Rubber Flakes in Hot Water (Inner Tank Construction)

Discussion in 'Water Heater Forum, Tanks' started by handyman38, May 11, 2020.

  1. handyman38

    handyman38 New Member

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    May 11, 2020
    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    I have no intention to re-open a well discussed issue of rubber specks/flakes in hot water; however, the solutions mentioned previously either did not work or were not applicable in my case. I had been battling those flakes for some 5 months before my heater (Rheem XG50S06PV36C0) finally leaked. I replaced all rubber outside the water heater to no avail until the final bucket of it was retrieved during re-installation (image below). The new replacement heater produced clean hot water for about 3 weeks, and then flakes came back.

    Rubber in Bucket.jpg


    It seems that both explicit and implied consensus among pros is that there is no possible rubber inside the inner tank. What if there is? Recently all water heater manufacturers reduced warranty to only 6 years. Why? Is there a reason? Is it possible that they invented a cheaper manufacturing process using a sealer that does not last over 6 years?

    My question to the community is if anyone tried to see how bottom caps are attached on the inner tanks of the newer water heaters? There are blogs and movies out there on how water heaters work, how to replace nipples and supply lines, how thick the insulation is, etc.; however, nobody seemed to pay attention to how the inner tanks are actually constructed. As a clue, I sketched two options: (1) The bottom cap is welded to the main cylinder:

    Welded Seam 200511.PNG


    and (2) The bottom cap is rolled to the main cylinder similar to a lid on a tin can:

    Rolled Seam 200511.PNG


    The second one will need a sealer bead. If the sealer disintegrates, it may expel flakes to hot water.

    If anyone has pictures of the bottom cap seams cut open on the newer tanks that leaked prematurely, please post. Based on my experience with Rheem, I have about 2 years to research on this subject and find a rubber-free tank.

    Thanks.
     
  2. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    Tank water heaters seams are welded. The inter tank is lined with a ceramic or porcelain material then baked in an oven. Warranty was reduced because of cost and demand. When a 12 year warranty cost $200 more than a 6 year warranty, guess which one most will purchase. The longer warranty models were not made any better and usually had more insulation. The extra warranty only added a cost, not quality. Working at Sears selling WH at one time, flippers would buy an old house and look at the expired warranty date on the WH. The tank was good but they would remove the tank and then bring it to Sears for a warranty exchange. One reason why Sears was losing their ass.

    Since the latest energy standards for WH's greatly increased it insulation requirements, they are all the same. There are no rubber parts inside a tank water heater. Have you ever sent a water sample to a water testing lab to find what this material is?
     
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  4. handyman38

    handyman38 New Member

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    I did not, although I inquired about testing. The water labs do not test for rubber, they do mostly chemical analysis. There are other rubber composition labs out there that do. The price is 50-75% of the re-installation labor. They can go down even to a molecular composition, but then it would be cheaper to buy and install another brand and cut open the one I have.

    I do agree that the tanks should be welded. I question if they really are. You just stated the tanks are welded (as they were in the past) and this is the assumption I am challenging. There is no explanation in my system for so much rubber to slosh out of the tank.
     
  5. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    How about burning a sample? Does it smell like burned rubber? Does it melt before burning? I expect rubber to burn first, and plastic may melt first.
     
  6. handyman38

    handyman38 New Member

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    I did not try to burn it as I had no means of doing it. I would need a special micro burner. It was not like a good-size nib from a tire. It was not something I could can securely grab even with tweezers. The smaller specks floated to the surface and clustered along the bucket walls. They tended to stick to the walls with inexplicably high adhesion making it oily to touch. They were rubberish in look and smeared like mascara if you try to rub them between your fingers or against a container wall. The bigger flakes settled at the bottom. If wet they looked like crumbs:

    01 Crumb 01 Wet.jpg

    02 Crumb 02 Wet.jpg


    On a piece of paper or cloth they dried in a super thin film that resembled an ink blot:

    03 Crumb 01 Dried.jpg


    They were very brittle - if touched, they immediately broke into smaller pieces down almost to hair lines:

    04 Hair Lines.jpg



    The above images were from the final bucket that was retrieved from the leaked heater at the very end by tilting it to get the bottom water out.
     
  7. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    Did you replace the flex line supplying the heater? What does that line look like?
     
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  8. Jeff H Young

    Jeff H Young In the Trades

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    To Handyman 38 When did water heater warrantee change ? Hasent 6 years been standard for decades? Conspiracy?
    I wasent involved or seen anything on rubber specs. Since you have no intention of redicussing the topic rubber in the water . It was already covered so just re read all about them .
     
  9. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    I had no problem finding 10 and 12 year warranty water heaters in the first two places I checked.
     
  10. WorthFlorida

    WorthFlorida The wife is still training me.

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    It is just too many little pieces from anything that is degrading. I think there is a catalyst going on inside the WH with something in the water. Since you stated oily, it might look rubbery but it is not rubber. If your getting desperate, install a Spin Down filter right outside the hot water line from the heater. It can take the heat better than a sediment filter and pass more water. They are used after well pumps where the well water is cloudy or contains sand. They are not very expense and easy to install. Just occasional cleaning if it catches debri. If it contains these black flakes, you then have a good case it from the water heater. If there was any soft parts inside a water heater it be more likely neoprene.

    Do you have neighbors this problem. Is it well water or city? Is this a new problem that started five months before replacing the water heater?


    https://www.homedepot.com/p/ISPRING...VisOQekW5RBC31yRPNBoCqisQAvD_BwE&gclsrc=aw.ds
     
  11. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    A wye filter would take heat well.
     
  12. Bannerman

    Bannerman Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    Ontario, Canada
    Is the debris apparent from every hot water faucet or from only specific locations?

    To me, the debris appears similar to a faucet washer, but I would not expect much debris from the breakdown of only one faucet washer. How much debris is trapped in faucet aerators?

    If the problem is common to every faucet, look at isolation valves, hoses and anything inline to the WH both on the cold feed and outgoing hot line.

    One further consideration is the feed line to your home. The company my wife works for recently had a problem with tiny flakes plugging only Fluidmaster toilet fill valves. It turns out there was a coating within the town's water main that was flaking away into the water feeding the various businesses on that street.
     
  13. handyman38

    handyman38 New Member

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    Well, I am aware of possible causes discussed on this forum. None of it worked/was applicable: city water, no expansion tank, no flakes in cold water, and no issues at neighbors’. The supply lines are stainless corrugated:

    Supply Line.JPG

    Nevertheless, I questioned those and replaced washers on both cold and hot side. I searched for silicone ones, but alas! I had to go with this one from Home Depot as it was the only one with the right size:

    Brass Craft Washer.PNG

    Replacing washes made absolutely no difference (even for a day or two!) and the quantity of flakes kept increasing. Trust me; I exhausted all the options outside the water heater. I even went through a pain of replacing Moen cartridges in the bath faucet. Actually, I started with those. It made no difference whatsoever! They came out with O-rings in perfect condition. The cold one was pristine clean, but the hot had rubber specs all over the insert.

    The problem might have been there for much longer as I have not paid close attention to every pitcher. It just became very, very bad to notice approx. 5 months before the leak.

    The previous rental Rheem water heater was almost 14 years old when I replaced it 2.5 years ago and had no rubber (or any other) problem. It was just rent went through the roof. I know people in the neighborhood who bought Rheem 11 years ago (with 6-year warranty) and they are still happy with it. Something might have changed recently in the way the inner tanks are made, and that was my question I started the thread with: What is different now in the inner tank construction that may produce so much rubberish flakes? There are water heaters out there leaking in the first few years. There may be people replacing those with different brands just for a brand change and drag the old ones to a curb or a scrap yard. Just before doing so, why not to pry the bottom insulation and see how the bottom cap is attached and share a picture? Wouldn’t be interesting to see where the leak came from?

    As for the additional cleaners, filters, etc.. First, the same question remains: What have changed in the water heater construction that all the sudden an extra cleaning system became necessary? Second, what is the cost of installing all that system in comparison to buying another brand and cutting this one open just for the sake of curiosity? I am still not ready for that expenditure for the very simple reason, which is the question I started the thread with: How can I be sure that the replacement heater will have the inner tank without anything to disintegrate?
     
  14. handyman38

    handyman38 New Member

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    I found only one tiny flake in a laundry faucet aerator, but a plain mesh of the washing machine inlet filter was clogged with many of those. I did not see the specks in sinks and vanities, just in the bathtub; that is why I did not replace any other aerator. Now I am thinking since the flakes were very brittle, they were probably dispersed into invisible mist in the bubbling aerators of sinks and vanities, but the bath tub faucets were spewing unchewed gunk. I have another plausible explanation for this as well. The bathtub faucets have a much higher flow and are open for longer to fill a bathtub. The rubberish flakes did tend to settle in the bucket. If they do settle in the tank, the flow from the bathtub faucets may have enough power to jet them upward and out through the hot pipe. This assumption also explains why rapid open/close bathtub faucet pushed more particles out.
     
    Last edited: May 11, 2020
  15. fitter30

    fitter30 Active Member

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    Since this is a new heater that is contaminated with these black flakes they didn't come from the heater or the from the hot water line because t he flow only flows out unless the tank is drained down with main water off. There is a plastic dip tube that forces the cold water to the bottom of tank. There made of a hard plastic and haven't seen one break down in years. Do you have a water expansion tank and have you checked the air.pressure in it because the bladder is made from black rubber or a water regulator just for the heater.
     
  16. handyman38

    handyman38 New Member

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    No expansion tank. I have no water regulator, only a ball shut-off valve on the inlet line. The only control was the module on the heater.

    The flakes must have come from something the heater. Here is another interesting detail that points toward it. I drained the leaked tank myself before the tech arrived for a pick-up and dumped the water in a bathtub for later use – 50 gal is quite a bit to waste. The water was coming out clean, and I noticed only a few very small black flakes on the tub bottom – not worth to pay attention to. But when the tech TILTED the tank into a bucket to get the rest of water out, rubber sediment of various sizes sloshed out. The image of that bucket was in the beginning of the thread. Yes, the water was roiled from the brownish fine suspension that must be from the anode rod; however, the rubber flakes were distinct and in big quantity. The tech, who was one of the fervent deniers of any internal rubber components, gave the bucket a long and conspicuously bewildered look and remarked there must be a lot of rubber washers left inside to decompose to produce so many flakes.

    It must have come from inside of the heater. A theory that it was invisibly dissolved in the city water and then precipitated when heated would be a too long shot and even less plausible than a rolled bottom cap with a sealer. I hardly can think of any carbon substance capable of it. Can it come from the lining? I saw a YouTube movie where several heaters were cut to compare isolation thickness and anode rod conditions. Rheem tank had a black coating inside. What is it? It should not disintegrate. What if it does?

    There source of those flakes must be lurking somewhere inside the heater. I was not able to find it as the Rheem took the leaked heater back to exchange it under warranty.
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2020
  17. Jeff H Young

    Jeff H Young In the Trades

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    Buy a new one tankless. remove the one you have take it to a lab. hire lawyer get rich !
     
  18. Bannerman

    Bannerman Well-Known Member

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    Ontario, Canada
    I just performed a search regarding magnesium anode rods + black debris. The results provided show numerous links to articles with similar complaints to yours.

    Perhaps the issue that is throwing off the responses here is because you continually refer to the debris as rubber when the debris is actually an unknown material that appears similar to rubber.
     
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  19. Jeff H Young

    Jeff H Young In the Trades

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    He says the tanks are sealed with rubber .
     
  20. Reach4

    Reach4 Well-Known Member

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    https://terrylove.com/forums/index.php?threads/black-water-w-particulates-hot-side-only-well.59380/ looks interesting.

    If the problem is reacting with the anode by SRB, a powered anode is good. Sanitizing the well and plumbing is good. Getting rid of the sulfate (not going to happen), the SRB, or the anode metal should stop the reaction. How quickly does SRB repopulate after a good sanitizing? I don't know. It can also help to raise the WH temperature to 140. That will make growing conditions for SRB not so good for most of the water volume.
     
  21. Bannerman

    Bannerman Well-Known Member

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    Location:
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    I attempted to determine when City of Toronto switched over to Chloramine (chlorine & ammonia) as a disinfectant to see if there was a possible correlation to when you started observing black debris from your prior WH. A Water Quality Report from October - December 2000 refers to the addition of ammonia and chlorine even as they did not then call it Chloramine.

    Magnesium appears to be the standard anode installed in most WHs sold in Canada. Perhaps your home may be located in close proximity to the fresh water treatment facility so the disinfectant strength maybe higher than average and is reacting with your WHs anode. Maybe water temperature has some effect.

    You may wish to remove the existing anode to inspect and determine the amount of degradation that has occurred. You might consider replacing the current anode with an alternate material or a powered anode to determine if that will eliminate your problem.
     

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