expansion tank (a warranty issue) and in some municipalities it is required. Most municipalities water supply is a closed loop, that is a back flow preventer is installed after the meter. As the heated water expands, the back flow preventer blocks any water from the home back into the water supply. The expansion tank allows the expanded water to go somewhere and keep the pressure at a lower safe level. Expansion tanks can last for years or fail in a short time. Inside the expansion tank is a bladder that holds the water and it pushed against a pre-charged air pressure. Usually the bladders burst and leaks but it is inside the tank so you'll never see any water unless to open the Schrader valve. If any of the plumbers did not check the expansion tank, it could still be good.

Water lines

Once the ductwork is up and connected, you’re ready to work on the water line.
  1. First, you’ll want to turn off the water, and drain the pressure from the lines to prevent any spills.
  2. Next, it’s time to connect the humidifier to a supply line. The method, however, depends on what type of pipe you’re working with. In our video example above, the unit comes with what’s called a “saddle valve” — but this will only work on a copper pipe. If your home has PEX pipe, a saddle valve will not work, as it will result in leaks.
  3. Connect the humidifier’s water line to the home’s hot water line. The humidifier works better with hot water, so avoid connecting it to the cold water line.
  4. Now that you’ve got your supply line connected, now you’ve got to do the drain. The drain is going to connect to the furnace condensate pump, to get rid of excess water.
 

John Gayewski

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Most municipalities water supply is a closed loop, that is a back flow preventer is installed after the meter.
This could be true generally but it's not true here. There afte still a lot of places that don't have a residential backflow requirement which is asking for trouble for the municipalities. I think if you look into the warranty the expansion tank is only needed if subject to overpressure from heat expansion. They are almost never installed here. I'm about sure whomever installed this person's water heater in reverse misinterpreted the same.
 

Terry

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I don't see enough in the pictures to say much.

The plumbers mentioned that the expansion tank was no good. Yes, that would make it useless. Sometimes the rubber bladder fails and it not longer has a function when that happens. It's way for me, a new gas water heater also gets a new expansion tank.

Is it required on all installs? No, only on those with a closed system. For instance, when I was in Redmond, they changed my water meter to one with a check valve. My water heater failed the next month. Granted, it was old, but old or not, it was now operating on a closed system. Fifteen years later my ex called me, and it was a catastrophic failure on the water heater, and I was so glad I had installed the first water heater with a drain pan.

Is your water heater installed with crossed over lines? The picture doesn't show me enough.

Are flex lines for gas bad? Where I'm at, it's what they want us to use. And I've never had a problem with them. Certainly better for the earthquakes we get.

Are flex lines bad for connecting water heaters? Same, it's all we use here. Good for when things shake, and they have built in dielectric unions. A new water heater gets new flexes.
 

I4k20z3

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I don't see enough in the pictures to say much.

The plumbers mentioned that the expansion tank was no good. Yes, that would make it useless. Sometimes the rubber bladder fails and it not longer has a function when that happens. It's way for me, a new gas water heater also gets a new expansion tank.

Is it required on all installs? No, only on those with a closed system. For instance, when I was in Redmond, they changed my water meter to one with a check valve. My water heater failed the next month. Granted, it was old, but old or not, it was now operating on a closed system. Fifteen years later my ex called me, and it was a catastrophic failure on the water heater, and I was so glad I had installed the first water heater with a drain pan.

Is your water heater installed with crossed over lines? The picture doesn't show me enough.

Are flex lines for gas bad? Where I'm at, it's what they want us to use. And I've never had a problem with them. Certainly better for the earthquakes we get.

Are flex lines bad for connecting water heaters? Same, it's all we use here. Good for when things shake, and they have built in dielectric unions. A new water heater gets new flexes.

I don't think the pipes are crossed currently. They are all coming straight from the wall into the water heater. Let me know if these pictures help at all. Happy to post more as well.

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Treeman

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i don't think the pipes are crossed currently. they are all coming straight from the wall into the water heater. let me know if these pictures help at all. happy to post more as well.
That is a bit confusing. The pipes may not be physically crossed to the eye, but he is asking if you have confirmed that the hot/cold water heater connections are backwards, i.e., "crossed".

My DIY (2 cents) input to your original questions: 1). I would not replace the current heater if you have good reason to believe no damage resulted from the backwards connection. 2). The expansion tank ? has been addressed. I don't have one on our well supplied system(non closed loop). 3.) Black pipe, hard gas line and hard copper H20 lines are the norm in my locale (old installs). I would follow your local code/practices. 4.) No input for this question.
 
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Reach4

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When you run hot water from a sink, is the pipe on the right much colder than the pipe on the left? It should be.
 

WorthFlorida

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This could be true generally but it's not true here. There afte still a lot of places that don't have a residential backflow requirement which is asking for trouble for the municipalities. I think if you look into the warranty the expansion tank is only needed if subject to overpressure from heat expansion. They are almost never installed here. I'm about sure whomever installed this person's water heater in reverse misinterpreted the same.
In warm states like Florida, it is very easy to upgrade the system with back flow preventers. The meter is at ground level and all work is done on the outside of the home. A few years ago the water company relocated mine and dozens of other homes where I think testing proved to have a lot of failures. Cold states where most meters may be in the basement may prove to be somewhat challenging for upgrades especially with 50+ year old homes, copper or steel pipes. In Florida, everything is PVC from the meter to the house, then to CPVC, Copper, or PEX.
 

I4k20z3

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It's easy enough to put your hands on the pipes and feel if the right side is cold.

got it. i did this test without running any faucets or anything. so the pipe on the right side that is closest to the wall (in red) is very hot. this side of the pipe is leading into the "cold" inlet on the water heater. both the pipes going into the water heater (in yellow) are warm to the touch though. the pipe closest to the wall on the left side is cold to the touch.

i think this means that the pipes are wrong right?
 

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WorthFlorida

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Hi all,

I moved into a new house about a year ago and since moving in, i've had suspicions that my water heater might be piped backwards (minimal hot water, water heater set on very hot, hot water duration is short but reheats quickly, etc.)......... They didn't look at the dip tube or do any kind of tests, but just said that since the water heater is from 2017, there is no need to replace. In my head, i am thinking that if the water heater has been working inefficiently this whole time, it makes no sense that there can't be any damage internally...........
It would be hard pressed that things are plumbed wrong for a home a few years old where as the previous owners would have had the same complaint. Plumbing wise it looks clean and neat, exhaust is well secured and no signs of condensation. This is leading me that the dip tub has broken off or at the factory it was missed and never installed. Possible it was moved somehow before insulation.
 

Jdrive

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Based on your description in the post above, it does sound like the water lines are reversed. I've seen it happen before.

The following advice applies if you are in Chicago city limits. If you are in a suburb, rules might be different.

First, I would keep the existing tank. It's from 2017 so it should have many years left on its service life. Chicago water is not super rough on water heaters unlike other locations.

You most likely do not need an expansion tank -- most houses in Chicago do not have them. The only cases where you might need one is if you have a fire sprinkler system, backflow preventer valve, and/or pressure reducing valve. These are not common in Chicago though.

The gas pipe definitely needs to be hard piped (black pipe) instead of flex. Make sure that the new black pipe that is installed has a drip leg and a union in a logical location in case you need to remove the tank later.

When you are doing the work, I would have the plumber remove the plastic drain valve at the bottom of the tank and install a brass drain valve (something like https://www.supplyhouse.com/AO-Smith-100263912-3-Brass-Ball-Valve-Drain-Kit ). This makes it way easier and safer to flush sediment out of the tank.

Humidifiers usually are piped to the hot water side.

For the water piping on the top of the tank, you need the shutoff valve to stay on the cold water side. Right now you have two dielectric unions that connect to the top of the tank nipples. These tend to rust/clog up over time, so if you want to make it even better you can use brass unions and a 7" brass nipple connected to the copper lines.

For extra peace of mind, you can remove and replace the anode rod on the tank while you're doing all of this work. Probably not necessary after 5 years in Chicago water, but if you don't want to worry about it for another 10+ years you can swap the rod at the same time.

Hope this helps.
 

Jeff H Young

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I cant tell by the pictures . you need to run hot water only for several minutes at a sink. then just to be clear just leave it running go out to water heater heater if pipe is hot on left and cold on right , its good . report back findings
 
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