strange water heater question

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by abikerboy, May 30, 2006.

  1. abikerboy

    abikerboy DIY Senior Member

    Apr 22, 2006
    Im back with another wierd question. I have a neighbor who's electric water heater quit heating. I know a little about electricity, and I know how to replace water heater elements thanks to my own hard water, so I thought Id give it a look. There was only one service opening on the heater dead center in the cabinet, and when I removed it all that was there was the thermostat. There were no signs of an element. I investigated the water heater farther by following some wires, and removed the pipes from the top of the tank, and removed the top cover. What I found was a open tube from the top of the heater all the way to the bottom almost like the flue opening in a gas heater. The open tube is about 3 inches diameter. I pulled from this opening a long thingy that was made of open coiled heating elements wire with ceramic spacers about every ten inches and this drops all the way to the bottom of this tube completely seperate with no contact with the water. Believe it or not, this is the way this heater heats! I have never saw anything like this in my life! I did use a small heat resistant electrical crimp to patch the heating wire together and somehow managed to get the unit to heat. My question is this. Is there any source to get this type of heating element for replacement? This is an elderly widow lady who is 93 years old with very little money and I would like to get this heater working without replacing it. The only info on the remaining label for this unit read "Manufacturer Fireball. Capacity 37 gallon. 115 volt dual power feed, 4 wire service required. 6000 watt. Hand penned on label; installer County Hardware, July 11 1963". Any ideas other than a new water heater would be really helpful. Ive already mentioned the new water heater idea, and she just started crying, so I will do what I can do for her.
  2. Cass

    Cass Plumber

    Nov 12, 2005
    Personaly I have no idea. I guess I am to young to to know about these. A 56 year old electric heater is the grand daddy of all I have ever heard of.
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  4. Mikey

    Mikey Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek

    Nov 8, 2005
    Hansville, Washington
    Don't know if this will be helpful, but Googling {Fireball "water heater"} got me to, where there was a note laying claim to the "fireball water heater" name. Other than that, keep your crimping skills alive, and check with elder-support agencies in your area to see if they can offer help. Of course, you could call County Hardware and complain that their water heater just died :mad: .

    As for grandaddy of all WHs, my parents bought their GE electric WH in 1939, and as far as I know it's still in service.
    Last edited: May 30, 2006
  5. Master Plumber Mark

    Master Plumber Mark Master Plumber

    Feb 6, 2005
    Sensitivity trainer.. plumber of mens souls
    indianapolis indiana - land of the free, home of
    put that dog to sleep....

    we run into them every so often . usually they are HUGE in size.....
    and we simply dont touch them --dont need the liability.

    I walked into one back in about 97 that literally was blowing
    steam out of the faucets when I got there......luckily the elderly
    home owner had the sense to turn off the power to the unit
    earlier that morning.

    you are trying to do a good deed, which is an honorable thing
    to do for the little old lady.........

    but you are not going to find any parts for that old heater and if you
    did you are probably going to risk burning down the house..or blowing it
    off its foundation......take your pick..

    its simply best to go find her a cheap 30 gal electric heater with a
    one year warranty at some hardware store and install it....
  6. vaplumber

    vaplumber Guest

    Rob. Youve got her hot water. Leave this antique alone for now. This whole heater situation is unsafe! I know who this is and I know exactly what she has. Call me about this asap! I have a 30 gal that she is welcome to, and you and I can drop a 220 power line to this. I will be out of town Thurs-sat, but we can get together Sunday with this.
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