Replace or repipe a water heater that was piped incorrectly?

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John Gayewski

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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.
My guess is thre previous home owner did the work. I don't think a plumber would do this. Who knows why they lived with it.
 

John Gayewski

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I think you guys are making this now confusing for the poster. It's piped backwards. They don't need a new heater. Two plumbers and an hvac guy told them it's piped backwards. Thai have also confirmed it by testing it.
 

I4k20z3

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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

i ran it for a few minutes, and the left pipe is very cold (which is going into the area marked "hot" on the water heater) and the right pipe is very hot (going into the area marked "cold" on the water heater).
 

I4k20z3

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My guess is thre previous home owner did the work. I don't think a plumber would do this. Who knows why they lived with it.

yeah, it does look like this was a DIY job just based on gut instincts and looking at some of the other stuff in the HVAC closet, alongside talking to the HVAC guy.

I don't think the previous owners thought anything of it, because we do get hot water. My wheels started to spin originally when we moved in and I've never experienced hot water running out so fast for a 2 person household. I checked the water heater and saw it was on the hottest setting, "very hot," and in any home I've lived in previously, I've never experienced this from a 40 gallon tank, or had a water heater set on the hottest setting.

it seems like maybe I'm being paranoid about the water heater being broken or something, and at best, i might ask the plumber to replace the valve and anode rod and work on re-piping it, along with changing out the flex pipe to be up to code. basically take the advice of jdrive on what to do.

I really appreciate everyone's help on this.

i felt paranoid because i felt like something was wrong, but the HVAC guy actually told me it was correct. He gave me some reasoning for it and it sounded believable. I went on for a couple of months, and I just kept having a gut feeling that this isn't right, which is when I called two plumbers who told me it is piped backwards. It made it confusing for me because the HVAC guy is a family friend who seems like he knows what he is doing and has replaced a water heater for my folks.
 
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I4k20z3

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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.

thank you for this! this is very helpful advice. I am in the far north suburbs (near Gurnee) - but it sounds like I should replace the expansion tank (since that is the norm in this area), ask them to change out the gas pipe, replace plastic drain valve with brass, change out the dielectric unions with brass unions, and i probably will ask to replace the anode rod for my own piece of mind. i wish you just serviced the northern illinois area!! haha.
 

Terry

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There is nothing wrong with a flex gas line. It's required where I do my plumbing.

Entire homes are plumbed with CSST gas lines, no hard piping anywhere.
 

wwhitney

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As far as fixing the hot/cold switch, when a tank water heater has top connections, is the only difference between them the dip tube? If so, would it be possible to just swap the dip tube and relabel the tank enclosure accordingly?

Cheers, Wayne
 

Terry

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As far as fixing the hot/cold switch, when a tank water heater has top connections, is the only difference between them the dip tube? If so, would it be possible to just swap the dip tube and relabel the tank enclosure accordingly?

Cheers, Wayne
That's pretty much it.
Two holes at the top, one gets a dip tube that inputs the water down near the bottom of the tank.
 

I4k20z3

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That's pretty much it.
Two holes at the top, one gets a dip tube that inputs the water down near the bottom of the tank.

could it be plausible at all that the previous owners did this or no based on the temperature of the pipes? it’s funny but neither of the two plumbers mentioned this as an option.
 
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WorthFlorida

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Dip tube swap? Brillant! It looks like there might be heat traps so they would also need to be swapped but they do act like a check valves so they may only be nipples.

What threw me off was I though the home was built in 2017 What may have cause the switch is normally the pipe coming up to the WH or from the wall, left pipe is hot, cold on the right. From the pictures I'm guessing is what happened but in this case it is not. Even a licensed plumber could have been fooled. The work looks very clean and the solders joints are near perfect, no drips anywhere.
 

Fitter30

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Put it in your buget to get rid of that misting humidifier it will rust out the duct work. Picture doesn't show which side of the furnace its on but it doesn't matter. A bypass humidifier is what you want. The expansion tank is easy to check. Tools needed a hose bib fitting and gauge $10-15, 0-100 lb tire gauge $10 and a bike tire pump. There are videos on utube.
 

John Gayewski

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There is nothing wrong with a flex gas line. It's required where I do my plumbing.

Entire homes are plumbed with CSST gas lines, no hard piping anywhere.
Recently (within the last three years) our company built a new house for someone who's old house burnt down due to a lightning strike which exploded their yellow CSST gas line which was "properly" grounded. The yellow isn't allowed here anymore because there is no insulator on it. The black CSST is less dangerous, but still not widely accepted as safe by industry and local regulatory agencies.
 

wwhitney

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The black csst is less dangerous, but still not widely accepted as safe by industry and local regulatory agencies.
While CSST may have worse lightning resistance than black iron, it has better earthquake resistance to my understanding. So suitability may depend on which local hazard predominates.

Cheers, Wayne
 

John Gayewski

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While CSST may have worse lightning resistance than black iron, it has better earthquake resistance to my understanding. So suitability may depend on which local hazard predominates.

Cheers, Wayne
I was referring to black CSST vs the yellow. So if someone is going to use flex connectors for gas and they were in a high lightning area, I think I would do some research to look for something more resistant or make a whip from the black CSST.
 

Jdrive

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Richmond water heaters are the Menards version of (and are made by) Rheem. Rheem has been using some type of threadlocker on their tank nipples for most models in the last few years so trying to swap the dip tube as someone mentioned will require removing those nipples. Not going to be fun. Will be much easier to swap the piping than getting super aggressive wrenching on the tank. You can get a replacement anode at Menards or SupplyHouse.com.

Around here (City of Chicago) everything is black hard piped for gas. Similarly, we don't use Romex for electrical, everything is hard piped in metal conduit. Some suburbs may be different.
 

Reach4

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I4k20z3, any comment on my suggestion in post #2?

The corrugated connecting lines also come with push-on connectors at both ends. You can also get them with an inline valve.
 
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Jeff H Young

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I4k20z3, any comment on my suggestion in post #2?

The corrugated connecting lines also come with push-on connectors at both ends. You can also get them with an inline valve.
push on corrugated connectors That's ok for the water in my jurisdiction but a couple things 1` I generally and most plumbers avoid using shark bites, 2 a lot of places don't allow flex connectors for the water on water heaters either. So I think they might not be legal in either the state or city he in don't know for sure . but cris crossing with flex lines would make easy work of this , just depends how clean you want it and how much time you'll spend.

I agree with Terry's comment there's nothing wrong with a flex gas line. I've been using them and piped almost every water heater with one and almost every water heater I see has a flex. Even in states like Illinois or cities such as Chicago flex gas connectors are used for clothes dryers and other appliances.
The only thing wrong with the flex gas connectors is that some places don't allow them by code on water heaters
So I would not be overly concerned seeing one on a water heater or find it necessary to correct but for 150 bucks be more than happy to fix it while I'm there.
 
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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.
five years old? what's the warranty?
In most cases the anode wears out roughly at the warranty date.
But you can add a new anode to the plumbing work, and start fresh. The rod itself is $50 tops.
 

Jeff H Young

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I guess I must be the only one that's never checked my anode rod , must be regional with bad water but no one checks anodes here , especial paying 100 an hour or more some DIY people probably do
 

Reach4

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Most people don't check. I am unique among my friends on having changed out my anode. WHs tend to last longer here regardless. I expect 30 years. My previous WH has gone over that and I never checked the anode. I do think the anode increases life. With counties now requiring permits, you would think they could publish statistics on how long WHs last. A school research project could publish info on that, and it would be a lot more useful than many of the studies that schools get into IMO. If mine gets swapped out, I would hope that can be done unofficially.

I expect that a working anode is more important with softened water.
 
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